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Postgraduate Training


Course Organiser – Dr Kieran O'Brien


The Advanced Instrumentation Postgraduate course comprises a broad range of lecture/workshop modules given by academic and research staff. These have been chosen to cover a selection of core concepts as well as instrumentation research undertaken in Durham. The course is divided into three main components; an overview of the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation and its active research areas, the development of core skills and, a number of elective modules tailored for students working in different research areas, e.g. Astronomical, Biophotonic or Gamma-ray instrumentation.

In the Michaelmas term, the course will begin with the overview of the course and the students will begin the core skills courses. It will share some of the lectures with the MSc in Scientific Computing and Data Analysis (MISCADA) and the Astronomy PG course. The course will include practically orientated research-skill workshops on scientific computing including machine learning, data analysis and statistics.

In the Epiphany term, the Instrumentation course diverges from MISCADA and Astronomy courses to present a series of lectures/workshops on practical instrumentation topics that are designed to be relevant to both academic and industrial paths. These will include topics such as optical and mechanical design, systems engineering, project management and detector technologies.

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.



The current schedule for the course is shown here. Please check back regularly, as this may change.

Michaelmas Term –

General Information - 3 sessions

Overview of research areas in CfAI - 10 seminars

Introduction to Numerical Methods and Algorithms - 8 seminars, 8 hours of practical session

Introduction to Data Analysis - 8 seminars, 8 hours of practical session

Introduction to Machine Learning - 8 seminars, 8 hours of practical session


Epiphany Term –

Optical Design - 5 seminars, 6 hours of practical session

Mechanical design - 5 seminars, 6 hours of practical session

Practical opto-mechanics - 1 seminar, 3 hours of practical session

Software engineering - 3 seminars

Data Interfacing - 12 hours of practical session

Systems Engineering and Project Management - 3 seminars

Optical Detection - 3 seminars

Adaptive Optics - 4 seminars

Further research tools (scientific writing, critical evaluation) - 4 seminars



Each area of the course is assessed via course work. In the Epiphany term, this is based on assessment of the practical sessions. 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 give a 15 minute presentation on a critique of a research paper 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 their own area of research 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 student to attend all lectures and complete all course work, the 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.