Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2009-2010 (archived)


Department: Physics


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2009/10 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • Foundations of Physics 2 (PHYS2511).


  • Foundations of Physics 3 (PHYS3522).

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module is designed primarily for students studying Department of Physics or Natural Sciences degree programmes.
  • It builds on the Level 2 modules Foundations of Physics 2 (PHYS2511) and Mathematical Methods in Physics (PHYS2521) and provides a working knowledge of the methods of special relativity, quantum physics and electromagnetism appropriate to Level 3 physics students.


  • The syllabus contains:
  • Quantum Mechanics: state vectors, operators, eigenvalues and expectation values, commutation relations and uncertainty principle, postulates. Operator methods: simple harmonic oscillator, angular momentum and spin. Rotations. Scattering theory.
  • Special Relativity: Light cone, space-like and time-like intervals, Lorentz transformation, time dilation, twin paradox, Doppler effect. Summation conventions, Levi-Civita and Kronecker tensors. Covariant and contravariant vectors. 4-momenta. Minkowski metric.
  • Electromagnetism: covariant electrodynamics, 4-potentials and gauge invariance, Maxwell's equations in tensor form, relativistic fields and retarded potential.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Having studied this module students will have a systematic understanding of non-relativistic quantum theory, including operator and matrix methods and scattering theory.
  • They will have a working knowledge of special relativity and the rudiments of tensor calculus, and be able to apply their understanding to classical and relativistic electromagnetism.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • In addition to the acquisition of subject knowledge, students will be able to apply the principles of physics to the solution of complex problems.
  • They will know how to produce a well-structured solution, with clearly-explained reasoning and appropriate presentation.
Key Skills:

    Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

    • Teaching will be by lectures and examples classes.
    • The lectures provide the means to give a concise, focussed presentation of the subject matter of the module. The lecture material will be explicitly linked to the contents of recommended textbooks for the module, thus making clear where students can begin private study. When appropriate, the lectures will also be supported by the distribution of written material, or by information and relevant links on DUO.
    • Regular problem exercises and example classes will give students the chance to develop their theoretical understanding and problem solving skills.
    • Students will be able to obtain further help in their studies by approaching their lecturers, either after lectures or at other mutually convenient times.
    • Student performance will be summatively assessed through an examination and problem exercises. The examination and problem exercises will provide the means for students to demonstrate the acquisition of subject knowledge and the development of their problem-solving skills.
    • The problem exercises and example classes provide opportunities for feedback, for students to gauge their progress and for staff to monitor progress throughout the duration of the module.

    Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

    Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
    Lectures 38 2 per week 1 Hour 38
    Example Classes 8 Fortnightly 1 Hour 8
    Preparation and Reading 154
    Total 200

    Summative Assessment

    Component: Examination Component Weighting: 90%
    Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
    three-hour written examination 100%
    Component: Problem exercises Component Weighting: 10%
    Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
    problem exercises 100%

    Formative Assessment:

    Example classes and problems solved therein.

    Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University