University of Exeter Handbook (Physics) Questions/Comments Department (Physics)

MPhys Stage 3/4 Projects

The MPhys project module descriptors:

should be read in conjunction with the notes and links below, which describe the assignments in greater detail and the criteria that will be used to assess them. The relative weighting of assignments, word-limits and deadlines for submission are given in the module descriptors.

Allocation of Projects

It is the nature of MPhys projects that they are all different, and therefore some projects will suit some students better than others. MPhys projects take place within a research framework and often make intensive use the staff and facilities so these demands need to be balanced across the available resources. To ensure equality of opprtunity, it important that all students should be given the same information about which projects are proposed, and that allocations are made impartially. The process for allocating projects is as follows:

At the start of Week T1:01 the MPhys Projects Co-ordinator will publish a list of potential MPhys projects titles and abstracts provided by the supervisors describing the project. During Weeks T1:01-02 Stage 3 MPhys students will review the list of projects being offered at:

The method used to allocate projects applies the following rules, descending in priority:

  1. Suitable staff resources and facilities must be available.
  2. A student must work on a project appropriate to their programme of study.
  3. A student should work on a project compatible with their indicated preferences.
  4. Students should work in small groups, typically comprising 3 or 4 students.
  5. Preferences indicated by students with higher Stage 2 averages get priority.
  6. Groups of students should have similar overall marks for Stage 2.

Projects vary from year-to-year, but the range of topics normally offered can be judged from the archived abstracts:

Assessment Procedures

Assessments are made by at least two members of staff assigned by the MPhys Projects Co-ordinator. Notebook Reviews will normally involve the project supervisor and an independent asssesor from outside the research group responsible for the project. Other assessments will not normally involve the project supervisor; their place will be taken by another academic with relevant research interests.

Each pair of assessors will be sent three pro-forma marksheets - one each on which to enter their own marks and the third 'Agreed Marks and Feedback' pro-forma. It is important that, in the first instance, each assessor forms an independent judgement of the work and records this on their own pro-forma. However, they may then, if they wish, compare notes with the other assessor (as shown on the pro-forma) and enter agreed marks on the third pro-forma which will be the starting point of the discussion at the moderation meeting. If the assessors cannot agree about the marks, they should clearly indicate this on the Agreed Marks pro-forma (e.g. by striking it through). In such cases their individual marks will be referred to for a decision, which will normally be made following a review by a third assessor.

Role of Supervisor in Checking Work to Be Assessed

Students are expected to discuss their plans for reports, posters and presentations with their supervisors to the extent of having the outlines (i.e. at a table-of contents-level of detail) reviewed/checked. However, supervisors should not make detailed comments on drafts. The work that is assessed must represent the skills and judgement of the student, not the supervisor.

Health and Safety

The health and safety of students, staff and other persons takes priority in all circumstances. MPhys supervisors are required to take all reasonable measures to provide a safe environment for all project work. This is a legal duty and includes: explaining to students any safety issues associated with the project and/or the environment in which it is undertaken; helping students to prepare a risk assessment for their project.

Risk Assessments

Prior to commencing project work, every student (theorists are not excluded) must demonstrate their understanding of the health and safey implications of their intended work by completing a standard University Risk Assessment form:

during the period assigned for completing the background report. When the student has their completed risk assessment, the supervisor must check it, including comparing it with a previous risk assessment (if any) and counter-sign it. Every student must include a copy of this risk assessment as an appedix to their background report (see below). If necessary, it is the responsibility of the supervisor to supply a copy to the Department/College/University Safety Officer, and another copy should be generally available in the laboratory. Students should keep the risk assessment in mind throughout their project, and, if necessary, revise it as the project progresses. The risk assessment does not contribute to the mark for the report, but the assessors must advise the MPhys coordinator if it is not is present and correctly signed-off. The report will not be given a mark and the project will not be permitted to proceed until the omission is remedied.

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (CoSHH)

The risk assessment process (see previous section) must include consideration of the

and the completed General Risk Assessment forms must refer to the applicable CoSHH Assessment Form(s) and confirm that that student has read and understood of these.

