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PH3080   Computational Physics

Academic year(s): 2019-2020

Key information

SCOTCAT credits : 10

ECTS credits : 5

Level : SCQF level 9

Semester: 1

Planned timetable: One 2-hour slot from 2.00 - 4.00 pm or 4.00 - 6.00 pm Mon or 2.00 - 4.00 pm or 4.00 - 6.00 pm Tue; One 2-hour slot from 2.00 - 4.00 pm or 4.00 - 6.00 pm Thu or 2.00 - 4.00 pm or 4.00 - 6.00 pm Fri

This module is designed to develop a level of competence in Mathematica, a modern programming language currently used in many physics research labs for mathematical modelling. No prior experience is required. The module starts with a grounding in the use of Mathematica and discusses symbolic solutions and numerical methods. The main focus is then on the ways in which Mathematica can be used for problem solving in physics and astrophysics.

Relationship to other modules

Pre-requisite(s): Before taking this module you must pass PH2012 and ( pass MT2501 and pass MT2503 )

Anti-requisite(s): You cannot take this module if you take PH3082

Learning and teaching methods and delivery

Weekly contact: 4 hours supervised PC Classroom

Scheduled learning hours: 44

Guided independent study hours: 56

Assessment pattern

As used by St Andrews: 3-hour Computer-based Examination = 75%, Coursework = 25%

As defined by QAA
Written examinations : 0%
Practical examinations : 84%
Coursework: 16%

Re-assessment: No Re-assessment available - laboratory based


Module coordinator: Dr M Mazilu
Module teaching staff: Dr M Mazilu, Dr A Gillies

Additional information from school

Aims & Objectives

To experience how numerical modelling is used to explore physical concepts.

To develop a level of expertise in modelling physical problems and to introduce common solving and visualising techniques.

Data analysis to extract physical information from measured data and images.

Solving differential equations numerically.


Learning Outcomes

The students will be able to program in Mathematica, and be able to use Mathematica to solve, visualise and gain insight into a variety of physical problems. They will be able to use advanced capabilities of Mathematica including symbolical and numerical equation solving.



There are introductory labs teaching basic programming skills in Mathematica, different numerical methods and setting up physical problems. There are 8 case study labs. These are designed to illustrate the use of Mathematica to solve and visualise a variety of physics problems as well as introducing a number of advanced features in Mathematica. The case studies can vary from year to year. Past case studies have included: solving differential equations, astronomical data analysis, modelling oscillations, classical optics, waves, and quantum mechanics.

Indicative timetable: weeks 1-2: introduction, weeks 3-5 and 7-11: case studies,

Indicative deadlines: Homework deadlines: every Wednesday weeks 2-5, and 7-10.


Additional information on continuous assessment, etc.

The continuous assessment takes the form of computer-based activities (in-class and homework). The in-class questions take place at the beginning of the Thursday or Friday labs. The computer-based, independent homeworks are due on Wednesdays (weeks 2-5 and 7-10) and vary in difficulty and length (between 30 minutes and 2 hours).


Accreditation Matters

This module may not contain material that is part of the IOP “Core of Physics”. However, it contributes to the wider and deeper learning expected in an accredited degree programme.  The skills developed in this module, and others, contribute towards the requirements of the IOP “Graduate Skill Base”.


Recommended Books

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General Information

Please also read the general information in the School's honours handbook that is available via