Physics Modules (Year 2) – OurWarwick
OurWarwick

Physics Modules (Year 2)

So I’m back again and this time looking at the second year modules for the Warwick Physics course. In my second year I suddenly had a lot more freedom and this became evident when I began talking to friends and realised they had no idea what I was talking about because we had all opted for different modules.

In first year this really hadn’t been an issue because it was almost all compulsory but I quite liked that I could hear about other modules that I chose not to take just by being in a conversation with my group of friends.

But on to the modules…

*****

Quantum Mechanics & it’s Applications

Now that’s a slightly terrifying title.

This was a difficult module. It was taught over two terms by two different lecturers and both of them concentrated on different aspects of quantum mechanics. This was our first experience of formal quantum mechanics and it felt a lot like trying to learn an entirely new language.

It does begin to make more sense over time and with practice but this was often just difficult to get my head around even when I was coming out with correct answers.

We covered the foundations and formal mathematics of quantum mechanics in term one and then went on to applications of quantum mechanics in material and design in term two, covering a broad range of areas.

Electromagnetic Theory & Optics

This wasn’t my favourite module last year. It was taught quite late on, starting in the second half of term two so I felt as though I was rushing through it as exams approached but, again, this felt like a useful module moving forward.

We applied some of the mathematics covered earlier in the year to principles discussed in our first year Electricity and Magnetism module and used it to derive Maxwell’s equations.

Optics felt a little bit disregarded in this course at times and it sometimes seemed they should really be two separate modules. I actually preferred the optics elements and we built up from some of the principles covered in first year Physics Foundations.

Mathematical Methods for Physicists

I find it hard to have an opinion on our maths modules. There is nothing wrong with them, they provide good basics to use in all our other modules and I often enjoy doing the assigned problem sheets but they aren’t the type of modules that will necessarily capture your imagination and get you really excited to learn physics.

In the second year maths module we covered some of the topics from first year again before moving onto vector fields, the divergence theorem and Stokes’ theorem, partial differential equations and Fourier transforms (the importance of which has already begun to reveal itself in other modules). This is all really useful stuff to know and the way it was taught meant it was delivered at a pace that was simple enough to keep up with while other modules were going on at the same time.

(Double lectures last thing on a Friday were not fun though.)

Thermal Physics

I think this was my favourite of the compulsory modules last year. Like Electromagnetism and Optics considered the first year Electricity and Magnetism module in a different way, Thermal Physics considered the thermodynamics covered in Physics Foundations by instead using statistical mechanics.

Something about the mathematics of this module seemed to make sense and work for me so I really enjoyed statistical mechanics even if it doesn’t sound like the most thrilling topic to study. I also found that this module helped me quite a lot with Quantum Mechanics and it’s Applications because it covered some of the same stuff such as Fermi Energy and the difference between Fermions and Bosons when considering the structure of atoms.

*****

And now for the optional modules. I took all but two of the Physics modules available but also heard good things about the other two (Physics of Fluids and Geophysics).

Stars

This was one of my favourite modules just because it is astro based. The early parts of the course studied the basics of observing stars such as luminosity and distance measurements which was revision for me but necessary as the course was open to people who hadn’t done any astronomy modules before.

Then in the middle of the course it seemed to become really hard. We went through content quite quickly and there were some very long equations that flashed up on the screen only long enough to seem daunting. However, upon revision these areas became much clearer and by doing past paper questions I didn’t feel like there were any major gaps in my knowledge.

I like that this course studied the basics of observing stars, how stars fuel themselves, how they evolve and die and also how stars affect the exoplanets around them. It seemed like a very good, broad lesson on the subject.

The Solar System

This was a new module when I took it so we didn’t really know what to expect. At times it felt a little bit like the course was being written as we went through it but I quite enjoyed this because it gave our lecturer freedom to delve deeper into certain areas when they came up if it seemed appropriate.

This module covered the sun (but only briefly so as not to interfere with the Stars module too much), planetary motion and then covered details about the different planets and different types of planets in the Solar System.

Again, I really enjoyed this module but didn’t know what to expect of the paper at the end of the year so that was a bit of a concern before exams. I would have thought that this year it will have a better idea of what will be covered and this will be conveyed with greater clarity to people who choose to take it.

Hamiltonian Mechanics

In this module I was struggling to see the relevance of it until I had finished the module, revised and started looking at past paper questions. However, at that point I began to really like this module.

Hamiltonian Mechanics focuses on variational principles rather than needing to know all of the forces involved in a problem to solve complex mechanics problems. It seems now like this could be really useful in the future as a way to simplify problems that would be difficult to solve using Newtonian mechanics.

Computational Physics

This was a stressful module.

I found the first few weeks fairly easy as they only really went over topics I had already covered in the first year coding module and at GCSE computing. Once we were past the basics of using python though and moving onto larger assignments in Jupyter Notebooks, the time it took to complete assignments increased drastically!

I liked that this was a module purely assessed on coursework so I could have some guaranteed marks before the end of the year but it was difficult to achieve. I felt like I had to teach myself a lot but ended up getting a really high mark.

Overall, taking this module I would suggest that people be willing to put in lots of work with the thought in mind that a high grade is very much achievable if you do.

Electrical Power Generation

This was a much more practical module than others on offer to me in second year so I thought it would offer a nice contrast to the rest of my studying.

In this module we covered the material in two main chunks. First we went through each method of renewable energy production, completing calculations for power output, efficiency and considering the viability of each, and then we went on to nuclear power. We covered the basics of nuclear physics and then looked at practical applications of both fission and fusion.

I enjoyed this module and plan to take Nuclear Physics in third year as a continuation of some of the topics covered.

*****

In second year I also took an Italian module but I plan to write about that in a separate blog post.

Second year felt a lot more diverse than first year (which is by no means meant to say that you don’t cover a lot in first year) and I look forward to the increased freedom in my third and fourth years all the more because of it.

As with the first year modules, details for all the optional modules available this year can be found online on the department website here. I believe that some have changed but I hope this was still a helpful overview for those that remain.

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