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Department of Physics

Information for Freshers


Welcome to the Physics Department and congratulations on securing your place at Durham University. We are looking forward to meeting you when you arrive here. In the meantime, we hope that the information below will be useful to you as you make your plans. If you have any general queries then do not hesitate to contact us, either by email ( or by telephone (0191 334 3726).

Online Enrolment

(Please note that this is a copy of information on the University's Before You Arrive page.)

Enrolment opens eight weeks before the start of your programme. After your acceptance has been processed you will receive two email messages from which provide:

  • Your Computing and Information Services (CIS) username
  • How to derive your CIS password and guidance on how to access the system

The messages are sent 24 hours apart and are sent to the email address you provided when you applied so it’s important to let the University know of any changes to this information.

After you have received both emails you will need to:

  • Change your password
  • Log into Durham University Online – duo
  • Choose the “Banner Self Service” link in duo under “External Tools”
  • Choose Registration and Enrolment
  • Enrol with the University
  • Upload a photograph for your campus card

If you have any technical difficulties with the University's online enrolment system then please contact the Unviersity's IT Service Desk at

Module Registration

You will complete various formalities relating to registration for your physics modules in the Physics Department on the afternoon of Monday 2 October. You are encouraged to select your optional modules in advance, in the online registration system, but these will not be approved before you have arrived in Durham, to give you the chance to reconsider. In particular you will need to register for some mathematics modules - you will be given more information about this when you arrive and do not need to make a final decision before you get here. You will also need to register for any optional modules you may wish to take in other departments. We have a separate page giving advice on module choices. Full details of the University's module registration process are available here. You should ensure that your modules are correct in the online registration system by 5 p.m. on Tuesday 3 October - the departments will regard these as your final choices for the purposes of granting approval.

Your first week in Durham

A range of induction activities will take place throughout the University between Monday 2 October and Friday 6 October. The activities which take place in the Department have been planned so as not to clash with college, University or sport activities. The University's induction planner has been designed to enable you to view all the induction activities taking place in your College and Department throughout the week.

A complete programme of the events and activities organised by the Physics Department during the Induction Week is also available on our Physics induction for new students page. These will include introductory talks about the degree as a whole and the Level 1 Physics modules, at 3 p.m. on Monday 2 October; later in the week there will also be tours of the Department and opportunities to meet with current students and members of staff.

Book Purchase Recommendation

The text book for the Level 1 physics core (Foundations of Physics 1) is:

  • H.D. Young and R.A. Freedman
    "University Physics (with MasteringPhysics)"
    Pearson, 13th Edition

This textbook is currently available commercially in the UK as an "International Edition", whose regular retail price is very high, and as "Pearson New International Edition", normally less expensive but with different page numbers and a variety of other differences. Lecturers will use the "International Edition". However, we are offering a bespoke version of this edition for our students to purchase, together with the access to the MasteringPhysics online software, at a reasonable price. This version has been prepared specifically for Durham University and is available only through the Department. If you are nonetheless considering purchasing "University Physics" before your arrival, please note that you need an unused access card to MasteringPhysics, which cannot be purchased separately. Please note that the new 14th edition of this textbook is not used in the Department.

In addition, the following book is essential reading for the Experimental Physics projects throughout all the years of study and is the set text book for the Discovery Skills in Physics module. It too may be purchased from the Department at the start of term, at a discounted price:

  • I.G. Hughes and T.P.A.Hase
    "Measurements and their Uncertainties"

Students will receive a lab notebook for Discovery Skills in Physics at the start of the year - there is no need to buy one.

Course Booklet

An electronic (pdf) version of the course booklet that you will receive on your first day in the Department will be made available here from mid-September. It contains full details of the physics modules that you will be studying, together with some more general information. Please note that, in order to make it as accurate as possible, the final printed version of the booklet is not produced until late September, and may differ slightly from the electronic version. You can find information about the modules you will be taking on our Courses page.

Students with Disabilities

If you have a disability then you are strongly encouraged to contact the University's Disability Support Service for advice. You may do this either before or after your arrival in Durham. See also our Students with Special Needs page. Physics students who have declared a disability on the UCAS application will be invited to an individual, informal meeting with our Departmental Disability Representative, Dr Matt Jones, during the Induction Week. Invitations will be sent to students by email. Please feel free to contact Dr Jones even if you have not received an invitation (

International Students

The University runs an international student induction programme shortly before the start of term. International students should also attend one of the visa and passport checking sessions.

