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Unit of study_

PHYS3936: Condensed Matter and Particle Phys (Adv)

Semester 1, 2021 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Condensed matter physics is the science behind semiconductors and all modern electronics, while particle physics describes the very fabric of our Universe. Surprisingly these two seemingly separate aspects of physics use in part very similar formalisms. This selective unit in the physics major will provide an introduction to both these fields, complemented with experimental labs. You will study the basic constituents of matter, such as quarks and leptons, examining their fundamental properties and interactions. You will gain understanding of extensions to the currently accepted Standard Model of particle physics, and on the relationships between high energy particle physics, cosmology and the early Universe. You will study condensed matter systems, specifically the physics that underlies the electromagnetic, thermal, and optical properties of solids. You will discuss recent discoveries and new developments in semiconductors, nanostructures, magnetism, and superconductivity. The advanced stream has more open-ended experimental physics projects: You will learn and apply new experimental and data analysis techniques by designing and carrying out in-depth experimental investigations on selected topics in physics, with expert tutoring. In completing this unit you will gain understanding of the foundations of modern physics and develop skills in experimental physics, measurement, and data analysis.

Unit details and rules

Unit code PHYS3936
Academic unit Physics Academic Operations
Credit points 6
PHYS3099 or PHYS3999 or PHYS3036 or PHYS3068 or PHYS3968 or PHYS3069 or PHYS3969 or PHYS3074 or PHYS3974 or PHYS3080 or PHYS3980
Average of 70 or above in [(PHYS2011 OR PHYS2911 OR PHYS2921) AND (PHYS2012 OR PHYS2912 OR PHYS2922)]
PHYS3034 OR PHYS3934 OR [(PHYS3042 OR PHYS3942 OR PHYS3043 OR PHYS3943 OR PHYS3044 OR PHYS3944) AND (PHYS3090 OR PHYS3990 OR PHYS3991)
Assumed knowledge

Students will need to have some knowledge of special relativity, for example from prior study of PHYS2013 or PHYS2913, or from studying Chapter 12 of Introduction to Electrodynamics by D.J. Griffith. (MATH2021 OR MATH2921 OR MATH2061 OR MATH2961 OR MATH2067)

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Catherine Stampfl,
Laboratory supervisor(s) Sergio Leon-Saval,
Lecturer(s) Bruce Yabsley,
Catherine Stampfl,
Kevin Varvell,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Take-home short release) Type D final exam Final Exam
Type-D, on-line
55% Formal exam period 3 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO5
Assignment Lab book
In Class experiment recording logbook.
15% Multiple weeks In class
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Assignment Particle physics assignment 1
Written task
5% Week 04
Due date: 26 Mar 2021 at 23:59
~ 5 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO5 LO6
Assignment Particle physics assignment 2
Written task
5% Week 07
Due date: 23 Apr 2021 at 23:59
~ 5 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO5 LO6
Assignment Condensed matter physics assignment 1
Written task
5% Week 10
Due date: 14 May 2021 at 23:59
~ 5 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO5 LO6
Assignment Condensed matter physics assignment 2
Written task
5% Week 12
Due date: 28 May 2021 at 23:59
~ 5 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO5 LO6
Assignment Experimental physics report and peer marking
report due in week 13, peer marking in week 14.
10% Week 13 3000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Type D final exam = Type D final exam ?

Assessment summary

  • Assignments: There are four coursework assignments in this unit, two per module. Typewritten and handwritten assignments are acceptable – for handwritten assignment make sure the scans have good resolution and contrast and are not blurry or distorted. Only parts of the assignment that can readily be read on screen will be marked. Plan plenty of time for uploading your files ahead of the deadline to make room for connectivity issues, as deadlines will be enforced strictly. It is your responsibility to ensure that files have uploaded correctly with all pages.
  • Experimental physics lab books: Every student will carry out one experiment.  Experiments are to be completed in the times allocated to you. You must record the experiments you perform in a logbook (In Class experiment recording on logbook) as each experiment is carried out. This is the written record of the experiment. You should carefully read the section “Guidelines for Recording Experimental Work,” in the Experimental Physics Handbook (on Canvas), to see what is expected to be included in a logbook. Tutors will be available to help you.
  • Experimental physics report and peer marking: You will be required to write up one report on one of the experiments you do, based on the material already in your logbook. Reports are to be written in the style of a scientific paper in a specific journal. It is essential that you refer to the separate document “Senior Experimental Physics Report Guidelines” for instructions (available on Canvas). The experimental physics report is compulsory, and not handing in a report will lead to an Absent Fail grade for the whole unit. You will also be asked to read another student's lab report and assess it against the standard lab marking rubric provided in Canvas. The mark for your peer review will be based on sensible justification of the marks you provide on the comments section of online rubric feedback.
  • Final exam: The final exam will have questions covering all coursework aspects of this course, and will be online.  

