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CC118: Minutes of meeting of Thursday 1st December 2005

Physics Consultative Committee

CC118: Minutes of meeting of Thursday 1st December 2005

Present: R.Freedman, K.Imada, M.Morley, J. Kim, D.Fosbrook, N.Rasumov, A.Wang, H.Brice, H.Davies, Prof. Littlewood, Prof. Ward, Dr Padman, Prof. Parker.

1. Minutes

Minutes of the last meeting were approved.

2. Matters Arising

There were no matters arising.

3. Teaching Committee Matters

Review of Part IA practicals is planned. The TC is considering whether two courses needed in IA. There is also a review of Maths teaching in the Faculty. The TC is interested in feedback on the website, adn how much it is used. They are also considering whether to hold future exams at the Cavendish or in town. The new full time teaching office will be relocated to be more visible as a full part of department.

4. Part III

Astrophysics and Cosmology (Dr Alexander et al.) Score 3.5 (35 replies)

Very interesting and stimulating course, but the material and handouts from Dr Alexander were less well organised than the rest. The questions were also rather too hard for this section, with some questions badly constructed. Course was felt to be better than the previous year.

Particle Physics (Dr Batley) Score 4.2 (42 replies)

A very well received course. The lectures and handouts were exemplary - the handouts were clear, with instant corrections to any errors. The use of two handouts could cause some confusion, more cross referencing would be useful. Some algebra could be skipped in favour of more concepts.

Physics of the Earth as a Planet (Dr Priestly) Score 4.0 (28 replies)

The subject was popular, and interesting, and the practical sessions were appreciated. Having five lecturers was unusual. Dr Priestly tended to skip over some of the maths too fast. Handouts were generally good, although coloured diagrams in B+W were hard to understand. Some of the writing on the OHP was not clear. The question sheet was at the right level, but some parts of the course are not covered.

Quantum Condensed Matter (Prof. Sirringhaus) Score 3.6 (25 replies)

A mixed response to this course. The handouts were not ideal, with equations appearing without derivation, unlabelled diagrams, and cgs units. Writing on board was not always clear. Not all topics are covered in the examples, so it is not clear what is examinable, and the examples were hard. The lecturing style and enthusiasm was appreciated.

Soft Matter (Prof. Steiner) Score 2.6 (11 replies)

The material was interesting, but the lectures were poorly organised, with many errors in the handouts. Too many terms are not defined or derived - a glossary would be useful. Example sheets also contained many errors, and no solutions were available even to supervisors. The handouts and example sheet appeared too late. The examples were not clearly related to the course material. Some more challenging questions are needed.

Theoretical Concepts in Physics (Prof. Simons) Score 4.2 (21 replies)

A popular course, with an excellent lecturer. Some people were unable to keep up with the writing on board. The material was focussed on condensed matter to the exclusion of other physics.

Quantum Field Theory (Prof. Manton) Score 4.4 (12 replies)

Very well liked by those who attended. Example sheets were mostly ok, but some problems were irrelevant to the lectures. Supervisions were poor. More connection to the physical interpretation would be liked.

Structure and evolution of stars (Prof. Papaloizou) Score 3.4 (12 replies)

Basically ok, but the lectures ran slow into lunchtime.

General Comments: range of major options is considered too small. The theoretically inclined missed the fluids course. ``Themes'' lectures were poorly attended, partly because they are held in the afternoons. Project organisation was a problem, with a perception of unfairness in the allocations. Some good practice guidelines for supervisors would be a good idea. Supervisions were also a problem, both with timing and a lack of supervisors. If there are worked solutions, example classes might be more productive. Exams in Cavendish are preferred to those in town.

5. Part II

Computational Physics (Prof. Payne) Score 3.5 (11 replies)

A very good course. First two lectures better than the rest. The class reaction is very different between those with previous computing experience and those without. The question sheet is good, but most people do the same question (forest fire). Demonstrators good and willing (sometimes doing too much). Handouts are good.