Pre-arrival Tasks

  • Mathematics Workbook: It is essential that before coming to Durham you make sure that you are familiar with the basic skills in mathematics you have learned at school, as our courses build upon them. To help you with this, we invite you to work through a Mathematics Workbook containing a number of short and longer questions on topics forming the core syllabus of the UK Mathematics A-level. This workbook can be found here in pdf format. Answers are provided in the workbook, for you to check your solutions. You may use your degree of success in this exercise as an indication of whether you would benefit from taking the module Maths Toolkit for Scientists in Year 1 - please see the relevant information given in the preamble of the workbook and in our page giving advice on module choices. Please email Professor Tom Lancaster ( if you have any queries regarding this.

    If you would like to request a hard copy of the workbook, please contact Ms Heather Whitmore on

  • A-Level Physics Revision Sheet: An electronic version of a physics revision sheet is available here. Please read through this document carefully prior to staring the course and refresh your knowledge of any topics which you have covered but feel unsure on.
  • Excel Tutorial: Microsoft Excel is used extensively in the Level 1 Physics laboratories at Durham for data analysis and graph plotting. While some of you will already have a real expertise in the use of Excel, we do not assume any prior familiarity with this application. All necessary information can be found on the Excel skills web pages forming part of our online Physics Laboratory Guide.

    Irrespective of your degree of familiarity with spreadsheets, you are invited to work through a guide on the use of Excel in the context of the Level 1 laboratories, in advance of your first lab session (week 2 of the first term). This guide is available online through the Excel skills web page under the name "Excel Tutorial Guide 2". Start with the "Excel Tutorial Guide 1", also available through this page, unless you already are proficient in Excel.

    Ideally, work through these guides before arriving in Durham, if you can, as the Induction Week and the first week of term will probably be very busy.

  • Introductory Python programming exercises: We recommend that you try the following introductory python programming exercises using the link below. This is called Codeacademy and requires only a WWW browser. You do not need to install anything else on a computer to use this system, and you do not need access to University systems (as you will once the course begins).

    We recommend that you work through the first 9 or so lessons on Codeacademy, ideally before you arrive. This should only take a few hours in total, and would give you you an understanding of basic syntax and programming structures.

  • Transitions into Higher Education online course: In order to make the transition to university study easier we have put together an online course for you to complete before arrival. This course includes video interviews with staff and with students discussing their first year at Durham, as well as a host of online activities and discussion boards. It addresses the issues of preparing for academic study, independent learning, digital literacy and preparing for arrival. The course is now available on duo (Durham University Online) at Further details on the course and information on how to access this material has been sent out by email.
  • Jump Start Programme: This programme is aimed at students coming to Durham after a gap year and who have not had much practice in maths since they left school. These students will receive a supplementary workbook in late August or early September. Participation in the Jump Start programme is entirely voluntary. Please email if you have any queries regarding this.
  • Brush Up Your Skills (BUYS): This is a set of resources provided by the Maths Department and aimed mainly at students starting maths degrees. It is available at and is brought to the attention of physics students purely as an additional resource which should complement the Mathematics Workbook mentioned above. Participation in BUYS is entirely voluntary, but some previous students have found it helpful.

Staff-Student Consultative Committee

The Staff-Student Consultative Committee (SSCC) is a crucial Physics committee through which the Department can get the views of students about the teaching material and the general undergraduate experience. It meets three times each year, and student representatives are elected at the start of each year. At the meetings, the members are briefed on what has happened within the department since the last meeting, and what has happened in response to their suggestions. Then each year group is asked for comments and ideas for changes and improvements that could be made.

Ideally we would like to get a good number of new volunteer first year members, spread across the various physics degree courses. If you are interested in being on the committee, or if you have any further questions, then please contact Professor Cedric Lacey by email ( or in person in October. The process for electing student representatives will take place early in the first term.

Physics and Astronomical Societies

The University's Physics and Astronomical Societies, to which most physics students belong, run an interesting series of lectures and visits, as well as social functions. They will each be recruiting new members during induction week. Each Society also has a Facebook group.

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