Natural Sciences within the Department of Physics
Natural Sciences Liaison Officer
The Department's Natural Sciences Liaison Officer is Dr Pippa Petts. She is the first person you should contact if you have any questions about Natural Sciences involving Physics. She can also give you advice on module choices for degree progression. You can contact Pippa by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by telephoning 0191 334 3518 (internal 43518).
If Pippa is unavailable, you can also obtain advice from the Physics Department's Teaching Administrator, email@example.com.
Frequently Asked Questions
Even though many questions asked by Natural Scientists are quite specific to individual students and their choice of modules, there are some questions that are more general in nature and the answers may be of interest to all Natural Scientists taking modules in Physics. The current list of these general questions (and the corresponding answers) is given below.
"I have completed my first year in Natural Sciences and I wish to transfer into single honours Physics: is this possible?"
Transferring from Natural Sciences to single honours Physics is normally straightforward if you have studied (and passed) the relevant Physics and Mathematics modules in your first year, i.e., Foundations of Physics 1 (PHYS1122), Discovery Skills in Physics (PHYS1101) and either Single Mathematics A and B (MATH1561 and MATH1571), or Linear Algebra I and Calculus and Probability I (MATH1071 and MATH1061). However, if you have not taken this combination of modules in year 1, your only option is to seek a University concession to enter single honours Physics in year 2. The Physics Department must support such a concession, and there is no guarantee that the concession to transfer will be approved by the University. If you think that you may wish to transfer to single honours Physics for year 2 then you must take Discovery Skills in Physics in year 1.
"I am having problems understanding some of the courses making up the Level 2 modules offered by the Department of Physics. I don't have an academic tutor in Physics to help me. What can I do?"
Level 2 and Level 3 lecture-based modules offered by the Department of Physics include workshops which give students an opportunity to discuss courses with members of staff including the lecturers concerned. There is also a booking system whereby students can arrange to speak to a course lecturer at a pre-arranged time. Both of these routes are available to every student wishing to discuss course material with a lecturer.
"I am registered for the MSci Natural Sciences degree and I wish take a fourth year project in physics. Are there any modules I should take to prepare me for the project, and will my choice of modules limit my choice of project?"
At present, the only pre-requisites for the triple module Physics Project (PHYS4213) are Foundations of Physics 3A (PHYS3621) and Discovery Skills in Physics (PHYS1101). Also, given that the projects are at an advanced level, it is sensible that the student should have taken Level 3 modules in the subject area of their chosen project.
"Who can I approach in the Department of Physics to act as a referee for a job application?"
If you need a personal reference then please ask your college Senior Tutor (or equivalent). For an academic referee it is normal to use your physics academic adviser. If your adviser is unavailable, or if you need a second academic referee, then you could ask your current or previous physics tutor, or, if you are a Natural Scientist, you may approach the Physics Department's Natural Sciences Liaison Officer to act as academic referee. The Director of the Natural Sciences programme is also able to provide a general (not subject-specific) academic reference.
If you are taking a module with significant laboratory component (such as the Level 3 Laboratory Project) then you may consider asking your Laboratory Supervisor to act as second academic referee.
“I am in the fourth year of a degree in Natural Sciences and I have heard that my degree is not accredited by the Institute of Physics, the professional body for physicists working in the UK. What is accreditation and why isn’t my degree accredited given that I took seven modules in Physics in years 2 and 3, and I’m taking six modules of Physics in my final year? What impact will having an unaccredited degree have on my future career?”
Accreditation is the way in which the Institute of Physics (IoP) monitors the content and standard of physics and physics-related degrees in the UK. The IoP accredits degree programmes and bases its accreditation, in part, on the content of the degree course. Here at Durham, Single Honours physics degrees are accredited by the IoP. These degree programmes have modules that students must take as part of their degree programme, and the compulsory modules are chosen to satisfy the IoP’s requirements for accreditation. Most Joint Honours degrees involving physics are 'recognised' by the IoP. The Natural Sciences BSc and MSci degree programmes are also 'recognised', providing at least 120 credits of physics modules are included, with at least 60 credits beyond year 1, and a project is undertaken (which need not be in physics). These programmes are very flexible and allow the student a wide choice of the module content. However, this also means that the content of a Natural Science degree will vary from student to student, so there is no guarantee that the compulsory modules will make up the final degree programme. Therefore, it is inevitable that the IoP cannot accredit the Natural Sciences degree programme because it has variable modular content. Nevertheless, the IoP offers membership, and the possibility of Chartered Physicist status, to those holding both accredited and unaccredited degrees involving physics (see http://www.iop.org/membership/).
Employers and postgraduate admissions tutors tend to ask for the modular make-up of a degree course. This means that they will be aware of the depth and range of physics covered in a Natural Sciences degree. They will also be aware that some of the modules making up that degree also form part of accredited degree programmes.
I am on the MSci Natural Sciences degree and intend to take all my Level 4 modules in physics. Which modules should I take in years 2 and 3?
If you intend to take six physics modules in your fourth year of the MSci Natural Sciences degree programme, you should be aware of the pre- and co-requisites of the modules that are available. You will need to take the triple Project module as well as three lecture-based Level 4 single modules. The Project module has the pre-requisites "Foundations of Physics 3A" and "Discovery Skills in Physics". "Foundations of Physics 3A" is also the pre-requisite for the Level 4 modules "Theoretical Physics 4" and "Atomic and Optical Physics". However, in order to take a sixth module in physics you will need to choose physics modules in years 2 or 3 which are the appropriate pre-requisites for the other Level 4 modules. An example of a typical set of physics modules an MSci Natural Sciences student might have taken is given at https://www.dur.ac.uk/natural.sciences/prospective/msci/year4single/.
Do I get an academic adviser in Physics?
If you are taking, or have previously taken, the module PHYS1122 Foundations of Physics 1 then you will have an academic adviser in Physics, in just the same way as single honours Physics students. Full details of the academic advisers system in the Department of Physics are available at https://www.dur.ac.uk/physics/students/advisers/.