Relativity and Electrodynamics (Dr Cooper) Score 3.9 (83 replies)

Very good lecturer, with an interesting style. Happy to answer questions after lectures. Example sheet has the right mix of difficulty. The lecture course was very interesting, but the speed of the lectures was too high, making it hard to understand. However the handout was very good, well structured and clear, but not always in the same order as the lectures. Not enough time is allowed to copy out worked examples.

Thermal and Statistical Physics (Prof. Needs) Score 3.6 (43 replies)

A good course, with a good lecturer. The speed is sometimes too slow on the material from IB. Numerical answers to the questions are needed. Some explanations are not entirely clear, and some notation is inconsistent.

Advanced Quantum (Prof. Ritchie) Score 3.5 (44 replies)

Lecture notes are entirely algebra without explanations. In some cases, an explanation of what is coming is needed before starting on a long derivation. It is not always clear how to fill in missing parts in some derivations. The lecture notes are split into sections which are useful. More time on Dirac equation in magnetic fields would be useful. It hard for students to know what can be examined.

TP1 (Prof. Terentjev and Barnes) Score 4.0 (41 replies)

Very well received. There is a lot of material in the course, but the speed is ok. The notes and handout are not the same, and it is hard to correlate the two.

Experiment E1 (Dr Butcher et al.) Score 0 (0 replies)

Generally appreciated, some differences in difficulty but demonstrators were helpful.

General Comments: A very tough term, with a lot to do.

6. Part IB/Advanced

Electromagnetism (Dr Ford) Score 3.4 (59 replies)

Many people did not enjoy this course, since it is very mathematical. More explanations of the physical content in words are needed during lectures. More applications and worked examples are needed, since many people had trouble with the question sheet. The lecturer needs to be more enthusiastic, or the material comes over as very dull. Coloured diagrams cannot be deciphered in B+W. There were not many demos.

Oscillations, Waves and Optics (Dr Greenham) Score 3.6 (105 replies)

A well-lectured course, with a good lecturer, but the material was considered dull and repetitous. Derivations are not given in the lectures (which is correct, since they can be quite long), but the full derivation could be available elsewhere, for example on the website.

Experimental Methods (Dr Saunders) Score 3.4 (83 replies)

Very enthusiastic lecturer, and a well received course. However, the material was dull. Some long derivations need to be made available (for example on the website) when not covered in detail in the lectures. The lectures were very good at connecting to the practicals. The handout was however not of good quality. The question sheet is of very variable difficulty, and not well connected to the lectures.

Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (Prof. Withington) Score 0.0 (0 replies)

No forms received.

Practicals (Dr Saunders) Score 3.1 (119 replies)

The practicals were much better than IA, of the right level of difficulty, but some still feel under time pressure. The lab handbook language is unclear with ``generators'' used for many things. The quality of the demonstrators is very variable, with different explanations given by different people. The quality of demonstrator marking was also inconsistent. A ``debrief sheet'' explaining what should have been learnt would be helpful at the end. Single subject people do experiment 6, but it refers a lot to experiment 4.

General Comments: A lot of material is covered several times without rigour, rather than once in detail.

7. Part IA

Mechanics and Relativity - Course A (Dr Green) Score 4.0 (67 replies)

Generally very good. The lecturer was good and stimulating. Some felt that too much time was spent on A-level material, and then accelerated over more difficult material like relativity. It was hard to connect the example sheets to the lectures. More worked examples would be appreciated. The A course notes were perceived to be better than those of the B course.

Mechanics and Relativity - Course B (Dr Duffet-Smith) Score 3.6 (184 replies)

Very good lecturer, clear and audible. As in the A course, the perhaps too much time was spent on the early material, at the expense of new material like relativity. The A course notes were much preferred to the B course ones.

Practicals (Prof. Hills) Score 3.3 (295 replies)

The practicals were considered very stressful because of time pressure. This means that people focus only on getting finished, rather than on the content. Long error calculations are unfamiliar. Students are unclear about how credit is allocated during marking.

9. Any Other Business

Helen Marshall, in the Teaching Office, was thanked for her efficient running of the feedback system.

10. Next Meeting

The next Consultative Committee meeting will be on Thursday 16th March 2006 at 09:30 in the Committee Room.

MAP, December 2005