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Department of Physics

The Cavendish Laboratory

Physics Consultative Committee

CC125: (Unconfirmed) Minutes of meeting of Thursday 13th March 2008

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

Apologies: Prof. Littlewood.

1. Minutes

The Minutes of the last meeting were approved.

2. Matters Arising

It was reported that there was not much feedback from the students after being asked about recording of lectures, some students expressed concern that fewer students would turn up for lectures if they knew they were going to be recorded.

3. Teaching Committee Matters

Prof. Ward began by outlining the changes that will take place with next years Part II and Part III lecture courses. In Part II the core courses are going to be increased slightly with the Relativity, Electrodynamics & Light course being split into two new courses Relativity and Electrodynamics & Optics. There will also be a course on Astrophysical Fluids which will be shared with the Institute of Astronomy. Due to the increased number of lectures the TC is discussing reducing the amount of Further Work required for submission. In Part III there will be a new Major Option on Atomic Physics which will give the non theorists more choice. Part III will also share a Part IIB Engineering course on Nuclear Power, the engineering students will in turn share Prof. MacKay's Information Theory course. This will count as a Minor Option and be examined at the same time as the engineers. Finally, the TC has implemented a working group to review the IA Course, looking at whether the course is achieving its goals as a bridge between A levels and becoming a Physicist.

The discussion on the courses was taken in a different order: all items are recorded in agenda order.

4. Part IA

Electromagnetism, Oscillations & Waves (Dr Jones) Score 3.4 (150 replies)

The course was generally well received but it was felt that there not enough differentiation between the handout and the lectures. The demonstrations were well liked and delivered at a good speed. A few easier lead in questions on the Question Sheets would be appreciated.

IA Practicals (Dr Riley) Score 3.4 (314 replies)

The practicals were felt to be more enjoyable and relevant than last term with the standard of demonstrating being appreciated. But some students still found them too rushed and stressful, and more feedback was requested on the Christmas write-up.

5. Part IB Physics A & B

Quantum Physics (A) (Dr Hughes) Score 3.3 (58 replies)

The lecturer was well liked, with good handout. The course was quite intense and some students would have liked more time spent on derivations. It was also felt that there were a few too many equations on the examples sheets,

Introduction to Computing (B) (Prof. MacKay) Score 3.8 (66 replies)

The feedback on this course very much depended on an individuals prior computing experience. The lecturer was very well liked and tried hard to make things clear. Some students would like more detail in the handouts. More practicals sessions and demonstrators had been requested by some. The second part of the course in Lent was felt to be more difficult.

Thermodynamics (B) (Prof. Ward) Score 4.0 (65 replies)

This was a well liked course with an exceptionally clear handout. The demonstrations were good and the 'song' was appreciated. Some students felt that the initial topics, which were largely revision, were covered in too much detail. The course related well with the Quantum course.

IB Practicals (Prof. Haniff) Score 2.7 (93 replies)

The practicals in general were reasonably well received, and the linkage with earlier lectures was particularly appreciated. But some students still felt that there was not enough time.

The students representatives were asked to comment on the Classical Dynamics & Fluids course given by Prof. Gull as this course is new. The only point raised was that the handouts were not very clear.

General comments: the students asked whether there was a possibility of revision lectures at the end of term as given in IA. A request was made for question sheets, for all courses, should always contain some basic questions.

6. Part II

Concepts in Physics (Dr Hobson) Score 4.4 (27 replies)

An inspiring course, with a very good lecturer.

TP2 Lectures (Prof. Cooper/Prof. Payne) Score 4.3 (29 replies)

This course was well received with good lecturers. It was felt that the speed was about right. Although students would prefer supervisions, it was generally felt that there were sufficient demonstrators in the examples classes.

Computational Physics Project Work (Dr Padman) Score 3.4 (46 replies)

This course will change next year. The use of Fortran was not liked by many of the students. More demonstrators were requested by some students as it was felt that they did not have enough time when the PWF was busy.

Experiment E2a/b (Dr Allison) Score 3.5 (38 replies)

All experiments were well received. Some students had experienced problems contacting demonstrators.

The students were again asked to comment on the courses which run into the Easter term as three of these courses were being given by new lecturers this year.

Astrophysics (Prof. Longair): The lecturer was very enthusiastic, although the course did not contain much detailed mathematical derivations. There were some problems with the question sheets containing incorrect answers, and the slides contain too much text.

