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PH10102: Experimental physics and computing 1

[Page last updated: 05 August 2021]

Academic Year: 2021/2
Owning Department/School: Department of Physics
Credits: 12 [equivalent to 24 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 240
Level: Certificate (FHEQ level 4)
Academic Year
Assessment Summary: PR 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • Practical (PR 100%)
Supplementary Assessment:
PH10102 - OT reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Requisites: While taking this module you must take PH10003
Description: Aims:
The primary aims of this unit are to give the student confidence and competence in basic laboratory and information processing skills, and to introduce laboratory project work. Further aims are to encourage the application of basic principles to unfamiliar areas of physics, and to reinforce other course material through self-paced laboratory demonstrations. The unit provides a preparation for work in the undergraduate physics laboratory by developing students' understanding of error analysis and statistics, as relevant to the understanding and interpretation of experimental data, Two additional aims are to introduce computer programming, and to give students experience of presenting their work in the form of a poster.

Learning Outcomes:
While taking this unit the student should be able to:
* demonstrate the correct use of common laboratory equipment;
* set up and carry out experimental demonstrations related to level 1 physics units;
* use a scientific log book for recording details of experimental procedure, experimental results and data analysis;
* apply dimensional analysis to expressions linking measurable variables;
* evaluate the standard error on a mean of experimental measurements;
* apply least-squares fitting to experimental data;
* plan, design and carry out two physics projects consisting of small-scale experimental investigations;
* analyse experimental and observational data, and write formal scientific project reports;
* design and make a poster based on a physics project, and present this at an open poster presentation.

Written Communication T/F A, Spoken Communication T/F A, Numeracy T/F A, Data Acquisition, Handling, and Analysis T/F A, Information Technology T/F A, Problem Solving T/F A, Working as part of a group T/F, Practical laboratory skills T/F A, Project planning/management T/F A.

Techniques of measurement: Examples include use of oscilloscope, light sources and detectors, operational amplifiers, geometrical optics, introduction to computer data acquisition.
Demonstrations: Examples include velocity of light, astrophysical data analysis, elastic properties, spectrum of atomic hydrogen, ultrasonic waves in air, the Michelson interferometer, heat engines, and photoelectric determination of Planck's constant.
Electronics: Resonant ac circuits and filters. Operational amplifiers.
Project: Two independent projects to simulate the processes of researching, planning, performing, analysing and reporting a small-scale experimental investigation. The topics are chosen from a wide range of physics and astrophysics topics appropriate to first-year students, including hypothesis testing, design of apparatus and investigating unfamiliar phenomena.
Handling data lectures (4 hours): Dimensional analysis, and orders of magnitude (dimensional homogeneity, Rayleigh Method). Describing data distributions, and estimating uncertainty (mean, variance, standard deviation). Combining errors, Gaussian errors as a consequence of the Central Limit Theorem. Linear regression (least squares; error in the gradient and intercept).
PC laboratory sessions: The use of spreadsheets, such as EXCEL, to perform statistical operations and data analysis. The use of word processors, such as WORD, to produce technical reports. The use of computers for scientific purposes, including analysis of astrophysical data. Introduction to programming in Python.
Scientific report writing skills: Demonstrate a sound knowledge of the constituent parts of a scientific report: abstract, introduction, method, discussion, conclusion and referencing.
Poster presentation: The students' second project is presented in the form of a poster, in a style similar to that of conference posters. This will be judged by staff and students at an open presentation.

Programme availability:

PH10102 is a Designated Essential Unit on the following programmes:

Department of Physics
  • USPH-AFB01 : BSc(Hons) Physics (Year 1)
  • USPH-AAB02 : BSc(Hons) Physics with Study year abroad (Year 1)
  • USPH-AKB02 : BSc(Hons) Physics with Year long work placement (Year 1)
  • USPH-AFB10 : BSc(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics (Year 1)
  • USPH-AAB10 : BSc(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Study year abroad (Year 1)
  • USPH-AKB10 : BSc(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Year long work placement (Year 1)
  • USPH-AFM02 : MPhys(Hons) Physics (Year 1)
  • USPH-AFM04 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Research placement (Year 1)
  • USPH-AAM12 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Study year abroad (Year 1)
  • USPH-AKM03 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Professional Placement (Year 1)
  • USPH-AKM04 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Professional and Research Placements (Year 1)
  • USPH-AFM10 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics (Year 1)
  • USPH-AFM11 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Research placement (Year 1)
  • USPH-AAM14 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Study year abroad (Year 1)
  • USPH-AKM10 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Professional Placement (Year 1)
  • USPH-AKM11 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Professional and Research Placements (Year 1)
  • USPH-AAM15 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Study year abroad and Research Placement (Year 1)
  • USPH-AAM13 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Study year abroad and Research Placement (Year 1)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2021/22 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2022/23 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2021/22.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.