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Durham University

Faculty Handbook Archive

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Physics


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2021/22 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Discovery Skills in Physics (PHYS1101) AND Foundations of Physics 1 (PHYS1122) AND ((Single Mathematics A (MATH1561) and Single Mathematics B (MATH1571)) OR (Calculus I (MATH1061) and Linear Algebra I (MATH1071))).


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • Laboratory Skills and Electronics (PHYS2641).


  • This module is designed primarily for students studying Natural Sciences degree programmes.
  • It builds on laboratory skills, such as experiment planning, data analysis, scientific communication and specific practical skills, encountered in the module PHYS1101 Discovery Skills in Physics.
  • It aims to teach electronics as a theoretical and a practical subject, to teach the techniques of computational physics and numerical methods and to provide experience of a research-led investigation in Physics.
  • To encourage students to think about their post-university careers, to provide them with a range of employability information and to introduce them to applications of physics in enterprises.


  • A team-based project, undertaken in June of the previous academic year, providing a transition from Level 1 laboratory work.
  • Activities to develop skills in data interpretation, experiment design, specific practical techniques, report writing, error analysis, team working and critical thinking.
  • Electronics lectures: Analogue Electronics: Components: Introduction to electrical circuit theory, networks, AC theory, passive filters; systems: noise. Digital Electronics: interfacing with microcontrollers, signal acquisition.
  • Electronics practical activities.
  • Performance of an extended practical project.
  • Computational physics: numerical differentiation and integration, numerical solutions of ordinary differential equations in one and multiple dimensions, numerical optimisation, simulation of random processes.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Having studied this module students will know how to plan experiments and will be familiar with advanced techniques for the interpretation of data quantitatively and systematically.
  • They will understand the theoretical principles of basic and more advanced electronics.
  • They will have formed a detailed appreciation of the physics underlying a particular project and be prepared to undertake and report on similar projects.
  • They will know how to structure physics problems and their computational solutions.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will have specific practical skills generally useful in practical physics.
  • They will have developed practical skills in electronics and signal acquisition.
  • They will be able to apply their programming skills to solve problems using numerical methods.
Key Skills:
  • Students will have developed their written presentation skills sufficiently to be able to write fluent and well-structured reports, including lay summaries.
  • They will be able to work successfully as part of a team to solve an open-ended problem.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching will be by lectures, practical sessions, workshops and project work.
  • The open-ended "bridge project" is undertaken in June of the previous academic year, providing a transition from Level 1 to Level 2 practical work. Students will work in teams on an extended project lasting the equivalent of one week, which will develop their problem-solving and teamwork skills. (Students who are unable, for good reason, to undertake the bridge project in June will undertake an equivalent project in the following Easter Term.)
  • The practical sessions are small group activities designed to develop skills in data interpretation, experiment design, team working, specific practical techniques and reporting, and critical reading of relevant scientific papers. The skills covered form the foundation needed for the research-led investigation in the second term and for later practical work. Students will be able to obtain help and guidance from discussions with laboratory demonstrators.
  • The electronics course aims to give a theoretical grounding in the elements of electronics (analogue circuits, interfacing using microcontrollers) with practical activities to provide a working knowledge of the subject.
  • The computational physics lectures aim to give a theoretical grounding in the elements of computational physics and numerical methods, while the workshops provide opportunities for practice and discussion of the algorithms.
  • Regular exercises in coding algorithms, to be submitted and checked electronically, will give students practice in applying these principles and will form the basis for discussion in the workshops.
  • Student performance is summatively assessed through an online report on the "bridge project", through a formal report for the skills sessions, through an electronics practical assessment exercise, through a formal report for the research-led investigation and through exercises.
  • The practical classes, workshops and exercises provide opportunity for feedback, for students to gauge their progress and for staff to monitor progress throughout the duration of the module.
  • Invited speakers give presentations on employability and the applications of physics in enterprises.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 15 1 per week 1 hour 15
Project 1 Equivalent of one full week in previous Easter Term 35 hours 35
Workshops 8 1 per week in term 1 1 hour 8
Practicals 18 1 per week 3 hours 54
Careers talks 5 1 hour 5
Preparation and Reading 83

Summative Assessment

Component: Bridge Project Component Weighting: 17%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Bridge Project 100%
Component: Skills Session Component Weighting: 17%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Skills Session 100%
Component: Research-led Investigation Component Weighting: 32%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research-led Investigation 100%
Component: Electronics Practicals Component Weighting: 17%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assessed Electronics Practical 100%
Component: Computational Physics Exercises Component Weighting: 17%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Exercises 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment of laboratory record by laboratory staff.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University