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CC122: Minutes of meeting of Thursday 15th March 2007

Physics Consultative Committee

CC122: Minutes of meeting of Thursday 15th March 2007


Present: Dr D.A. Green (chairman), H. Price, S. Begley, C. Templeton, J. Reynolds, H. E, B. Sherwin, A. Brown, S. Sahl, Prof. P.B. Littlewood, Prof. D.R. Ward, Dr R. Padman, H. Marshall (minutes)


1. Minutes

Minutes of the last meeting were approved.

2. Matters Arising

There were no matters arising.

3. Teaching Committee Matters

Prof. Ward reported that following the changes to the IA Practicals this year more were planned for next year, including new for some experiments. It was explained that the IB courses next year will be renamed Physics A & B formally separating Physics and Advanced Physics, and thus allowing students to take B without A, although it was not expected that this would be taken by many students. For the new B course, the Methods of Mathematical Physics course will no longer be given, with elements incorporated into an expanded Dynamics course, and a new, short computing course would be added. Also being considered is a proposal that Physics B be lectures be moved from Tue/Thu/Sat to Mon/Wed/Fri, which was generally approved of by the student representatives.


4. Comments on Teaching from Michaelmas 2006

Electromagnetism (Dr Ford) Score 3.9 (49 replies)

The course was well received but was felt to be a bit rushed towards the end.

Mathematics & Theoretical Physics (Prof. Withington) Score 4.2 (12 replies)

This followed on well from IA Maths, and useful as a consolidation course. Well received.

Long Vacation Projects - Parts II & III

Two students had expressed their disappointment that the vivas for their Long Vacation Reports had not been carried out until the end of Michaelmas Term. Prof. Ward and Dr Padman will talk to the Long Vacation Co-ordinators.


5. Part III

Philosophy of Physics (Dr Butterfield) Score 3.5 (2 replies)

Well received with about 20 students attending. More lectures were requested.

Quantum Electronics in Semiconductors (Dr Barnes) Score 4.0 (7 replies)

A very good but difficult course with a lot of material covered.

Entrepreneurship (Dr Mills) Score 3.8 (12 replies)

A little disorganised with multiple lecturers. There were also timing issues over the supervisions. It was felt that there were too many motivational speakers at the beginning of the course.

The Frontiers of Particle Physics (Prof. Parker) Score 4.1 (26 replies)

An interesting course covering a good range of topics. There were some complaints that the material was covered too quickly and more detailed notes would be useful.

From Quantum Optics to Quantum Matter (Profs Phillips/Littlewood) Score 3.9 (26 replies)

(Individual forms were handed out for each lecturer.)

Prof. Phillips: the style of the course was liked, and the choice of topics was good, but the notes lacked detail in some areas.

Prof. Littlewood: the topic was motivating and exciting and well enjoyed, although some of the diagrams on the slides were not well labelled, and there were too few questions on the problem sheets.

Gauge Field Theory (Dr Batley) Score 4.0 (18 replies)

The course was really well lectured, and the handouts were very good. It was noted that this course builds on the Major Option Quantum Field Theory, and that this pre-requisite needs stressing.

Biological Physics (Dr Duke) Score 3.5 (11 replies)

The course was interesting, but lecturer was quite quiet at times. Further words of explanation in the handouts were requested, and there was concern that the examples sheets did not relate well to the lectures.

The Frontiers of Observational Astrophysics (Prof. Haniff) Score 4.4 (9 replies)

A good course, but the examples did not relate well to the handouts.

Phase Transitions & Collective Phenomena (Prof. Simons) Score 4.6 (9 replies)

Very good, well explained, clear and exciting.

Medical Physics (Dr Thomas et al.) Score 3.2 (12 replies)

The quality of the lecturers was variable, although it was recognised that it was appropriate to have several lecturers to cover the topics covered in the course. There is a lot of material to cover, and it was a little too fast. Some of the handouts were of poor quality.

Materials Electronics & Renewable Energy (Prof. Friend) Score 3.6 (17 replies)

This course builds strongly on the Quantum Condensed Matter Major Option course. Some students were disappointed that it didn't contain more about renewable energy.

Information Theory Pattern Recognition and Neural Nets (Prof. MacKay) Score 4.4 (33 replies)

A good course. The supervisions questions were put up too briefly during the lectures and it would be useful to have a printed copies.

Frontiers of Experimental Condensed Matter Physics (Dr Allison) Score 4.4 (5 replies)

Well received by those few students who took this course. Some tripos questions to practice on would be welcomed.

Superconductivity & Quantum Coherence (Prof. Lonzarich) Score 3.0 (1 reply)

From the one reply and verbal comments, this course was well received.

