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Department of Physics

The Cavendish Laboratory

Physics Consultative Committee

CC109: Minutes of meeting of Thursday 5th December 2002

Present: Ms Pretorius, Mr Ward, Mr Elliott, Mr Matsuya, Ms Jendrzejewski, Ms Schlichting, Mr Kenrick, Mr Goodsall, Prof. Longair, Dr Allison, Dr Needs, Dr Parker.

Apologies: Ms Grandke, Mr Shanks (substituted by Mr North)

1. Minutes

Minutes of the last meeting were approved.

2. Matters Arising

There were no matters arising.

3. Teaching Committee Matters

The plans for IB are not yet far enough advanced to report on. They will be fully discussed at the next meeting.

4. Part III

Quantum Condensed Matter (Prof. Littlewood) Score 3.5 (14 replies)

Very good course, but very hard, with a large amount of maths. Too many approximations appeared without justification, which makes it hard to relate to the questions. More real world examples would be appreciated. The course is well structured and concepts explained clearly. Good overheads and typset handout.

Structure and Properties of Condensed Matter (Prof. Donald) Score 3.6 (16 replies)

A good course, easy for those who have done IA materials. Many complaints about notes with yellow colours which do not print. Some of the maths was not completely coherent. The example sheet simply repeats the notes.

Gravitational Astrophysics and Cosmology (Prof. Fabian et al.) Score 3.9 (25 replies)

A very popular course, but some disconnection between the various lecturers. Too many estimates and equations which were presented without justification. A good example sheet. Listening in a darkened room induces sleep.

Particle Physics (Dr Batley) Score 3.9 (19 replies)

A well received course. There is a large amount of material, with very complete handouts. It may be a good idea for the mathematical material to be presented in background handouts rather than read through in the lectures. The style of the handouts is too notelike, and the photographs do not copy well. Some experimental data could be annotated.

Physics of the Earth as a Planet (Dr Priestly) Score 3.5 (10 replies)

Really appreciated by those who attend. Dr Mackenzie is enthusiastic but tends to rush sections. Diagrams should be annoted better. The mathematical content is not well explained in the handouts. It should be made clear which material is examinable. The seismology sections are not well integrated with the rest of the material. The practicals were ahead of the lectures.

Theoretical Concepts in Physics (Dr Simons) Score 4.0 (19 replies)

Very well liked by the theoretically inclined, but not really appropriate for those who are not comfortable with advanced maths. Copying from the blackboard can make concentration harder for some.

Quantum Field Theory (Prof. Drummond) Score 2.9 (9 replies)

Very well liked by those who took it (as intended) as a maths course.

Formation and Evolution of Stars (Dr Tout) Score 4.0 (4 replies)

Very well liked by those who replied. The clash with Particles should be avoided if possible. This might involve lectures being scheduled in the afternoons, or assuming that people can travel from Maths to the Cavendish in 10 minutes.

Themes in Cavendish Research (Various) Score 4.0 (2 replies)

Generally enjoyed. More astrophysics would be appreciated.

Overall, nature of courses should be explained better at the beginning of the course, so that people could attend each course initially to decide which options to take. For example, QFT is pure maths; Theoretical Concepts does in fact require a lot of background knowledge, even though this is not emphasised. Physics of Earth as a Planet should make clear its special nature. It should be made clearer the themes which run through courses (eg Particles jumps around). Too many handouts have bullet points rather than full sentences.

Part III supervisions: Earth as a Planet and Particles, in particular, had some poor supervisors, who couldn't cope with the problems. Supervisions started too late, so they have to be fitted in at the end of term. These same problems occured in other courses. Supervisions with 6 people need a clear structure and advance preparation. Lecturers should be selective about the supervisors chosen, and more guidance should be provided on how to run supervisions.

5. Part II

Solid State Physics (Dr Smith) Score 3.0 (53 replies)

Handouts were good, but more worked examples would be useful. Diagrams and graphs from the lectures were really helpful, and should be included in the handout. Some unfortunate mistakes in lectures caused confusion, and students should be encouraged to point them out.

Thermal and Statistical Physics (Dr Needs) Score 3.0 (52 replies)

It would be helpful to have an overview at the beginning of each lecture. Many complaints that there is too much material to cover in the time. The core concepts are not clearly linked together.

Quantum II (Dr Ward) Score 3.8 (52 replies)

Very well received. The handouts were ``textbook'' style and the overheads were also distributed, which was much liked.

Computational Physics (Dr Alexander) Score 3.4 (49 replies)

The lectures were well delivered and helpful. Those who have done computing found it boring, while those who hadn't found it hard. More supervisors would be useful. A supervisor reported that some students appeared to have done little preparation. It would help if the example sheet could be distributed earlier in the term. Is Fortran 95 the best language? It was noted that students could use other languages for their projects.

Relativity and Electrodynamics (Dr Cooper) Score 3.8 (53 replies)

The lecture course was well received. It is not clear which material is in the handout, which is brief and omits many steps. All overheads should be included.

