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Unit of study_

PHYS3888: Physics Interdisciplinary Project

The ability to work across interdisciplinary boundaries is a crucial skill for tackling problems in our modern world. With quantitative modelling becoming widespread across industry and traditionally qualitative sciences, physicists have a crucial role to play in applying their expertise broadly. In this unit, you will gain an appreciation for the unique skills and ways of thinking that have allowed physicists to contribute to a wide range of real-world problems. This unit contains two components: (i) a lecture and interactive problem-based group-tutorial component on interdisciplinary physics, complex systems, and artificial intelligence, and (ii) an interdisciplinary project-based component. For the project component you will work in small interdisciplinary groups, including students from other 3888 units, to tackle a real-world interdisciplinary problem. For example, students may build a real-time brain-machine interface that use machine-learning techniques to extract meaningful patterns from live physiological measurements (e.g., human brain activity that is used to control computer software (e.g., a simple game). Through project-based learning, you will learn to leverage the diverse skills represented in your team, and develop skills in experimental measurement, numerical processing, and statistical modelling. Skills in identifying and solving problems, collecting and analysing data, and communicating your findings to diverse audiences are highly valued in modern research and by employers.


Academic unit Physics Academic Operations
Unit code PHYS3888
Unit name Physics Interdisciplinary Project
Session, year
Semester 1, 2020
Attendance mode Normal day
Location Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney
Credit points 6

Enrolment rules

PHYS3941 or PHYS3991
(PHYS2011 OR PHYS2911 OR PHYS2921) AND (PHYS2012 OR PHYS2912 OR PHYS2922)
Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff and contact details

Coordinator Ben Fulcher,
Project supervisor(s) Alessandro Tuniz ,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Reflection tasks
Reflections on interdisciplinarity
5% - Quiz questions
Outcomes assessed: LO4
Assignment Computational assignment
Tests numerical modeling skills on interdisciplinary computational problems
10% Multiple weeks 5-10 quiz questions
Outcomes assessed: LO2
Presentation group assignment Online Project design presentation
5% Week 08 10 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO5
Assignment Research assignment
Written assessment summarizing an interdisciplinary physics research paper
10% Week 08 Maximum 1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1
In-semester test Computer exam
Examination of theoretical understanding and numerical skills
30% Week 11 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO2
Presentation group assignment Group presentation and mini-conference
Group presentation of research project
15% Week 13 15 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO5
Assignment Meeting notes and peer assessment
Meeting notes and peer assessment
5% Week 13 Notes from all meetings
Outcomes assessed: LO4
Assignment group assignment Project report
Project report in the style of a physics journal article
15% Week 13 Maximum 4000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO5
Assignment Individual discussion
An individual discussion of the project outcomes
5% Week 13 Maximum 1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3
group assignment = group assignment ?
  • Computational assignments: Students must submit completed versions of the computer tutorials run in weeks 2–6. Students have up to one week following each computational tutorial to submit their completed work.
  • Research assignment: Students must submit a report summarising a published scientific paper from a module of their choice that includes a discussion by the student about the role of physics in contributing quantitative or mechanistic understanding to real-world phenomena.
  • Computer exam: In this exam, run online, and will need to perform basic simulations to demonstrate their ability of numerical skills to solve real-world problems.
  • Project design presentation: Students must present their proposed design for the interdisciplinary project as a group.
  • Group presentation and mini-conference: Students must present and demonstrate their project as a group in a miniconference format online.
  • Final project report: The group report summarises the outcomes from the group interdisciplinary project.
  • Reflection tasks: This series of reflection tasks is in the form of blog posts, assessing the student’s interaction and insight into interdisciplinary project work.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.



Students are to work together on the project remotely, with one student being responsible for measuring data. In exceptional circumstances, students will be provided with pre-recorded data and emulate real-time data acquisition.All assessments based on group presentations will take place on Zoom, in a virtual classroom/seminar format, with no changes to the dates or weight.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

At High-distinction level, a student demonstrates a flair for the subject as well as a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the unit material. A ‘High Distinction’ reflects exceptional achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates the ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding to produce original solutions for novel or highly complex problems and/or comprehensive critical discussions of theoretical concepts.


