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Durham University

Centre for Advanced Instrumentation

Postgraduate Training


Course Organiser – Dr Richard Wilson


The Advanced Instrumentation Postgraduate Lecture course comprises a broad range of lecture/workshop modules, each of approx five hours, given by academic and research staff. These have been chosen to cover a selection of astronomy and instrumentation research undertaken in Durham. In the Michaelmas term the lectures coincide with those of the Astronomy course and include practically orientated research-skill workshops on programming, data reduction, and high-performance computing. In the Epiphany term the Instrumentation course diverges from the Astronomy course to present a series of lectures on practical instrumentation topics. Problems and exercises are set within blocks of lectures and are part of the overall assessment for the first year of postgraduate studies.

Note that complementary courses are also run by the Information Technology Service (ITS). These are not part of the postgraduate course but can give useful background and experience of, for example, programming in Fortran and writing papers and reports in LaTEX. See and the Information Technology Service link for the dates and details of the ITS training courses.


Michaelmas Term – lectures coincide with the Astronomy course:


Epiphany Term – Instrumentation courses: All lectures take place at 10am in OCW108 except for the Precision Optics demos, which take place at NetPark

Good Practise in Software Engineering - Dr C Saunter (4 lectures) -January 21, 22, 24, 25

Detectors, simulation and control - Dr A.Basden (4 lectures) - January 28, 29, February 1

Optical Engineering - Dr S. Rolt (6 lectures) - February 4, 5, 7, 11, 12, 14

Optical Design with Zemax - Dr C. Bourgenot (5 lectures) - February 18, 19, 21, 25, 26

Precision Optics Manufacture - Dr C. Bourgenot (2 lectures) - February 28, March 1

Programme Management & Systems Engineering - Dr M Close (5 lectures) - March 4, 5, 7, 11, 12

New Technologies for Astronomical Spectroscopy - Dr A Calcine-Rosario (3 lectures) - March 18, 19, 21


Each block of the course is assessed via course work. This involves ~3 hours of effort for each of the five instrumentation courses in the second term. The research-skill based coursework in the first term is expected to be more involved and typically takes more than 3 hours of effort.

Each student is also required to write a 2500 word research critique/essay and give a 15 minute presentation on it towards the end of the Epiphany term. The topics for these are decided by the supervisory team. Finally, towards the end of the Easter term each student is required to write a 5000 word research report on which they are tested with a viva examination.

IMPORTANT NOTE: progression into the 2nd year of study is dependent on performance in the 1st year. It is a requirement of each astronomy student to attend all lectures and complete all course work, the 2500 word research critique and presentation, and successfully complete the first year 5000 word research report and viva.


The Instrumentation group has seminar meetings fortnightly on Wednesdays at 1pm, see: As a purely informal, but useful exercise, each of the 1st year students are called upon to give a presentation on their research in the latter half of their first year.