Particle & Nuclear Physics (Prof. Ward/Dr Lester): No problems reported.

Soft Condensed Matter & Biophysics (Dr Cicuta): It was felt that there were too many sources of information required to study this course i.e. handouts, slides, and various books. The lecturer was not always confident with mathematical derivations.

Quantum Condensed Matter Physics (Dr Grosche): A good style of lecturing, with derivations written on the blackboard at a sensible pace. There were some problems with the handout but this was last year's handout and it was expected that Dr Grosche would re-write this for next year.

7. Part III

Gauge Field Theory (Dr Batley) Score 4.2 (15 replies)

This course was well received but difficult. More summary slides would be helpful.

Information Theory (Prof. MacKay) Score 4.7 (28 replies)

Well liked with an enthusiastic lecturer, but some felt it was a bit rushed at the end. Supervisions were not structured in the same way as other courses, and which not all students liked.

The Frontiers of Particle Physics (Prof. Parker) Score 4.3 (15 replies)

A very good lecturer but some students complained that the pace was too fast and more detail in the notes would be useful.

The Frontiers of Experimental Condensed Matter Physics (Dr Allison) Score 5 (1 reply)

No specific comments.

Superconductivity and Quantum Coherence (Prof. Lonzarich) Score 4.5 (6 replies)

This course was engaging and interesting but a request was made to reduce the amount of paper used in the handout, by printing two to a side, and doublesided.

Quantum Information (Dr Barnes) Score 4.0 (1 reply)

Although there was only one reply for this course the student representative had spoken with students who had taken this course, and the general feeling was that the course was slightly rushed with too much information being taken from papers.

From Quantum Optics to Quantum Matter (Prof. Phillips/Prof. Littlewood) Score 3.8 (4 replies)

Both lecturers were good.

Phase Transitions & Collective Phenomena (Prof. Khmelnitskii) Score 0 (0 replies)

There was only one student taking this subject for examination but it was reported that several more are going to lectures. The course is difficult but rewarding.

Frontiers of Observational Astrophysics (Dr Saunders) Score 4.5 (15 replies)

A well liked course and with a very enthusiastic lecturer.

Medical Physics (Dr Ansorge) Score 3.0 (1 reply)

This course was felt to be slightly fractured due to multiple lecturers. It was suggested that overview the course at the beginning would be very useful for students to help decide early in the term whether to take this course.

Biological Physics (Dr Guck) Score 3.8 (10 replies)

This was an interesting course. The supervisions were felt to be too mathematical and clearer communication regarding supervision organisation was required from the lecturer.

Physics of Nanoelectronic Systems (Dr Ford) Score 3.7 (6 replies)

This course was interesting, but slightly more solid state physics was required than expected.

Entrepreneurship (Dr Barakat) Score 3.4 (10 replies)

This course was given by a new lecturer this year who has change the style quite considerably, and some aspects were different from what was expected. The work load was felt to be too great for the percentage of marks it is worth. [Only two feedback forms were available at the meeting, but the score above includes fruther responses recieved after the meeting.]

Materials Electronics & Renewable Energy (Prof. Sir R Friend) Score 3.8 (18 replies)

This is an interesting course but the supervision groups were too large. Also, the pre-requisites for this course need to be made clearer.

Advanced Quantum Field Theory (Prof. Osborn) Score 3.4 (5 replies)

This course was generally liked but the writing on the board was too small and sometimes illegible. There could be a potential problem next year as knowledge of Lie Algebra is expected, and this has been removed from this year's TP2 course.

Philosophy of Physics (Dr Butterfield) Score 3.5 (11 replies)

This was interesting but much more mathematical than expected, and was consequently hard to follow.

Ethics of Physics (Dr Jennings) Score 4.3 (3 replies)

This was a very entertaining course, with a good style of lecturing. There was an issue over timing (Friday afternoon at 2.00pm) and it was felt that more students would attend if it could be timetabled in the morning.

General comments: the timetabling seemed to be working well with the week at the beginning and end being kept free of lectures to allow time to work on the Part III project.

10. Other Business

Electronic Feedback was discussed. It was felt that this might improve the feedback response. Dr Padman will aim to set up over the summer a trial system next year for the Part III courses, if time permits.

8. Next Meeting

The date of the next meeting Thursday 22nd May 2008 at 09:30 in the Committee Room.