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CC124: Minutes of meeting of Thursday 29th November 2007

Physics Consultative Committee

CC124: Minutes of meeting of Thursday 29th November 2007


Present: Dr D A Green (chairman), R Keast, S Begley, Y Yeung, G Pender, A Matsushima, C Wymant, H Davies, A Hegarty, Prof. D Ward, Dr R Padman, H Marshall (minutes).

Apologies: J Foerster.


1. Minutes

The Minutes of the last meeting were approved.

2. Matters Arising

There were no matters arising.

3. Teaching Committee Matters

Prof. Ward began by introducing himself and Dr Padman, as chairman and secretary of the Teaching Committee (TC), and explained that they and the TC regard the feedback from the CC as important to improve the teaching provided by the Department.

It was reported that the TC will be discussing the revision of the Part II courses which will involve sharing some courses with the Institute of Astronomy. The two courses affected will be Relativity, Electrodynamics and Light and Astrophysics. The Part II Computing course will also be changed for next year. It was also expected that there would be a new Part III Major Option on Atomic Physics. The IA lecture courses are also being reviewed and a working group has been set up to consider whether the current courses are providing the right transition from A-levels to the Part IB courses.


4. Part III

Advanced Quantum Condensed Matter Physics (Prof. Sirringhaus) Score 4.1 (23 replies)

A difficult but enjoyable course, with a good lecturer, although some students felt that there was too much material covered. The supervisions were helpful. There were some issues with the timing, with the lecturers starting and finishing late on a regular basis.

Soft Matter (Prof. Steiner) Score 4.1 (9 replies)

Fascinating and interesting with good feedback. Some students felt that there was too much material covered. It would be helpful if more of the relevant books were available in the Rayleigh Library. Dr Green to discuss with Dr Ansorge.

Astrophysics & Cosmology (Dr Alexander/Prof. Fabian) Score 3.8 (14 replies)

Generally well received, but some students felt the course began quite slowly and then was too fast towards the end. The examples sheets were given out quite late and there were some errors in the handouts. The co-ordination between the lecturers went well and the supervisions were good.

Particle Physics (Dr Thomson) Score 4.4 (29 replies)

Overall very good with an enthusiastic lecturer. The examples worked well in the lectures and the lecturer was always happy to explain things after the lectures. It would be helpful if the summaries were increased.

Physics of the Earth as a Planet (Dr Priestley et al.) Score 3.9 (20 replies)

The co-ordination was reasonable given that there were several lecturers. Generally well enjoyed and the practicals were interesting and useful. Some lecturers tried to fit too much information into individual lectures. It would be helpful if the notes were expanded and full worked notes were provided.

Quantum Condensed Matter Field Theory (Prof. Littlewood) Score 4.5 (10 replies)

Very well received. Good use of was made of the blackboard. The handouts were very good, but some more worked examples would be appreciated.

Classical Field Theory and Gravitation (Dr Hobson) Score 4.3 (21 replies)

Excellent lecturer and well delivered. Some felt that the pace was too fast towards the end of the course, and at the start the course was too easy. Summary pages at the end of topics would be appreciated.

Quantum Field Theory (Dr Tong) Score 4.8 (24 replies)

Excellent lecturer who explained things well. The interactive approach in lectures was liked.

Long Vacation Reports Score 4.6 (16 replies)

These were enjoyed and good preparation for PhDs. More support and guidelines on the length and type of project were requested.

General Comments: it would be helpful to have supervisions starting earlier as it becomes very rushed towards the end of term. There was an error in the date in the 'Blue Book' this year and Dr Padman stated that this would be changed for next year. It was suggested that a sample of each Major Option in the form of a short lecture before the end of Easter term in Part II would be a good way of helping students choose which options to take.


5. Part II

Thermal & Statistical Physics (Prof. Needs) Score 3.6 (33 replies)

Good feedback although some students felt it was a bit slow and repeated too much information from IB courses. The handout was very good and the lecture demonstrations were well received.

Advanced Quantum Physics (Prof. Ritchie) Score 3.2 (22 replies)

It was generally felt that the lecturer's style of reading from the slides during the lectures did not add much to the handouts. There were several comments about not dimming the lights in the lecture theatre, and that more examples would be appreciated.

Relativity, Electrodynamics & Light (Prof. Cooper) Score 4.4 (62 replies)

Very well received with a good handout, apart from the spiral binding which was not liked.