Where an MPhys project will requires the use or investigation of substances for which a CoSHH form is not already available, it is the responsibility of the project supervisor to make arrangements for an appropriately qualified person to undertake a CoSHH-compliant assessment, which must be completed before the commencement of work.

Background Review and Project Proposal

The first stage of the project is for the student to understand the background. The order of exercises differs between the 'standard' projects (PHY3122 / PHYM415) taken by students who study in Exeter during Stage 3, and the variants (PHY3205 / PHYM416, and PHYM419) taken taken by students who study away from Exeter.

Stage 3 in Exeter

To monitor progress, each student gives an assessed Introductory Presentation to a group of other MPhys students and staff on their individual progress.

The presentations take place as specified in the module descriptors, i.e. roughly half-way through Term 1. Presentations must be self-contained and not rely on other talks to provide necessary background material.

After the presentation, each student will prepare an individual Introductory Report (see also Write with Clarity) on the whole project, to be completed and two copies handed in to the Department Education Support office by the deadline specifed (see PHY3122). Marks will be deducted for late submission.

Each student's report will be assessed, and discussed with the student. The report must be no longer than the word-limit specified (see PHY3122).

Stage 3 Away From Exeter

Students studying away from Exeter take PHY3205 or PHY3307 while they are away, which require them to submit a plan, and then a background report.

Students who have spent Stage 3 away from Exeter give a presentation based on their background report in the middle of Term 1 of their Stage 4 year:

Project Work

Students next spend an extended period, working on their project. Throughout the period each student will be responsible for keeping a record of his or her work in a notebook. This must be in the form of a detailed diary in a bound notebook; scraps of paper or loose-leaf files are not acceptable. It should contain: a proper record, in chronological format, of all revelant information recorded in appropriate detail and clarity, including evidence of calculations and reasons for taking particular courses of action.

The student will also produce (in the notebook) a brief (one-page) weekly summary of the work completed in the previous week and a list of the tasks intended to be completed in the coming week. (A photocopy of this summary should be provided each week to the main supervisor and will form the basis of discussion at the weekly supervision meeting.)

A significant proportion of the project is assessed, on two occasions specified in the module descriptors, by examination of the student's notebooks, and an oral examination.

Project Work at the End of Stage 3

For Stage 3 students studying in Exeter the project work continues in Term 3 after the exams. For students starting Stage 3 in

Prohibition on Project Work During the Summer Vacation

To ensure that all students are assessed on an equitable basis, any work students wish to undertake on their project between the end of the vacation and the start of Stage 4 must be done without the assistance of supervisors, and without the use of special equipment or facilities (e.g. equipment within research groups.). In cases where MPhys students undertake vacation research projects (e.g. internships, Nuffield Studentships, etc.), there must be a clear boundary between the vacation work and the MPhys project.

Poster Presentation

Towards the end of the project, students jointly prepare a poster display of their work. This will be assessed with the aid of an oral examination to confirm the individual student's contribution.

The poster display should include the aims of the project, a background review, a summary of progress, results and their interpretation. Posters must be displayed in the position assigned by the MPhys Projects Co-ordinator (e.g. in the Staff Common Room) by the deadline specified in the module descriptor and must use no more than one board for a group of three or four students, and no more than half a board for a student or pair of students. Although supervisors may give their students general advice, it is not their role to correct or edit a display before the assessment.

Assessment of the poster display will take the form of a discussion of the display with each student in turn. Although marks will be agreed on the basis of uncorrected displays, these marks will be ratified for inclusion in the degree assessment only after the posters have been brought to a state suitable for subsequent continued display.

Final Report

Students should pay particular attention to the feedback given about their poster when writing their final report, and study the Guidelines for MPhys Final Reports [pdf]. Final reports are individual (not joint) efforts and must comply with the word limit and submission deadline specified in the application module description. The rules for submission of dissertations are strict, and two copies are required. The the final report will be assessed during the Term 3 assessment period

with the aid of an oral examination.


University of Exeter Handbook (Physics) Questions/Comments Department (Physics)