3-year BA Physics

The 3-year BA Honours Course.

This course provides a general education in the basic principles of physics, their formulation and manipulation in mathematical terms and their application in the laboratory to experiments. This is probably the more appropriate degree for those not seeking a possible career in physics e.g. teaching or commerce.

Physics courses investigate the basic principles of modern physics with a strong emphasis on its mathematical foundation. They also include a significant amount of experimental work and the possibility of studying a non-physics subject. There is also a common emphasis on individual development, discussion and the ability to work with others in the laboratory.

Course Structure:

The first year (foundation) and second year (core physics) courses are the same for both the BA and the MPhys. In the third year, BA students choose some of the third year subjects, and do a project. In each of years one, two and three, all students choose additional 'Short Options' from a range of courses.

First Year

In their first year, students on both courses (BA and MPhys) cover five subjects, four of which are compulsory. Two subjects cover fundamental areas of 'classical' physics: the mechanics of particles, special relativity, and the physics of electric and magnetic fields. A third subject covers differential equations, waves and elementary optics. The fourth subject is mathematical methods, including vectors and calculus. These four subjects provide a firm foundation for the rest of both courses. The fifth subject is chosen from a range of possible Short Options, which may change from year to year but are likely to include topics such as quantum ideas, additional mathematics and subjects from other physical sciences.

Practical work

Practical work complements lectures and tutorials and introduces students to areas that may be less familiar. For two terms of the first year, students spend one day each week working in pairs in the practical laboratories, on practicals such as: computing, electronics, optics and general physics. A new course on computer programming and numerical methods combines lectures with hands-on work in the computing laboratory.

1st year Exams (Prelims)

Towards the end of the first year students take an examination, consisting of five papers, one in each of their chosen subjects. Students must pass the written exam and have a satisfactory record of practical work before they can proceed to the second year. In particular, each of the papers on the four compulsory subjects must be passed.

Second Year

The second year course provides a common core for both the BA and MPhys degrees. It develops the techniques and knowledge acquired in the first year. Electromagnetism, optics and mathematical methods are extended and further core topics such as quantum physics and thermal physics are covered in some depth. A short optional subject is studied towards the end of the year. Current subjects include energy studies, more advanced theoretical topics, a language or teaching option.

Practical work

Practicals occupy two days a fortnight in the second and third years. Students normally do a total of 12 days, but there are a number of alternatives for some of it. For example, the Teaching Physics in Schools short option involves working with a physics teacher in a local school for one half-day each week, and research into the learning of physics in school. Half the practical work may be substituted by a second short option. It is also possible to do extra practical work, as additional experiments, or as a mini-project, in place of a short option.

2nd year exams (Part A)

Three written papers on the core topics plus a short option paper and practical work form the Part A exam at the end of the second year. Those who wish to take the four-year MPhys degree must meet a minimum standard comparable to a 2:1 honours in this exam.

Third Year

In the third year the BA and MPhys courses diverge.

Six modules are offered: Flows, fluctuations and complexity; Symmetry & relativity; Quantum, atomic and molecular physics; Sub-atomic Physics; General relativity and cosmology and Condensed-matter physics. Students will choose four of these modules, and undertake a project in their final term. Physics students will also take a short option and relevant practical work.

3rd year exams (Part B)

Students will be expected to do papers on 4 of the 6 modules plus a short option plus satisfactory practical work plus a project report. The BA honours degree classification is made on the combined results from the Part A & B exams.