School of Physics and Astronomy

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Realising your potential through focused development

Teaching taking place at Leeds

Teaching & assessment

We use a variety of different teaching methods including lectures, workshops, tutorials, laboratory work, project work and computer-aided learning. Physics is a subject that is best understood by regular engagement with the new material and practice at solving problems and we provide many opportunities for students to work together to develop these skills.

Formal examinations account for between 60-90% of the marks which determine the final degree classification, the rest coming mainly from practical work, presentations, written reports and tutorial work. 

Watch a video of our students and staff talking about how university teaching methods differ from that of A-level. 

Lectures

The traditional lecture forms the backbone of the teaching of the School. In the first 2 years these are supplemented by weekly problem based workshops for all courses. 

In the first year all the compulsory lecture modules are based on core physics topics:

Quantum Physics and Relativity

Mechanics 

Electromagnetism 

Vibrations and Waves 

Thermodynamics

There are a wide variety of optional modules for you to choose from, both within Physics and beyond, to allow you to customise your degree. The number and choice of such modules depends on your programme and on factors such as timetabling but this feature of Leeds degrees allows you to play to your interests and strengths. 

The second year lecture modules develop your understanding of essential physics still further and cover:

Quantum Mechanics

Electromagnetism

Nuclear and Particle Physics 

Condensed Matter Physics 

Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics 

Laboratory

Laboratory classes are integral to our teaching, and all our students gain hands-on experience of practical experiments performed using their own dedicated equipment. You will also learn about data analysis and statistics, and have the opportunity to develop your communication skills, both written and spoken. 

In the second year, students following the Physics or Physics with Astrophysics programmes extend their experience of laboratory work. Practical work in the 2nd year is more involved and students work in pairs on a variety of topics in physics, along with the chance to experience working in our Mechanical Workshop.

Students on the MPhys programmes learn advanced laboratory techniques in the 3rd year;working on more open-ended experiments using research style equipment.

Project Work

All students undertake a research project in their final year. This is a chance to bring together the physics knowledge and skills you have learnt, and to work in an area that interests you. Every student is allocated a supervisor who can guide them in this work.

The nature of the project can be experimental, theoretical or computational (or a dissertation for BSc students). This is a chance for students to work at the cutting edge of Physics research, especially on the MPhys programme. 

Tutorials

When you arrive in the School you will be assigned a Personal Tutor. In the first year, he or she acts also as your Academic Tutor and will arrange weekly small-group tutorials. In these, problems set by the first year lecturers are discussed along with other aspects of physics and university life. There are also larger workshops which are used specifically to develop problem-solving skills. Your Personal Tutor is there to offer advice, to monitor your progress and to be your first point of contact during your undergraduate years. 

Computing

Computing is an essential part of modern physics to model and analyse data and simulate systems that are difficult to study directly. Computer skills using scientific and technical packages such as Origin and LaTeX are embedded within the lab courses. In addition in years one and two you will be taught computer programming using Python, from basic syntax and programming concepts in the first year, to a mini project in data analysis in the second year. Computational physics features in a number of optional third and fourth year modules as well as a selection of the final year projects.

Independent Study

Part of studying at university is that you will take increasing responsibility for your own learning. Through independent study you will gain valuable research skills and develop the ability to think critically, skills in high demand by employers. To help you develop this approach we provide support and help in many forms.  One of these comes through our PAL (peer assisted learning) scheme, whereby 2nd , 3rd or 4th year physics students mentor groups of 1st year students.  This helps new students to integrate into the school quickly and provides an informal setting where the topic of conversation can range from questions about recent lectures, through wider aspects of physics, to finding your way around campus or the best places to socialise in Leeds.  PAL groups can build lasting friendships and help students to integrate across the years.

VLE (Virtual Learning Environment)

The VLE is an online resource where lecturers can supply further study material. These can take the form of lecture slides, extra references or notes, and in many cases recordings of the actual lectures you have attended, so you can review any of the material again. 

Timetable

Normal weeks are a combination of lectures, workshops, lab sessions, tutorials and private study times. This encompasses both individual and group work. The school houses a study room available to all our students for quiet study, and the Physics coffee bar for more collaborative working, and staff  are readily available to answer students queries.

Timetables for current programmmes can be found here.

Assessment

Just as we use a variety of teaching methods we also use a range of assessment types to encourage students to show us their talent. To help students engage with and learn new physics and maths as the modules are being taught, many modules have a component of continually-assessed work which makes up 15% of the final mark. The other 85% comes from the examination. Details on the types of assessment used for each module can be found on the University Module Catalogue