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Information for 2nd Year Physics Students

This document provides information for second year students taking either the BSc or MPhys Physics courses, which are identical in content for the first 2 years. It should be read in conjunction with the general teaching documents here.

We hope that you will find this document useful, and that it will help you to successfully complete your second year at University. If you consider that there is information which could usefully be added, or if you discover an error, please inform either the Director of Studies or the Senior Tutor.


Physics is largely a linear subject with each new piece of knowledge building on what has been learnt before. Thus the second year work builds on what you learnt in the first year in fundamental areas, such as quantum mechanics, and electricity and magnetism, whilst at the same time introducing a number of topics, where the physics you have already learnt is applied to new areas such as geophysics. A significant feature of the second year course is that since you choose more than 25% of it from option lists, you can begin to concentrate on those areas of physics that particularly interest you. You may also use the option scheme to follow a language course or an introductory course in business studies.

It should be emphasized that the mathematics component of the 2nd year is of particular importance.

In brief, this year's course has been designed with the following aims and objectives.


  • To build on, and extend, topics already introduced in year 1.
  • To introduce new topics - some of which will be developed in subsequent years.
  • To prepare for future project work by means of the Physics Skills module. This provides experience of retrieving information from the scientific literature and of writing formal reports. It also provides an opportunity to study topics which might not be covered in formal lectures.
  • To develop and refine students' expertise in both experimentation and computation.


At the end of the second year you should

  1. Have acquired a good working fluency with mathematics - including vector calculus, the solution of differential equations (both ordinary and partial) and Fourier methods.
  2. Have acquired a good knowledge of basic physics, including Electromagnetic Theory and Optics, Thermal Physics and Quantum Mechanics.
  3. Be able to prepare a comprehensive report on a scientific topic, and to present an oral presentation of it to an audience constituted of your peers and tutors.
  4. Be able to carry out experimental investigations using standard and more novel pieces of equipment, and to assess the significance of the results (including consideration of any associated uncertainties).

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