Advanced Quantum Field Theory (Prof. Osborn) Score 2.6 (5 replies)

The course was not well received and it was felt it did not contain enough physics, although it was recognised that this was a Part III Mathematics course, so the approach would be different.

General Comments: as noted above, it would be useful to better advertise the pre-requisites required for the Minor Options courses this term. Since the change from 16 to 12 lectures in the Minor Options 2 years ago there has been slightly negative feedback with the feeling that the courses have been crammed to fit the material in. This change was implemented to help with the Part III project work and the handing in of a project report form at the end of Michaelmas, which was felt to be a good idea.


6. Part II

TP2 Lectures (Dr Cooper & Dr Duke) Score 4.5 (23 replies)

Very interesting, and the Lecturers style of writing on the board was liked, as this limited the amount of material covered to a manageable volume, although it was thought there was too much material in the notes.

TP2 Examples Classes (Dr Cooper & Dr Duke) Score 4.5 (8 replies)

Not so many students attended the examples classes and some would like supervisions instead.

Physics in Action (Profs Bland/Hills)

The feedback will be collected when the essays are handed in next term. One comment by a member of the CC was that more specific guidance was needed from the HoC on the essays, which Prof. Ward will discussed with the HoC.

Concepts in Physics (Dr Hobson) Score 4.4 (49 replies)

A very well attended for an optional course with and excellent lecturer. Some students would appreciate handouts and more lectures.

Computational Physics Practical Class (Dr Padman) Score 3.5 (104 replies)

This was well received, with a good range of set questions. The demonstrators were generally helpful although some could do with more training. Some students didn't like the use of Fortran.

Experiment E2a/b (Dr Butcher et al.) Score 3.5 (38 replies)

Generally well received, although the time to write-up is still an issue with some students. Students would like more details of the experiments put on the web site to inform their choices, and it was noted that in future it would be useful to have the name of the experiment printed on the feedback form.

Physics Education (Dr Jardine-Wright)

As with the Physics in Action, the feedback forms will be collected when the project is handed in. One comment received was that last years students were provided a booklet of guidance and that would be useful this year. DRW to talk to Dr Jardine-Wright. A request for more places was made but it was explained that places are limited to local schools within easy distance of Cambridge.

General Comments: for the final few lectures of the courses which run into next term it was requested to run these for 3 lectures for 2 weeks rather than 2 lectures for 3 weeks. Prof. Ward will investigate this possible change.


7. Part IB

Classical Thermodynamics (Prof. Ward) Score 3.4 (46 replies)

As the Part IB Physics representative was not in attendance the discussion of the feedback on this course will be deferred to the next meeting.

Classical Dynamics (Dr Ellis) Score 3.6 (57 replies)

The course was found to be quite difficult and fast, but overall well received. The handouts could be better presented. The lecturer has strong views on how students should learn and devoted some of the time in lectures to this, which was not thought useful by some.

Methods of Mathematical Physics (Prof. Warner) Score 3.0 (68 replies)

The course was interesting, but the handouts were hard to follow, and it would be useful to have material which was written on the board included in the notes, or have more space in the notes to be able to add this.

Practicals - Waves & Optics (Dr Butcher) Score 3.1 (68 replies)

In general the practicals were well received and the fact that they related to the lectures was liked.


8. Part IA

Electromagnetism Oscillations & Waves (Dr Riley) Score 3.9 (193 replies)

Good feedback with a very approachable lecturer, with a good handout and examples sheet. The demonstrations in each lecture were appreciated. Some students would like full answers to the set problems to be made available.

IA Practicals (Dr Jones) Score 3.2 (195 replies)

The response was generally more positive than last term -- although the numerical score was lower -- with time still an issue for some students, but not so much so as in the Michaelmas term. The manual this term was not as good as last. There was concern over the quality of the demonstrators and there appears to be a big variation in the marking. The relationship between the lectures and practicals was appreciated. Some students did not want any HoC talk at the beginning of the practical.


9. Other Business

Dr Ansorge, the academic responsible for the Library facilities, had asked for feedback on the library from an undergraduate perspective. It was generally felt a good area to work in, but the facilities and services should be more widely advertised, as the rules for borrowing of books from the Part II/III were not well known. It was suggested that borrowing for more than one day in termtime be allowed, and that the restriction on use of the multiple computers for catalogue searches only was unnecessary. It was suggest that the Library entry in the Physics Course Handbook be expanded next year.

It was noted that there is currently a review underway of catering in the University. It was felt, especially for Part II and Part III students, that it was important to have facilities available for providing hot food, in addition to sandwiches. Generally it was thought that the price in the Cavendish canteen was similar to Colleges, albeit somewhat poorer quality.

10. Next Meeting

Thursday 24th May 2007 at 09:30 in the Committee Room.