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CC120: Minutes of meeting of Thursday 25th May 2006

Physics Consultative Committee

CC120: Minutes of meeting of Thursday 25th May 2006

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

Apologies: Prof. Littlewood.

1. Minutes

Minutes of the last meeting were approved.

2. Matters Arising

There were no matter arising.

3. Teaching Committee Matters

The review of IA practicals has reported. Most cahnges will be implemented in 2007/8. There will be more structuring, with the Michaelmas term emphasising basic skills such as graph plotting, techniques etc in simple experiments. All IA practicals will be done in pairs. There will be two lectures in the year on data analysis and errors. All handouts will be rewritten. Initially lab books will be preprepared, with normal lab books being used later. There will be 2 head of class reports, with the first intended to give the students some feedback on their skills. These proposals were welcomed by the IA reps. The marking scheme will be reviewed to make it more consistent.

The IA maths working group has been looking at the varied needs of the students (especially non-physicists). Next year the lectures on computing and numerical methods will be dropped, and replaced with more worked examples. The problem sheets will also be restructured to separate out the basic and harder questions.

4. Part III

Projects (Dr. Padman): Two weeks had been allocated to the projects, with the minor options reduced to 12 lectures. The students felt that the minor options had been cut too much, and lecturers were rushed. The time for projects was however appreciated. The first week was not as useful, falling immediately after exams. Vivas for projects can slip into the exam time, and this should be avoided.

The balance of time for minor options and supervisions needs to be considered.

The examples classes could be made later, to aid revision, and avoid clashes with projects. It is a difficult environment to work in, and the two demostrators could be tied up for long periods with a few people. Group discussion might be better.

Worked solutions for Tripos questions were again requested. Solutions will be made available to supervisors from next year. Numerical solutions might be available to students so that they could see if they had the correct solution. Example brief notes should also be available.

5. Part II

Soft Condensed Matter (Prof. Donald) Score 3.2 (42 replies)

In general an interesting and good course, but many errors in the handouts, which were not very coherent. Conventions for quantities were not consistent. The questions also contained errors, and were hard to start. There were no tripos style questions available for revision. Some felt the course was not sufficiently rigourous. The handout was not structured into the sections of the course. There was too much time devoted to non-examinable material.

Astrophysics (Profs Gull and Lasenby) Score 3.7 (42 replies)

Prof. Lasenbys course was very well presented, but Prof. Gulls material was less clear, and the handouts need structuring and numbering to aid people. The general relativity was rushed, and lots of time was devoted to more entertaining by less vital material. The ordering of the course may be altered.

Quantum Condensed Matter (Prof. Littlewood) Score 3.0 (38 replies)

The material is very hard, and people felt that too much knowledge was assumed from the materials course. More worked examples are needed. The lecturers handwriting was hard to read, with mistakes in the writing and handout. The last lecture, covering key points, was much appreciated.

Particles and Nuclear (Dr Gibson) Score 3.7 (36 replies)

Enjoyable course, with interesting material. The use of natural units is not consistent. Some arguments lack rigour, with inconsistent definitions. Notes are unclear in places, and the whole handout doesnt always hang together. Some labels print twice on paper. Lecturers style and enthusiasm appreciated.

Experiments (Dr Butcher) Score 3.5 (11 replies)

Feedback was hard to obtain, but the experience was generally positive.

General Comments: Literature reviews can be stressful. We should try to get some systematic feedback on the students experience. The lack of a fluids course is still an issue. Tripos papers need to be online, some are missing. This term has felt rather rushed, especially new areas such as astro and particles. Could more core material be covered in Lent? Maybe concentrate lectures into first two weeks? Useful to have cross-references in courses to previous Tripos papers.

Feedback needed on physics education. This subject was much enjoyed by the group.

Revision supervisions. There have been problems with supervisors being on leave. Is it better to have supervisions or example classes? The results are very supervisor/lecturer dependent.

6. Part IB

Quantum Mechanics (Dr Hughes) Score 3.6 (70 replies)

Very nice course, and the lecturer was considered very professional with good handouts. But too much material is expected to be learnt, very close to the exams. The course would be better earlier in the year. The course is very dry, and some felt there could be more illustrations or applications. The example sheet needs to refer back to the relevant section of the notes. The handout is so long, it needs summary sheets at the end of sections. Many proofs are non-examinable, and this should be made clear.

The split of quantum between IB and II could be reconsidered.

Statistical Physics (Dr Allison) Score 3.9 (67 replies)

A well-liked course, with an animated and interesting lecturer. The notes were very stylised and some people found it hard to find the relevant material. A more normal handout together with summary sheets would be better. Too much time was spent on aims at the expense of the real material.

7. Part IA

Statistical and Quantum Physics (Dr Smith) Score 3.1 (28 replies)

Mixed response, but the lecturer was not very audible and not very animated, reading out the handout rather than illuminating it. Handouts were good, but summaries of key results would be useful. More worked examples are needed.

Statistical and Quantum Physics (Dr Alexander) Score 3.5 (98 replies)

Lecturer was interesting and effective. Very mathematical course, and considered too challenging for some. The order of the handouts and questions was not perfectly synchronised. All derivations should be included in the handout. An example class instead of an optional lecture might be better.

Practicals (Dr. Ford) Scores: 3.3 (163 replies)

Generally being able to choose experiments was liked, but the process of allocation was not fair. A finer graded marking scale should be used. Error calculations need to be covered in lectures. People still feel that the practicals are too long for the time allocated. More links with lecture material is needed. The camera experiment tends to overrun.

General Comments: IA puts off many people who move to other parts of the NST. The TC is surveying opinion on this to see if we can improve things.

8. Any Other Business

The IoP has surveyed issues around women in physics. They raised the issue of networking: the physics department has a small number of female staff members to act as role models. Would it be useful to set up contacts with female post-docs etc, or is the support available via the Colleges? The female student reps did not feel that this was a problem.

The members of the Consultative Committee were warmly thanked for their work during the year. The outgoing Chairman thanked all the classes staff for their help during his term of office, and especially Helen Marshall for her excellent work in managing the feedback system. Dr Green will take over as Chairman for the next meeting.

9. Next Meeting

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

MAP, May 2006