Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Physics


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Foundations of Physics 2A (PHYS2581) AND (Mathematical Methods in Physics (PHYS2611) OR Analysis in Many Variables (MATH2031)).


  • 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 2 modules Foundations of Physics 2A (PHYS2581) and Mathematical Methods in Physics (PHYS2611) by providing courses on Quantum Mechanics and Nuclear and Particle Physics appropriate to Level 3 students.


  • The syllabus contains:
  • Quantum Mechanics: Introduction to many-particle systems (wave function for systems of several particles, identical particles, bosons and fermions, Slater determinant); the variational method (ground state, excited states, trial functions with linear variational parameters); the ground state of two-electron atoms; the excited states of two-electron atoms (singlet and triplet states, exchange splitting, exchange interaction written in terms of spin operators); complex atoms (electronic shells, the central-field approximation); time-dependent perturbation theory; Fermi’s Golden Rule; periodic perturbations; the Schrödinger equation for a charged particle in an electromagnetic field; the dipole approximation; transition rates for harmonic perturbations; absorption and stimulated emission; Einstein coefficients; spontaneous emission; selection rules for electric dipole transitions; lifetimes; the interaction of particles with a static magnetic field (spin and magnetic moment, particle of spin one-half in a uniform magnetic field, charged particles with uniform magnetic fields; Larmor frequency; Landau levels); one-electron atoms in magnetic fields.
  • Nuclear and Particle Physics: Fundamental Interactions, symmetries and conservation Laws, global properties of nuclei (nuclides, binding energies, semi-empirical mass formula, the liquid drop model, charge independence and isospin), nuclear stability and decay (beta-decay, alpha-decay, nuclear fission, decay of excited states), scattering (relativistic kinematics, elastic and inelastic scattering, cross sections, Fermi’s golden rule, Feynman diagrams), geometric shapes of nuclei (kinematics, Rutherford cross section, Mott cross section, nuclear form factors), elastic scattering off nucleons (nucleon form factors), deep inelastic scattering (nucleon excited states, structure functions, the parton model), quarks, gluons, and the strong interaction (quark structure of nucleons, quarks in hadrons), particle production in electron–positron collisions (lepton pair production, resonances), phenomenology of the weak interaction (weak interactions, families of quarks and leptons, parity violation), exchange bosons of the weak interaction (real W and Z bosons), the Standard Model, quarkonia (analogy with Hydrogen atom and positronium, Charmonium, quark–antiquark potential), hadrons made from light quarks (mesonic multiplets, baryonic multiplets, masses and decays), the nuclear force (nucleon–nucleon scattering, the deuteron, the nuclear force), the structure of nuclei (Fermi gas model, shell Model, predictions of the shell model).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Having studied this module students will be familiar with some of the key results of quantum mechanics including perturbation theory and its application to atomic physics and the interaction of atoms with light.
  • They will be able to describe the properties of nuclei and how nucleons interact and have an appreciation of the key ingredients of the Standard Model of particle physics.
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 workshops.
    • The lectures provide the means to give a concise, focused presentation of the subject matter of the module. The lecture material will be defined by, and explicitly linked to, the contents of the 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 online.
    • Regular problem exercises and workshops 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 a written examination and an online test and formatively assessed through problem exercises and a progress test. The written examination and online test 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 progress test will 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 46 2 or 3 per week 1 Hour 46
    Workshops 17 Weekly 1 Hour 17
    Preparation and Reading 137
    Total 200

    Summative Assessment

    Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
    Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
    Written examination 2 hours 100%
    Component: Online tests Component Weighting: 40%
    Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
    Online tests 100%

    Formative Assessment:

    Problem exercises and self-assessment; one progress test, workshops 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