PHY1030 Practical Physics and IT Skills 2023-24
Dr J. Hatchell and Prof. V.V. Kruglyak
Delivery Weeks: T1:01-05,07-12, T2:01-11
Level: 4 (NQF)
Credits: 15 NICATS / 7.5 ECTS
Enrolment: 14 students (approx)


The practical laboratory work section of this module provides a broad foundation in experimental physics, upon which experimental work in Stage 2 and project work in Stage 3 builds. It starts with a short series of lectures, supplemented with a problems set, on error analysis and graph plotting. Laboratory work is normally undertaken in pairs, with support from demonstrators. Experiments are recorded in lab-books and presented as formal reports. The last of the experiments is done as a larger group and involves joint work on a poster, presented in a conference-like environment, and a formal report.

In the IT Skills section of this module students learn to use Python for scientific applications. Python is an interpreted, high-level, general-purpose programming language that can be used for a range of academic and research-based activities including high level mathematics and data processing work. Python is widely used in commercial and research environments.

The PHY0000 Communication and Key Skills course constitutes the third section of this module.

Module Aims

Experimentation is one of the central activities of a scientist. Experimental observations form the bases for new hypotheses and test scientific theories. In this module, you will learn to understand and to apply the experimental method, develop your ability to make reliable measurements and to report them in an effective and ethical manner, and write clearly structured and documented programs in Python.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

A student who has passed this module should be able to:

Syllabus Plan

Part A: Practical Laboratory

General guidance on the module, experiments, data analysis and result reporting is provided in the Laboratory Manual. Each experiment is described in a laboratory script.

General supervision and assistance are available from the demonstrators during the timetabled practical sessions. Each demonstrator conducts the initial discussion and monitors the progress of the assigned students, taking a pastoral role and reporting any problems to the module leader. Feedback is given during an assessment and feedback discussion with a demonstrator. Poster presentations in the Student Conference are assessed by demonstrators.

Note: The Communication and Key Skills content and activities are described in the PHY0000 component description.

Part B: IT Skills

  1. Introduction to Python
    1. Running interactive Python; loading modules and packages; using Python as a graphical calculator; simple calculations, maths, simple functions and plotting.
    2. Using Jupyter notebooks with Numpy and Matplotlib.
  2. Core Python programming
    1. Objects, variables and assignments. Dynamic 'Duck' typing. Numerical datatypes.
    2. More datatypes: strings, lists, tuples, and dictionaries.
    3. Control flow I: Conditionals, comparisons and Boolean logic.
    4. Control flow II: Loops.
    5. Functions: keyword and positional arguments, default arguments, *args and **kwargs, docstrings, variable scope.
    6. Program structure and documentation, error handling, testing and debugging.
  3. Python for labs
    1. Numpy arrays and datatypes.
    2. Using Numpy for reading and writing data; simple statistics; plotting data with error bars.
    3. Fitting a straight line with a least-squares fit.
    4. Nonlinear least-squares fitting with Scipy.
    5. Publication-quality plots with Matplotlib: multiple axes, control of plot elements.

Learning and Teaching

Learning Activities and Teaching Methods

Description Study time KIS type
3×1-hour data analysis lectures 3 hours SLT
10×1-hour computing lectures 10 hours SLT
1×6-hour self-study package, including a problem set 6 hours GIS
11×2-hour computer laboratory sessions (IT) 22 hours SLT
5×4-hour computing homework 20 hours GIS
10×3-hour practical laboratory sessions 30 hours SLT
1×3-hour peer-assessment workshop 3 hours SLT
3-hour student conference 3 hours SLT
Communication and Key Skills component (PHY0000) 21 hours SLT
Reading and private study 32 hours GIS


Weight Form Size When ILOS assessed Feedback
0% 10×Python classwork assignments (formative) 4 hours In class 1, 13, 15-17 Written and verbal
50% 5×computing homework assignments 4 hours per assignment Mondays of weeks T1:03,05,08,10,12 1, 13, 15-17 Written and verbal
40% A data analysis problem set, experiments written up as formal experiment reports and presented as a conference poster; the median mark is awarded One 6-hour self-study package including a problem set, two 1250-word individual reports, one 1500-word group report, and one group poster presentation Weeks T1:03 (problem sets), T2:03 (standard report), T2:06 (standard report), T2:09 (group poster), T2:11 (group report) 2-14, 16, 17 Written and verbal
10% Communication and key skills component PHY0000 as specified in PHY0000 as specified in PHY0000 18 Written and verbal

Notes: Refer to the Undergraduate Handbook for details and marking criteria. Briefly, lab- books and reports for standard experiments are marked in a one-to-one assessment and feedback discussion, involving a demonstrator; reports for the extended experiment are marked by two demonstrators, without final discussions; marking of poster presentations involves multiple demonstrators and may be moderated via peer assessment.


The following list is offered as an indication of the type & level of information that students are expected to consult. Further guidance will be provided by the Module Instructor(s).

Core text:

Supplementary texts:


Further Information

Prior Knowledge Requirements

Pre-requisite Modules none
Co-requisite Modules Vector Mechanics (PHY1021), Waves and Optics (PHY1023) and Properties of Matter (PHY1024)


Re-assessment is not available except when required by referral or deferral.

Original form of assessment Form of re-assessment ILOs re-assessed Time scale for re-assessment

Notes: Re-assessment is not available for this module.

KIS Data Summary

Learning activities and teaching methods
SLT - scheduled learning & teaching activities 92 hrs
GIS - guided independent study 58 hrs
PLS - placement/study abroad 0 hrs
Total 150 hrs
Summative assessment
Coursework 90%
Written exams 0%
Practical exams 10%
Total 100%


IoP Accreditation Checklist
  • XX-01 Experimental work in a practical laboratory
  • XX-02 IT Skills
Availability unrestricted
Distance learning NO
Keywords Physics; Data; File; Experience; Function; Laboratory; Stage; Errors; Methods; Python; Analysis.
Created 01-Oct-10
Revised 29-Sep-22