Computational Physics Lectures (Dr Padman) Score 3.1 (50 replies)

Depending on previous experience this course was either found to be too hard or very straightforward. The handout was excellent and more examples were requested. Some students would like the course to go on longer. However, it was noted that this is the last time this course will be given in this format.

TP1 Lectures & Classes (Prof. Webber/Dr Barnes) Score 3.5 (34 replies - lectures) Score 3.7 (16 replies - classes)

Generally positive feedback, but it was felt that the lectures are fast and there is a lot of algebra to copy down and this sometimes does not give time to listen to the lecturer. Supervisions would be preferred to examples classes, and it was commented that some of the demonstrators in the examples classes were not sure how to answer some questions.

Experiment E1 (Dr Allison) Score 3.5 (48 replies)

The main comments on these experiments concerned the quality of the briefings and handouts between experiments, and the limited availability of demonstrators for some of the experiments.


6. Part IB Physics A

Oscillations, Waves & Optics (Dr Greenham) Score 3.7 (120 replies)

Well lectured and the demonstrations were popular and helped put things into context. The lecture notes were liked, as there was space to add notes. The course was felt to be quite difficult in places with too much time revising last years lectures. Worked examples would be appreciated and the order on the question sheet did not always match the lectures well.

Experimental Methods (Prof. Haniff) Score 2.9 (66 replies)

Not the most exciting topic and the handout was felt to have too many errors. The OpAmps part of the course was felt to be particularly hard. More detailed explanations in the handouts would be appreciated.

7. Part IB Physics B

Electromagnetism (Prof. Withington) Score 3.9 (59 replies)

Good feedback, with material well presented. The handout was good but some of the diagrams need improving. The speed was felt to be a little fast towards the end.

Mathematical Methods (Dr Green) Score 3.8 (28 replies)

The course was useful in linking Maths to Physics but was felt a little slow in places. The computer demonstrations in the lectures were well received, but more worked examples would be useful.

Practicals - Systems & Measurement (Dr Saunders) Score 3.3 (105 replies)

The most common feedback was that the demonstrators sometimes giving conflicting advice, and inconsistency in marking. Some of the equipment was unreliable and took too long to repair, and also the class manual needs updating in places

Computing (Prof. MacKay) No score as course not completed until next term

As the course is new this year Prof. Ward and Dr Padman were interested to obtain feedback despite the fact that the course is not completed until Lent term. The lectures were felt to be interesting, although the handouts did not always match the lectures.

General comments:

Some students would prefer more than a week to write up their experiment.


8. Part IA

Relativity, Electrodynamics & Field (Dr Duffett-Smith) Score 3.2 (151 replies)

Reasonably well received, although some students felt it was quite challenging and more worked examples, which varied in difficulty, were requested. The handout, which is just a copy of the powerpoint presentation could be improved to give more detailed explanations. Some students felt that too much time was spent on subjects which they already knew.

Experimental Physics (Dr Green) Score 3.5 (202 replies)

This was well received, despite the topic not being the most exciting, with an enthusiastic lecturer. It helped with the practicals and the lecture demonstrations were good. Some students felt that there were too few questions on the examples sheets, it was suggested that, given there is a limit of two questions per lecture, that some more optional questions could be provided.

Practicals (Dr Riley) Score 3.7 (296 replies)

Overall very positive feedback. The main comment was that there was not enough time to complete the practicals, particularly the last two which felt rushed. The standard of the demonstrators was variable but generally they were helpful, as were all the Heads of Class. Some students found the marking scheme difficult to understand.


9. Brief Discussions

(i) Recording of Lectures: Prof. Ward and Dr Padman asked for comments regarding the possibility of providing video recording of lectures. The opinion of the Student Representatives was mixed, with some thinking it would dissuade students from attending lecturers. The Student Representatives were asked to consult their various year groups and report back at a later meeting.

(ii) Electronic Feedback Forms: Dr Padman raised the possibility of using electronic feedback forms. This would reduce the work load on the Teaching Office considerably. It was noted that this could be a particular advantage for Part III, which has so many courses, and Dr Padman would look into trialing this for Part III next year.

(iii) Support for Student RepsThe student reps were asked to consider if there were any ways in which the could be offered more support in their role and to report this to Dr Padman or Dr Green.

10. Other Business

There was none.

11. Next Meeting

The date of the next meeting Thursday 13th March 2008 at 09:30 in the Committee Room.