Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2009-2010 (archived)


Department: Physics


Type Open Level 4 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2009/10 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • Foundations of Physics 3 (PHYS3522).


  • None.

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 3 module Foundations of Physics 3 (PHYS3522) and provide a working knowledge of Atomic and Optical physics at an advanced level appropriate to Level 4 physics students.


  • The syllabus contains:
  • Definition of a laser. Atom-light interactions. Amplification of light by stimulated emission. The laser oscillator. Laser pumping and population inversion. Transient behaviour and pulsed operation. Cavity effects. Laser properties and applications with specific case studies. Atomic spectroscopy.
  • Atomic physics for quantum computing: Introduction to quantum computer, ion traps, entanglement; two-level model of atom-light interactions; Rabi oscillations; equivalence to a spin-1/2, quantum interference (Ramsey fringes); decoherence; stimulated Raman transitions; quantum gates.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Having studied this module students will be aware of the principles of lasers and be able to describe the operation, design features and uses of various laser systems.
  • They will be familiar with the quantum theory of light and will be able to describe laser-atom interactions.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • In addition to the aquisition of subject knowledge, students will be able to apply knowledge of specialist topics in physics to the solution of advanced problems.
  • They will know how to produce a well-structured solution, with clearly-explained reasoning and appropriate presentation.

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

  • Teaching will be by lectures.
  • The lectures provide the means to give a concise, focused 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, lectures will also be supported by the distribution of written material, or by information and relevant links on DUO.
  • Regular problem exercises 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 mutually convenient times.
  • Student performance will be summatively assessed through an examination and regular 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 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
Preparation and Reading 162
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 90%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
one 3-hour written examination 100%
Component: Problem Exercises Component Weighting: 10%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
problem exercises 100%

Formative Assessment:


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