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Unit information: Relativistic Field Theory in 2022/23

Unit name Relativistic Field Theory
Unit code PHYSM3417
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2C (weeks 13 - 18)
Unit director Dr. Clark
Open unit status Not open
Units you must take before you take this one (pre-requisite units)

Normally PHYS30021 Solid State Physics and PHYS32011 Quantum Physics, or the equivalent taken as part of a Year in Industry or Year Abroad, and PHYS30008 Analytical Mechanics.

Units you must take alongside this one (co-requisite units)


Units you may not take alongside this one


School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science

Unit Information

Aims: Special Relativity was originally proposed to account for the properties of Electromagnetic fields, and the notions of classical fields are closely related to relativity. This course will give an account of the modern approach to special relativity and Lagrangian field theory, and their role in the covariant description of the classical electromagnetic field, and the relativistic quantum Klein-Gordon and Dirac equations. The course is a mixture of calculation combined with more qualitative treatment of advanced topics.

Your learning on this unit

At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • perform simple calculations and transformations in Euclidean and Minkowski space including vectors and tensors.
  • appreciate the significance of relativistic invariance of wave equations, and derive Lagrangians for simple wave equations.
  • manipulate the relativistic equations describing electromagnetic fields and point charges, and appreciate the notions of relativistic electrodynamics.
  • appreciate the approach of relativistic quantum mechanics, and the advantages and disadvantages of the Klein-Gordon equation.
  • derive the Dirac equation and calculate its solutions in simple situations, and appreciate relativistic effects for electrons.

How you will learn

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials, including narrated presentations and worked examples
  • synchronous group problems classes, workshops, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous directed individual formative exercises and other exercises
  • guided, structured reading

How you will be assessed

Formative assessment is through problem sheets discussed in problems classes. Summative assessment is through a 2 hour written examination (100%)


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. PHYSM3417).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.