Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)


Department: Mathematical Sciences


Type Open Level 4 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap Location Durham


  • (mathematics modules to the value of 100 credits in Years 2 and 3, with at least 40 credits at Level 3, and including Quantum Mechanics III (MATH3111)) OR (mathematics modules to the value of 100 credits in Years 2 and 3, with at least 40 credits at Level 3, and including Theoretical Physics 2 (PHYS2631) or Foundations Of Physics 3A (PHYS3621).


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The module is intended as an introduction to Quantum Field Theory using strings as a primary example
  • It also develops string theory sufficiently to show that its spectrum includes all elementary particles thus unifying the fundamental forces


  • The syllabus contains: Action principles and classical theory
  • Quantisation of free scalar fields; application to strings
  • Virasoro algebra: string constraints as generators of conformal transformations, representations, central charge
  • Spectra: physical state condition, no-ghost theorem, critical dimension, open string spectrum. Connection to gauge theory, non-Abelian gauge symmetry and importance for the Standard Model. Closed string spectrum, connection to Gravity. Compactification.
  • Spinning string: gauge-fixed action, Ramond and Neveu-Schwarz boundary conditions, Super-Virasoro algebra, spectrum
  • Dirichlet branes

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Having studied the module students will know the basic principles of quantum field theory and the role of symmetry in modern particle physics.
  • be familiar with the fundamental aspects of string theory (quantisation of free strings, string constraints and their algebraic description,spectrum)
  • have been made aware of the connection between string spectra and the Standard Model.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • students will be able to use a variety of highly specialised and advanced technical skills in the area of theoretical elementary particle physics
Key Skills:
  • students will have developed the ability to operate in complex and specialised contexts close to the cutting edge of research

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

  • Lecturing demonstrates what is required to be learned and the application of the theory to practical examples.
  • Written assignments provide formative practice in the application of logic, rigour and extended discourse.
  • Summative examinations assess these elements, the knowledge acquired and the ability to solve complex unpredictable and specialised problems.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 42 2 per week for 20 weeks and 2 in term 3. 1 Hour 42
Problems Classes 8 Four in each of terms 1 and 2 1 Hour 8
Preparation and Reading 150
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written examination 3 Hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Eight written assignments to be assessed and returned. Other assignments are set for self-study and complete solutions are made available to students.

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