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Department of Physics

The Cavendish Laboratory

Physics Consultative Committee

CC111: Minutes of meeting of Thursday 22nd May 2003

Present: Ms Pretorius, Mr Ward, Mr Elliott, Mr Matsuya, Ms Schlichting, Mr Kenrick, Mr Goodsall, Mr Shanks, Prof. Longair, Dr Allison, Dr Needs, Dr Parker, Prof. Donald (for item 3).

Apologies: Ms Grandke, Ms Jendrzejewski.

1. Minutes

Minutes of the last meeting were approved.

2. Matters Arising

There were no matter arising.

3. Womens Issues

Prof. Donald introduced the issue. A macho culture should not be allowed to intimidate female students. One rep reported that she had been put off experimental physics by inappropriate comments. It was reported that Newham had a very strong support system, but that women in other colleges did not get the same supportive atmosphere. However some women felt that they benefited from the interaction with men. Would womens meetings help? It was felt that this could be counterproductive. Perhaps a list of contacts would be more useful. It was noted that there is a womens officer responsible for issues such as harassment. The department had a good ratio of female staff (8/90) compared to other departments, but the staff are overloaded, so any proposed actions had to be realistic.

Prof. Donald will produce a paper for the Teaching Committee.

4. Teaching Committee Matters

There are proposals to abolish Literature Reviews in Part II, and the question of whether there should be a choice of options in Part II. The student representatives felt the reviews were interesting and stimulating. Experience with computing projects was more mixed.

The concept of choice met with mixed reactions. The selection of subjects closely related to the current Part III options was queried. The idea of taking Part II courses as options in Part III was liked, but the timetabling issues were very hard to resolve.

5. Part III

Examples classes (Dr. Warner) Score 4 (2 replies)

Some complaint about the competence of the demonstrators. The project deadlines conflicted with the early example classes. The questions should be more closely aligned with the examinations.

Some project vivas has been set too close to the General Paper.

6. Part II

Examples classes (Prof. Liang) Score 3.3 (3 replies)

Some people wanted a brief overview of the course, and for examples to be done on the board. It is hard to attempt the problems in the room.

General Comments: TP2 is structured into 6 areas, and in the past there have been questions in each area in the exam, but this year there was not such a good overlap, and one question was in an area in which none of the 100 examples was relevant.

7. Part IB Advanced

Quantum Mechanics (Prof. Payne) Score 4.0 (78 replies)

Interesting course with a very good lecturer. The notes do not have enough room for annotations - big margins would be useful. Significant sections of material are discussed in the lectures, but are not in the notes. Those sections are hard to follow as they are written very quickly on the OHP.

Condensed Matter Physics (Prof. Friend) Score 3.1 (78 replies)

A good lecturer but a dull course. People not doing Materials find it hard. Perhaps the IA Materials content could be pointed out (they are available on the web). Those who have done Materials find some of the early content repetitive, and those who didnt do IA Chemistry are disadvantaged. The notes are long, and somewhat wordy.

General Comments: the examinations are very close to the end of lectures. A consistent line needs to be taken on whether Head of Class reports should contain error calculations. The overall instructions on reports could be clearer.

8. Part IB

Astrophysics (Prof. Hills) Score 3.2 (6 replies)

A stimulating course, with a nice lecturing style, at the right level, but the exam questions assume more mathematical knowledge than is emphasised in the course. The writing on the OHP is not very clear, and the symbols used are not defined. The lectures were being updated during through the course, which ran late.

The lectures run too close to the exams, so that people do not turn up to the last lectures.

9. Part IA

Statistical and Quantum Physics (Prof. Longair) Score 3.4 (88 replies)

A hard course, considered too difficult. It would be better to cover this material before the Easter holidays in order to have more time to absorb it. The lecturer was excellent, animated, enthusiastic and inspiring. The initial statistical material repeated A level and went on too long. The computer proofs did not always convince. Many comments that the handouts were too long and wordy, and the non-examinable material is not clearly separated out. Summaries of chapters would be appreciated. Problems with the software plugins need to be resolved. The examples sheets appeared too late, with many errors.

Statistical and Quantum Physics (Dr Alexander) Score 3.5 (84 replies)

A brilliant lecturer, with a clear style. But the content is hard, since it is very new, and the fact that the lectures run so close to the exams is disliked. There were serious problems with the examples sheets, especially due to typos and errors. The statistical physics course was more wooly, since the full mathematical content was not covered.

Practicals (Dr. Ford) Scores: A course 2.9 (85 replies), B course 3.0 (82 replies)

The choice of practicals was much appreciated, which mitigated the fact that they are still considered too long and too hard. The standard of demonstating was variable - there needs to be a way to identify the bad ones. Some demonstrators were not present, were not competent, or not sufficiently pro-active. The camera and gamma ray practicals were good, but the complex impedance was very offputting. Spreadsheet physics is too easy compared to the others.

10. Any Other Business

The members of the Consultative Committee were warmly thanked for their work during the year.

11. Next Meeting

The next Consultative Committee meeting will be on Thursday 4th December 2003 at 09:30 in the Committee Room.

MAP, May 2003