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Durham University

Department of Physics

PHYS3681 Laboratory Skills and Electronics 3 (2018/19)

Details of the module's prerequisites, learning outcomes, assessment and contact hours are given in the official module description in the Faculty Handbook - follow the link above. A detailed description of the module's content is given below, together with book lists and a link to the current library catalogue entries. For an explanation of the library's categorisation system see

Content and Teaching Methods

'Bridge' Project

Dr C.D. Saunter and others

One full week in June of the previous academic year. Suitable alternative arrangements can be made for any students who are unable, for good reason, to undertake the bridge project in June.

Syllabus: A team-based project providing a transition from Level 1 to Level 2 laboratory work. Students will work in teams on an extended project lasting one week, which will develop their problem-solving, teamwork and presentation skills. Each project will be in the form of a problem and the team will direct their research under the guidance of a member of staff. There is no "right way" to solve the problem and it is the team's responsibility to plan and carry out an approach in order to solve the problem. These projects will cover a wide range of physics problems, including astronomy and applications of physics, and you will be given the opportunity to select a project that interests you. Project titles and supervisors will be made available on DUO During Easter vacation and students will sign up for a project on a first come-first served basis early in Easter term.

Students will work in a team of typically 4 people to investigate a problem through research for 35 hours (1 week). The project will be directed by your team, with guidance from a staff member who will act as a supervisor and meet with the team for up to one hour per day. The team will have access to existing departmental teaching laboratory equipment and will be asked to create a webpage (wiki) about their investigation. Each member of the team will be expected to keep a good laboratory notebook with their results and experimental methods, and also to keep an online journal detailing their personal contribution to the project. The project will be assessed by an informal assessed discussion using the wiki, through the supervisor monitoring the progress and journal entries.

Computational Physics

Dr D. Maitre

9 lectures and 8 workshops in Michaelmas Term


Additional: Computational Physics, N .J. Giordano & H. Nakanishi: ISBN 0-13-146990-8, E

Additional: Computational Physics, R. H. Landan, M. J. Paiz, C. C. Bordliann, ISBN 978-3-527-40626-5, B

Syllabus: Fundtions, random numbers, intergration, linear algebra, ordinary differential equations.

The weekly assignment will be to code the algorithm in Python, to be submitted and checked electronically. These will form the basis for discussion in the workshops.

Skills Labs

Dr R. Wilman and others

6 three-hour sessions in Michaelmas Term


Required: Measurements and their Uncertainties, I.G. Hughes and T.P.A. Hase (OUP)

Syllabus: An introduction to experimental physics at Level 2. This course has typically 30 minutes of instruction and two and a half hours of practical work per session. Students work in teams. The course emphasises the skills necessary for experimental physics. The main topics are experimental design, data/error analysis, cryogenics and an introduction to using Python to control and log data from measurement devices. Recording and reporting results are also covered with training in the writing of both short and long reports and in oral presentations.

Careers Talks

Dr R. Wilman and others

5 one-hour sessions in Michaelmas Term

Syllabus: Invited speakers give presentations on employability and the applications of physics in enterprises.

Electronics Lectures

Dr A.T. Hindmarch

5 lectures in Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms


Additional: Electronics: A Systems Approach, N. Storey (Addison-Wesley, 2nd Ed.)
Additional: The Art of Electronics, P. Horowitz and W. Hill (CUP)
Additional: Microelectronic Circuits and Devices, M.N. Horenstein (Prentice Hall)

Syllabus: Analog electronics. Components: introduction to circuit theory, networks and AC theory, passive filters. Systems: feedback and amplification, control circuits, oscillators, modulation and demodulation, noise, measurements and phase-sensitive detection.

Electronics Labs

Dr A.T. Hindmarch and others

6 three-hour sessions in Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms

Textbooks: As for Electronics Lectures above.

Syllabus: Four laboratory classes covering practical aspects relating to the lecture course content. Students then undertake an invigilated practical electronics assessment during one of the final two sessions in Epiphany term.

Critical Reading of Relevant Scientific Papers

Dr A.T. Hindmarch

1 three-hour session in Epiphany Term

Research-Led Investigation

Dr R. Wilman and others

6 three-hour sessions in Epiphany Term

Syllabus: Long experiments in the physics laboratory, chosen from a list of titles. Students usually work in pairs but in some cases, individually.

Laboratory Information

Lab Locations: 205/218/220/226/228

Computer Classroom: 216

Lab technicians: 224

Lab opening times:
Michaelmas Term: week 2 onwards
Epiphany Term: all term except for the final week
Laboratories: Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, 14:00-17:00
Computer classroom: 09:00-18:00 except during other classes
Safety first! We want you to enjoy the lab classes in an environment that is safe for you and others. Please be attentive in the safety briefings at the start of each term. Please feel free to ask for safety advice from staff, demonstrators and lab technicians at any time.
Lab staff: Each lab activity is supported by a member of staff, by postgraduate demonstrators and by the lab technicians, Reece Stockport and Jason Anderson.
Requirements: A compulsory briefings takes place in week 1 in the Michaelmas Term. Attendance at the lab sessions is compulsory - you must sign the attendance sheet for each session (this is your own responsibility). All students are required to keep a lab notebook. Assessment and deadlines will be published in the departmental list.