Department of Physics and Astronomy

Teaching methods

new labs 5Students enjoying our new state-of-the-art teaching labs

You will learn through a wide variety of teaching methods:

Lectures last 50 minutes and typically there will be two or three per week for each module. Lectures take place in groups of between 10 and 100, with one lecturer responsible for each module.

Workshops are sessions in which students work on their own or in groups, with help available on request from a tutor.

Exercise classes are used to explain and discuss the solutions to weekly problem sheets to groups of about 15 students.

Consultation periods are arranged by the lecturers during their office hours and at these times students may discuss particular problems with lecturers on an individual basis.

Laboratory work is done during one term in years 1 and 2 (two terms in year 3 for MPhys students). Faculty and postgraduate students are present to guide the work and mark the reports.

Projects are carried out by nearly all students during two terms of their final year. You will be supervised closely by a member of faculty, often as part of a team of graduate students and research fellows.

Lecturers are available to help and advise you, encourage questions and respond to suggestions. You are encouraged to work with your friends and colleagues, learning through discovery – something that we consider to be just as important as learning from information.

Facilities

The teaching and research facilities in Physics and Astronomy are excellent. They include:

  • new state-of-the-art teaching labs used for all hands-on work
  • computer-controlled 0.4m reflecting telescope
  • 24 hour computing and fast internet access
  • supercomputers.

What you will achieve

  • Active learning reinforces and increases your knowledge and understanding of physics and develops your personal skills. You discuss and argue your case in problem classes and complete carefully-designed assignments. You also participate in individual and group exercises in the laboratory.
  • Presentation skills: in the first-year laboratory module you design a poster or a website about your work and give a short talk. You have the opportunity to write essays about topics related to your subject and you present a progress report on your final year project. You increase your command of information technology, design, word-processing and numerical analysis.
  • Research skills: in your final year project you develop independent thoughts and ideas, use your newly-acquired scientific, technical and interpersonal skills, and establish yourself firmly as a graduate ready to take on the world.
  • All our degree courses are accredited by the Institute of Physics, so you will qualify for graduate membership (GradInstP), a first step towards Chartered Physicist status.

Lee's perspective

Lee Suttle

'The great thing about doing physics is that there is a much higher number of contact hours than for other degree modules. Modules are taught through a combination of lectures, which cover the key points and principles of the subject, and workshops, which offer a more open and interactive discussion of how the physics can be applied to solving various problems. Laboratory sessions allow for practical demonstration of physical processes in action. These include such memorable moments as freezing a superconductor in liquid nitrogen to observe the Meissner effect, and using the Department's Fender Stratocaster in an experiment to study the physics of the electric guitar!

'Many modules require you to complete weekly or fortnightly homework problem sheets to test your understanding on the most recently covered topics in the course. Unlike school homework, these count towards your assessment. This may sound daunting at first, but the work is easily manageable from the lecture material, and much of the groundwork is made during the workshop sessions, which guide you to the best problem-solving techniques. In many cases, group work on problems can also be constructive, and is highly encouraged as a means of understanding the different directions that can be taken to reach solutions. This has the benefit that you will have made a large headway on modules before the summer exam period.'

Lee Suttle
Physics with Astrophysics MPhys research placement student