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Unit of study_

PHYS5124: HDR Physics of the Standard Model

Semester 2, 2022 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Our current understanding of the basic building blocks of matter and interactions between them is called the Standard Model of Particle Physics (SM). This most fundamental description of Nature incorporates three of the four basic interactions which govern how the Universe works, the electromagnetic, weak and strong interactions. This unit investigates the mathematical underpinnings of the SM, a quantum field theory constructed upon fundamental notions of symmetry including Lorentz and local gauge invariance. It also explores the notion of spontaneous symmetry breaking, the Higgs field and the way that fundamental particles acquire mass. The interplay between theory and experiment, which has driven the SM's development, is highlighted. Finally, limitations of the model and possible extensions which could overcome them are discussed. You will learn how the SM is constructed based on symmetry principles, quantum fields and their space-time derivatives; how to derive equations of motion for the fields using the Action Principle; and how predictions for physical observables such as cross sections and decay rates can be calculated starting from the SM Lagrangian density. By studying examples of both recent and historically significant measurements confirming or challenging the SM, you will gain experience in reading and interpreting the scientific literature. This will include analysis of a current research paper for the final assignment. Through this unit you will develop an appreciation of humankind's most contemporary and successful attempt to describe Nature in terms of fundamental laws.

Unit details and rules

Unit code PHYS5124
Academic unit Physics Academic Operations
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge

A major in physics including third-year quantum physics and third-year particle physics

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Bruce Yabsley,
Lecturer(s) Kevin Varvell,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Take-home short release) Type D final exam Final Exam
55% Formal exam period 3 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Assignment Assignment 1
15% Week 04
Due date: 28 Aug 2022 at 23:59
Worked solutions to problems.
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO7
Assignment Assignment 2
15% Week 08
Due date: 23 Sep 2022 at 23:59
Worked solutions to problems.
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO4 LO7
Assignment Assignment 3
15% Week 11
Due date: 21 Oct 2022 at 23:59
Worked solutions and discussion.
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO4 LO6 LO7
Type D final exam = Type D final exam ?

Assessment summary

  • Assignment 1: This assignment will require you to apply information from lectures and your reading to solve conceptual and worked quantitative problems. 
  • Assignment 2: This assignment will require you to apply information from lectures and your reading to solve conceptual and worked quantitative problems. 
  • Assignment 3: This assignment will require you to apply information from lectures and your reading to solve conceptual and worked quantitative problems, and to interpret work from the literature. 
  • Final exam: This exam will cover all material in the unit. The exam will have a mixture of short-answer questions and worked problems.  

Final exam: If a second replacement exam is required, this exam may be delivered via an alternative assessment method, such as a viva voce (oral exam). The alternative assessment will meet the same learning outcomes as the original exam. The format of the alternative assessment will be determined by the unit coordinator.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

Result name Mark range Description
High Distinction 85-100 At HD level, a student demonstrates a flair for the subject and comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the unit material. A ‘High Distinction’ reflects exceptional achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates the ability to apply subject knowledge to novel situations.
Distinction 75-84 At DI level, a student demonstrates an aptitude for the subject and a solid knowledge and understanding of the unit material. A ‘Distinction’ reflects excellent achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates an ability to apply the key ideas of the subject.
Credit 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 understanding of the unit material but has not fully developed the ability to apply the key ideas of the subject.
Pass 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 of the subject.
Fail 0-49 When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

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
Week 01 Overview: What the Standard Model is trying to describe, what its general elements are. Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Lagrangians, Symmetries, Groups: Review of special relativity, Lagrangian density and principle of least action, Klein-Gordon equation, particles and fields, Noether's Theorem and symmetries, groups, specifically U(1), SU(2), SU(3), Lorentz, and Poincaré. (Weeks 1 - 2) Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 02 Gauge Invariance, Quantum Electrodynamics: Gauge theory, Maxwell's equations, Dirac equation, solutions of the Dirac equation (Weeks 2 - 3) Lecture (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Week 03 Interactions: interactions, perturbation expansion, matrix elements, phase space, Feynman rules, calculations. (Weeks 3 - 4) Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO4
Week 04 Quantum Chromodynamics: Interactions between quarks and gluons, colour, asymptotic freedom and confinement, lattice gauge theory. (Weeks 4 - 5) Lecture (4 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 05 Glashow-Weinberg-Salam Theory: Spontaneous symmetry breaking, Higgs Mechanism and gauge boson masses, electroweak unification, weak isospin and weak hypercharge, fermion mass generation. (Weeks 5 - 6) Lecture (4 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 07 CP Violation: Discrete symmetries P, C, T, how CP violation arises in the Standard Model, applications to meson systems. (Week 7) Lecture (3 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 08 Neutrino Masses and Mixing: Massive and massless particles, Dirac and Majorana mass, neutrino properties, neutrino mass and oscillations. (Week 8) Lecture (3 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 09 Experimental confirmation of the Standard Model: How experiments are conducted. Examples of measurements which provide evidence for the Standard Model. Interplay of theory and experiment. (Week 9) Lecture (3 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 10 Particle Physics and Cosmology: The relationship between particle physics and cosmology. The early universe and evolution of the universe. Dark matter. (Week 10) Lecture (1 hr) LO3
Beyond the Standard Model: Limitations of the Standard Model. Survey of parameters. Hierarchy problems. Overview of proposed extensions, e.g. Grand Unified Theories, Supersymmetry. (Week 10) Lecture (2 hr) LO3

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

Examples of suitable reference texts (by no means exhaustive):

  • Dave Goldberg, The Standard Model in a Nutshell, (Princeton University Press 2017).

  • W. N. Cottingham and D.A. Greenwood, An Introduction to The Standard Model of Particle Physics (Cambridge 1998).

  • David Griffiths, Introduction to Elementary Particles (2nd, Revised Edition, Wiley 2008).

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

  • A. Zee, Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell (Princeton University Press 2003)

  • Tom Lancaster and Stephen J. Blundell, Quantum Field Theory for the Gifted Amateur, (Oxford University Press 2014).


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. Apply knowledge of quantum mechanics and special relativity to the interaction of fundamental particles.
  • LO2. Explain the key concepts governing the mathematical structure and symmetries underpinning the Standard Model.
  • LO3. Outline the strengths and limitations of the Standard Model in its ability to predict the properties of the observed particles and interactions of Nature, as determined by experiment.
  • LO4. Use knowledge and understanding of the Standard Model to solve qualitative and quantitative problems in particle physics.
  • LO5. Study and analyse a classic research paper in particle physics as a contribution to the Standard Model description of Nature.
  • LO6. Review and evaluate a contemporary research paper, assessing how it advances the Standard Model description of Nature.
  • LO7. Demonstrate a sense of responsibility, ethical behaviour and independence as a learner.

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.

This is the first time this unit has been offered.


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 three 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.

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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.


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

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