TP1 (Dr Terentjev and Dr Gull) Score 4.0 (32 replies)

Very well liked course. The clarity of the lectures might be improved by use of the microphone. The web copies of the overhead could be made available as a handout in advanced. Some of the demonstrators were not able to explain the examples.

Experiment E1 (Prof. Liang et al.) Score 3.9 (20 replies)

Most people liked the course. Some would prefer more guidance from the demonstrators. More overview of the possible experiments at the start would be helpful, possibly in a lecture. Generally considered a successful course.

Supervisions: quality of supervision seems to be worse than in IB. Some supervisors seemed to be unenthusiastic about doing the supervisions, and ill-prepared. Perhaps graduate students might be more motivated? The mixed ability groups are difficult to handle. The registration for supervisions didnt go smoothly. Some supervisions could start earlier in the term.

6. Part IB Advanced

Waves (Dr Ritchie) Feedback forms missing

The lectures were not well received, because of the lecturing style which was rather dry and sometimes not clearly audible. The overheads didnt match the handouts, which were not well matched to the lectures, containing sections which had been removed. The demostrations were useful.

Mathematical Concepts (Dr Withington) Score 4.0 (13 replies)

Very well received, lecturer was commended. The course may have a little too much material. In the new IB, this course will expand to 24 lectures.

Dynamics (Dr Ellis) Score 3.9 (67 replies)

Well received, with an inspiring lecturer, but a difficult course, with a large amount of content. Some material therefore covered too quickly. Many mistakes in the handouts, and not enough links to the problems. More worked examples would be helpful. Numbered equations would help to link material together. The demostrations were excellent. A5 handouts are not useful. Handwriting on the board was not always legible.

Experimental Methods (Dr Saunders) Score 4.0 (66 replies)

Very well received course. A little too much revision at the beginning - more time could be devoted to the new material.

Examples Class in Mathematical Physics (Prof. Littlewood) Score 3.6 (26 replies)

Very useful class.

Practicals (Dr Saunders) Score 3.3 (43 replies)

The practicals were too long, and hence demoralising. One mistake can mean that the rest of the experiment cannot be completed. The time pressure means that people do not think about the physics and data. Some demonstrators didnt understand the experiment clearly. A change of the marking scheme might give more weight to effort and understanding rather than how much have been completed. Work must be returned in good time to complete the head of class report.

Generally it would be useful to have more easy questions at the start of example sheets to lead students in. Light green should not be used for handouts.

7. Part IB

Waves and Imaging Instruments (Dr Buscher) Score 3.5 (12 replies)

Very good lecturer, with excellent notes.

Practicals (Dr Chaudhri) Score 2.8 (11 replies)

Practical topics were interesting, but the experiments are too long, so that people are frustrated by being unable to complete them. The theory for the Fraunhofer diffraction came after the experiment. Theory should always come first. Some students have a prejudice against practical work, which is reinforced if the practicals are not enjoyable. More understanding of errors is needed. The new course will attempt to address this.

General Comments: the single physics class are concerned about the course being absorbed into the main IB course. The present arrangement is appreciated by those taking the course.

Problems were experienced for a student with a young child, with timetabling of practicals and supervisions.

8. Part IA

Mechanics and Relativity (Dr Green) Score 3.7 (103 replies)

An excellent lecturer with very positive feedback. The lectures and notes were both very good. The only problem is with staying awake in a darkened room. The problem sheets should contain some easier examples. It would be good to understand more clearly what is required for a tripos standard of answer. Some felt that the relativity was introduced too soon.

Mechanics and Relativity (Dr Julian) Score 3.5 (139 replies)

The mark was surprisingly low given the good reaction to the lectures. The statics was a boring start, but the relativity was very interesting and could have been given more time. More worked examples (perhaps in the handout) would be useful. Some students wanted more harder questions, but this was not considered a good idea. The demonstrations were very good, and more at the start of the course would be useful.

Practicals (Dr Haniff) Scores: A course 2.8 (100 replies), B course 2.9 (133 replies)

The practicals were far too long, and so rushed. Either more time is needed, or the practicals should be shorter. The link to the lectures was not clear, especially for the first practical group. The quality of demonstrators is variable. Head of Class introductions take too long. A short overview setting the practical in context would be better. One stand-in demonstrator appeared to mislead the students. The manual was generally ok. The practicals are one thing putting off students continuing.

9. Any Other Business

Chemistry and other Departments allow students to join the language unit scheme in Engineering. Could physics students be allowed to join this and learn a foreign language in their own time? This should be discussed by the further years working party.

Some people request electronic feedback forms. A student has developed a programme for doing this via email, which has been used in Germany, and in Cambridge in medicine. This is available as a commercial service. The teaching committee will review this idea.

Cups in toilets should be paper, rather than plastic, for environmental reasons.

The coffee machine should be fixed properly.

The summer vacation project examinations were very late. The TC will discuss this with the new appointee in charge of this matter.

Help from the Department to arrange vacation placements would be appreciated.

10. Next Meeting

The next Consultative Committee meeting will be on Thursday 13th March 2003 at 09:30 in the Committee Room.

MAP, December 2003