module specification

CY4056 - Foundations of Physics (2023/24)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2023/24
Module title Foundations of Physics
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Human Sciences
Total study hours 150
26 hours Assessment Preparation / Delivery
88 hours Guided independent study
36 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   Problem-based workshop
Unseen Examination 50%   Final Exam (1 hour)
Running in 2023/24

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Monday Afternoon

Module summary

The module provides an introduction to key topics of Physics relevant to Chemistry and the Natural Sciences including classical mechanics, waves and vibrations, quantum mechanics, electrostatics, electromagnetism, optics and atomic spectroscopy. It gives an appreciation of the importance of modelling physical systems mathematically in order to predict the behaviour of chemical or biological systems.

Prior learning requirements

Available for Study Abroad? YES


Classical Mechanics
Newton’s laws of motion (including the use of vectors); the conservation of momentum and energy; kinetic and potential energy; power, fields and potentials; and angular motion.

Waves and Vibrations
Simple harmonic motion; the harmonic oscillator; normal modes of vibration for diatomic and linear triatomic molecules; wave motion including superposition, standing waves and beats; constructive and destructive interference.

Coulomb’s law; the Bohr model of the H atom; the ionic model (including lattice energies); electric fields; electric dipole interactions; and intermolecular forces.

Introduction to magnetism; magnetic flux and flux density (including examples); particle motion in electric and magnetic fields; the Hall effect; Faraday’s Law of induction; magnetic properties of materials (diamagnetism, paramagnetism and ferromagnetism); magnetic fields in spectroscopy (NMR, ESR, the Zeeman effect).

Electromagnetic waves; polarised light; reflection and refraction; revision of interference patterns and Young’s double slit experiment; interferograms and Fourier transforms, diffraction and diffraction gratings; and Bragg’s Law.

Quantum Mechanics
Introduction to quantum mechanics; black-body radiation; the photoelectric effect; line spectra; wave-particle duality; the Heisenberg uncertainty principle; wavefunctions; the Schrödinger equation; and particle in a 1-D box (including applications).

Atomic Spectroscopy
Absorption and emission of radiation; spectroscopic units, general features of experimental methods; line widths; quantum numbers; angular momenta; and an introduction to atomic terms and states.

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Acquisition of knowledge of the subject matter of this module will be promoted through lecturer-led lectures (20 hours) and tutorials (10 hours); directed web-based learning and through the guided use of student-centred learning resources. Problem based workshops (6 hours) will be used to consolidate student knowledge with guidance for directed activities. Self managed time and private study should be spread out over the whole semester and not left until the final weeks. In addition, there will be weekly drop-in sessions, of one hour duration, which students can make use of in order to consolidate their understanding of the subject matter.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:
1. Describe the basis of the theories underpinning the various branches of physics covered
2. Predict the outcome of an experiment based on a specific model for system behaviour
3. Perform mathematical calculations correctly and manipulate data accurately
4. Analyse experimental data appropriately using tabular and graphical forms
5. Calculate the value of specified variables and critically review the results
6. Understand and analyse the limitations of individual models.

Assessment strategy

The module will be assessed by means of an interactive problem-based workshop (50 %). The workshop is comprised of a coursework assignment and test and will assess the classical mechanics, waves and vibrations, electrostatics and electromagnetism topics. A 1-hour unseen written exam (50%) will assess the optics, quantum mechanics and atomic spectroscopy topics. The students must pass with an overall mark of 40%.