75 - 84

At Distinction level, a student demonstrates an aptitude for the subject and a welldeveloped understanding of the unit material. A ‘Distinction’ reflects excellent achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates an ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding of the subject to produce good solutions for challenging problems and/or a reasonably well-developed critical analysis of theoretical concepts.


65 - 74

At CR level, a student demonstrates a good command and knowledge of the unit material. A ‘Credit’ reflects solid achievement and is awarded to a student who has a broad general understanding of the unit material and can solve routine problems and/or identify and superficially discuss theoretical concepts.


50 - 64

At PS level, a student demonstrates proficiency in the unit material. A ‘Pass’ reflects satisfactory achievement and is awarded to a student who has threshold knowledge.


0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Special consideration

If you experience short-term circumstances beyond your control, such as illness, injury or misadventure or if you have essential commitments which impact your preparation or performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website provides information on academic honesty, academic dishonesty, and the resources available to all students.

The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic dishonesty or plagiarism seriously.

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of dishonesty, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 What is interdisciplinary physics? Lecture (1 hr) LO1
Introduction to Phys3888 Project Component Science laboratory (3 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5
Working as a Group Science laboratory (3 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 02 Representing complex systems as networks Lecture (2 hr) LO1
Analysing complex networks Computer laboratory (2 hr) LO2 LO4
Week 03 Formulating and simulating complex interactions as dynamical systems Lecture (2 hr) LO1
Simulating dynamical systems Computer laboratory (2 hr) LO2 LO4
Introduction to the EEG hardware and software Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO3
Measuring Brain Signals - Part 1 Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 04 Criticality in nature Lecture (2 hr) LO1
Measuring, simulating and analysing critical behaviour Computer laboratory (2 hr) LO2 LO4 LO5
Measuring Brain Signals - Part 2 Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 05 Building learning machines Lecture (2 hr) LO1
Simulating learning machines Computer laboratory (2 hr) LO2 LO4
Real-time signals from brains and machines Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 06 Algorithms for artificial intelligence Lecture (1 hr) LO1
Statistical learning from data Computer laboratory (2 hr) LO2 LO4
Optimizing real-time data quality Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 07 Group forming and project plan Science laboratory (3 hr) LO1
Week 08 Project plan presentation Science laboratory (3 hr) LO5
Week 09 Brain-machine prototype development Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 10 Brain-machine prototype development Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 11 Brain-machine prototype development Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 12 Finalize brain-machine prototype Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 13 Brain-machine prototype showcase Science laboratory (3 hr) LO5

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University’s graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. understand how physics knowledge and techniques can be used to solve interdisciplinary problems
  • LO2. analyse, simulate, and model real-world data using statistical and numerical modelling techniques
  • LO3. collaborate in groups, both within and across disciplinary boundaries, to design and implement a solution to a real-world problem
  • LO4. demonstrate integrity, confidence, accountability, and resilience in managing challenges, both individually and in teams
  • LO5. communicate project outcomes effectively to a broad audience.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities
We have added tutor support for the project component and adjusted the structure of these sessions, to ensure more regular supervision of all project teams. We have provided more examples of questions to test understanding of each module to aid exam preparation. Computer tutorials have been modified to ensure students get the most out of the session, including improved quiz questions and prework.

The School of Physics recognises that biases and discrimination, including but not limited to those based on gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and age, continue to impact parts of our community disproportionately. Consequently, the School is strongly committed to taking effective steps to make our environment supportive and inclusive and one that provides equity of access and opportunity for everyone.

The School has three Equity Officers as a point of contact for students and staff who may have a query or concern about any issues relating to equity, access and diversity.  If you feel you have been treated unfairly, bullied, discriminated against or disadvantaged in any way, you are encouraged to talk to one of the Equity Officers or any member of the Physics staff.

More information can be found at

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We are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety at work. The University’s Work Health and Safety policy explains the responsibilities and expectations of workers and others, and the procedures for managing WHS risks associated with University activities.

General Laboratory Safety Rules

  • No eating or drinking is allowed in any laboratory under any circumstances
  • A laboratory coat and closed-toe shoes are mandatory
  • Follow safety instructions in your manual and posted in laboratories
  • In case of fire, follow instructions posted outside the laboratory door
  • First aid kits, eye wash and fire extinguishers are located in or immediately outside each laboratory
  • As a precautionary measure, it is recommended that you have a current tetanus immunisation. This can be obtained from University Health Service:


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