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Unit information: Current Topics in Physics in 2018/19

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Unit name Current Topics in Physics
Unit code PHYSM3407
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Birkinshaw
Open unit status Not open



None. Antirequisite in Foundations of Modern Physics unit.

School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science


This unit provides an introduction to current research in theoretical and applied physics. The course is modular, and students will cover three different topics, each a subject of active research. In each area, work is ongoing and there may be no definitive interpretation of results; the course will illustrate the nature of physics research, and explore ways of addressing such uncertainty. Topics will be available in strands for different research areas in the School, such as astrophysics, particle physics, and condensed matter physics. Students will normally follow one strand and students on the Physics with Astrophysics degree will be expected to follow the Astrophysics strand. After the course students will have several weeks to write an essay. This will be a review of a single research topic in the strand. Formative feedback will be provided on an essay plan.


  • to introduce students to topics of current research in physics
  • to develop skills in researching a new topic and distilling accurate information from current scientific literature where there are open questions
  • to develop scientific writing and presentation skills.

Intended learning outcomes

Students should be able to:

  • assimilate new ideas from current research papers
  • critically evaluate current research
  • write a review style article in scientific language.

Teaching details

Lectures and discussion seminars, directed reading.

Assessment Details

Students will write one essay of up to 2,000 words on one of the topics. The final assessment mark will be based 100% on this essay. Formative feedback will be provided on a 500 word essay plan.

Reading and References

Each topic will be chosen from the current literature, usually research papers. During the lectures students will be directed to the relevant literature.