Listed here are descriptions of each course available in the first year of study in the department. Select a link below to view a short summary of a course.
PH3090 - Physics in the Classroom
This optional course is designed to provide selected students with experience in communication, especially of Physics. Students successful in being offered a place on the course are provided with placements in local secondary schools. Although the course is often taken by students with a desire to become, or to find out if they wish to become, teachers, it is not intended to be a teacher training course but rather fulfils a much wider role developing strong science communication and presentational skills. The course is challenging, often combining a profound revisiting of your understanding of the most basic science with the need to understand the human interaction with scientific concepts, the need to get your point over to an audience with a wide range of knowledge and skills and your ability to explain the most simple concept in several different ways. These skills are widely under demand at post-PhD level, in broadcasting, authoring and in commercial environments as well as in schools.
PH3110 - Experimental or Theoretical Project
This course should provide the high point of the three year physics degree. It gives students the opportunity to use their scientific knowledge, their ability to plan and execute an extended experimental or theoretical investigation, and use all their communication skills to describe their results. Working together with a member of the academic staff students carry out extended experimental or theoretical work, in physics, electronics or astrophysics. They present their work via and oral presentation and write a report, which they can then show at career interviews and discuss its contents with confidence.
PH3510 - Particle Physics
This course provides an overview of the physics of elementary particles, with particular focus on the current Standard Model of electroweak and strong interactions. The course includes a brief overview of experimental methods (particle detectors and accelerators) and reviews the primary discoveries that have led to our current understanding of quarks, leptons, gauge bosons, and their interactions. Feynman diagram techniques are used to calculate cross sections and decay rates for observable processes, and these predictions are compared with experimental results. A brief description of the predicted properties of the Higgs boson is given and ongoing searches for this particle are described.
PH3710 - Semiconductors and Superconductor
This course deals with the properties of two important classes of solids: semiconductors and superconductors. Their physical description requires advanced quantum mechanical and many-particle concepts. The semiconductor module uses basic solid-state theory to understand their properties, and understand how these properties can be tuned by varying the bulk doping of the semiconductor. Semiconductors can be doped either p-type or n-type, allowing the simplest semiconductor device, a pn junction to be fabricated. As well as looking at the optical and transport properties of semiconductors, the principles of how real devices are fabricated are discussed. In the module on superconductors their important properties like perfect conductivity or the expulsion of the magnetic field are discussed using the phenomenological approach of Ginzburg-Landau theory. The theory includes a complex order parameter, whose phase is used to describe interference phenomena in Josephson junctions and SQUIDS, which allow the detection of tiny magnetic fields. Current research on unconventional superconductors with high transition temperatures will be summarised.
PH3730 - Modern topics of Condensed Matter
Three areas of condensed matter physics are discussed: probes of condensed matter, magnetism, and soft matter. Starting from basic concepts each topic will be developed to allow a connection with current research. Students will write an essay on a specific research topic. The module on probes of condensed matter focuses on the high spatial resolution methods for probing structure, composition, surface properties and electronic structure of solids including Scanning Electron Microscopy, X-ray spectroscopy, Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy, Atomic Force and Magnetic Force Microscopy and Scanning Near-field Optical Microscopy. Major interactions of electron beams and other scanning probes with condensed matter will be discussed. The magnetism module contains a description of four different types of magnetic systems: materials with localised and delocalised magnetic moments, which can either be non-interacting or interacting. This includes a description of magnetic insulators and metals. The relevance of magnetic interactions for giant magnetoresistance or superconductivity with its many current or potential applications in information technology and energy transport will be discussed. The soft matter module concerns the interactions between colloidal particles, their phase diagrams, self-diffusion and rheological behaviour. The theory of polymer chains is also covered. This includes coarse-graining, polymer shape measures, dynamics and viscosity as a function of chain length, including reptation. Reference to recent advances and practical applications will be made.
PH3930 - Particle Astrophysics
PH3930 gives an introduction to the modern field of particle astrophysics. Building on the particle physics course PH3520, the use of Feynman diagrams to understand decay rates and cross sections is described and key processes are explored, which are instrumental in the development of the early universe. Supersymmetry and Grand Unifiied Theories are described, together with their implications for high-energy experiments at the LHC and also for dark matter and high-energy neutrino events from space. Terrestrial neutrino experiments are currently a hot topic and the principle behind them is covered, together with a selection of the latest measurements. Searches for dark matter are also a very active research field and the latest ideas are covered and implications from cosmological measurements are also discussed. The development of the early universe starting from the big bang is derived, starting from the Friedman equation and employing the standard model of particle physics. Throughout, the links between cosmology and particle physics are stressed and the latest measurements from the field are presented.