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 HD 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 DI level, a student demonstrates an aptitude for the subject and a well-developed 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

For more information see guide to grades.

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.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity 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 integrity breaches seriously.  

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

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Multiple weeks Experimental physics labs Science laboratory (24 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 01 Particle physics: the particle zoo; spin and angular momentum; relativistic mechanics Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 02 Particle physics: interactions, coupling strengths and rates of interactions, the electromagnetic and strong interactions Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 03 Particle physics: the weak force, detecting particles, the Higgs Boson Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 04 Particle physics: symmetries and conservation laws; discrete symmetries Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 05 Particle physics: the quark model; quantum chromodynamics (QCD) Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 06 Particle physics: more on QCD; particle mixing, CP symmetry; neutrinos Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 07 Particle physics: beyond the standard model Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Condensed matter physics: introduction, Drude model Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 08 Condensed matter physics: free electron model, density of states, fermisurface; bonding, introduction to crystallography Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 09 Condensed matter physics: reciprocal lattice; x-ray and electron diffraction, Laue and Bragg equation Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 10 Condensed matter physics: nearly free electron model; Bloch waves, group velocity, effective mass; band-structure and holes Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 11 Condensed matter physics: tight binding approximation; introduction to phonons; phonon heat capacity. Quantum theory of phonons; Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 12 Condensed matter physics: semiconductor physics: intrinsic and extrinsic properties; Introduction to nanoscience Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 13 Condensed matter physics: magnetism; ferroelectrics, multiferroics; Revision Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2

Attendance and class requirements

 Attendance: Due to the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance requirements for this unit of study have been amended. Where online tutorials/workshops/virtual laboratories have been scheduled, students should make every effort to attend and participate at the scheduled time. Penalties will not be applied if technical issues, etc. prevent attendance at a specific online class. In that case, students should discuss the problem with the coordinator, and attend another session, if available.

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.

Required readings

Particle physics:

  • Griffiths, D., Introduction to Elementary Particles, Second, Revised Edition (2008)
  • Martin, B. R. & Shaw, G., Particle Physics, 3rd Edition (2008)
  • Perkins, D. H., Introduction to High Energy Physics, 4th Edition (2000)

other useful references:

  • Thomson, Mark, Modern Particle Physics, University of Cambridge (2013)

Condensed matter physics:

Textbook: The Oxford Solid State Basics 1st Edition by S. H. Simon (2013) – eBook available from the University Library

other useful references:

  • Ashcroft/Mermin, Solid State Physics, Brooks/Cole ISE 1976 or Thomson Press 2003
  • Charles Kittel, Introduction to Solid State Physics, John Wiley & Sons Inc (US), 2004

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. demonstrate an understanding of key concepts in two areas of physics – particle physics and condensed matter physics
  • LO2. apply these concepts to develop models, and to solve qualitative and quantitative problems in scientific contexts, using appropriate mathematical and computing techniques as necessary
  • LO3. carry out and analyse experiments to measure specific effects
  • LO4. compare and critique experimental approaches
  • LO5. communicate scientific information appropriately, through written work
  • LO6. demonstrate a sense of responsibility, ethical behaviour, and independence as a learner and as a scientist.

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

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

In response to student feedback, we will endeavour to streamline the content and make more reference and use of the textbook.

Equity, Access and Diversity statement

The School of Physics recognises that biases, bullying 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 Equity Officers as a point of contact for students who may have a query or concern about any issues relating to equity, access and diversity. If you feel you have been treated unfairly, discriminated against, bullied 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


Any student who feels they may need a special accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact Disability
Services: who can help arrange support.

Work, health and safety

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:


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.