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Monash University

Monash University Handbook 2010 Undergraduate - Area of Study

NOTE: This area of study has been updated - please refer to the Undergraduate handbook change register for details.

All areas of study information should be read in conjunction with the relevant course entry in the Handbook. The units listed for this area of study relate only to the 'Requirements' outlined in the Faculty of Science component of any bachelors double degrees.

Managing facultyFaculty of Science
Offered bySchool of Physics
Course coordinatorListed below for each level


Physics explores the physical world at a fundamental level. As well as answering 'why?', physics contributes to many important technologies used in everyday life, medicine and in the other sciences. In mainstream physics, students explore diverse topics ranging from cosmology to sub-atomic particles. Students with biomedical, bioscience and environmental science interests can study relevant physics at level one. A program in physics, involving experimentation, application of theory and problem solving, provides a sound scientific background for a complex and technologically oriented world.

The School of Physics offers physics units at all undergraduate and honours levels, together with astronomy and astrophysics units at levels one, two and three. Students may include some astronomy, astrophysics and materials science units in a physics major.

The first three levels of physics provide a broad foundation with some opportunity for specialisation in level three. During honours and postgraduate study, opportunities exist for specialisation in a wide range of topics in theoretical and experimental physics.


On completion of the sequence in physics students will:

  • have a clear understanding of how physics knowledge is constructed, and appreciate the importance of physics in everyday life, in technologies, and in the structure of the universe
  • have an understanding of classical physics (mechanics, electromagnetism, waves and optics), the foundations of quantum, atomic, solid state and statistical physics, and some aspects of contemporary physics knowledge and practice
  • be able to apply physics concepts in these areas with appropriate mathematical methods to a range of situations, and demonstrate problem solving and critical thinking skills
  • have acquired computational and IT skills, an ability to plan experiments, and experimental skills including the effective use of a range of scientific instruments, measurement, data analysis, and analysis of uncertainties
  • be able to read and interpret professional physics literature
  • be able to communicate physics and scientific ideas and experiments in written and oral form with use of diagrams, mathematics, and scientific terminology
  • have acquired teamwork skills in carrying out a range of experimental and other tasks
  • know the key principles underlying occupational health and safety in laboratory practice
  • have a foundation for further learning in physics and related disciplines, for employment requiring analytical, quantitative and experimental skills, and for undertaking secondary physics teacher qualifications.


Level one

Level two

  • ASP2011 Astronomy
  • MSC2011 Nanostructure of materials
  • MSC2111 Functional materials
  • PHS2011 Physics: Quantum concepts and technologies
  • PHS2022 Physics: Electromagnetism, light and entropy

Level three

  • ASP3222 Physics for astrophysics
  • ASP3231 Observational astronomy
  • MSC3132 Functional materials and devices
  • MSC3142 Materials characterisation and modelling
  • PHS3031 Foundations of contemporary physics
  • PHS3042 Fundamentals of condensed matter physics
  • PHS3051 Photons physics
  • PHS3062 Fundamental particle physics
  • PHS3131 Theoretical physics
  • PHS3142 Theoretical physics II
  • PHS3350 Physics research project 1
  • PHS3360 Physics research project 2

Sequence requirements

Minor sequence in physics (24 points)

Major sequence in physics (48 points)

For level two and three physics, there are mathematics prerequisites: PHS2022 has MTH2010 as a prerequisite; PHS2011 has MTH1030 as a prerequisite; PHS3031 has MTH2010 and MTH2032 as pre-requisites.

At level one, MTH1020 or MTH1030 are recommended corequisites for PHS1011 and PHS1022.

Details of the ASP and MSC units, and related sequences, are described in the astronomy and astrophysics and materials science entries in this section of the Handbook.


Level one

Director of first-year studies: Dr David Mills (School of Physics)

The mainstream sequence PHS1011 and PHS1022 covers the foundations of physics over two semesters, providing a balance between a theoretical understanding of physics along with practical applications and experimental physics. These units follow a mathematical approach and use calculus. Students are required to have passed VCE year 12 Physics (or equivalent) or do PHS1080 in place of PHS1011. Mainstream physics is normally taken by students with interests in physics, mathematics, astrophysics, chemistry, computer science, those interested in the nature of the universe, and those doing science/engineering double degrees.

Foundation physics PHS1080 is suitable for students with no year 12 Physics who wish to understand the basic principles of physics. It suits those who wish to also study astrophysics and prepares students for PHS1022 in semester 2.

PHS1031 and PHS1042 are specifically designed for students interested in biomedical and environmental disciplines. There is an emphasis on applications of physics principles in a range of relevant situations. These units can be undertaken by students with no previous physics experience and do not require calculus. However they do not provide students with a strong foundation for further studies based on physics.

PHS1011 or PHS1080, and PHS1022 are normally required to enter the level-two physics units PHS2011 and PHS2022, however students with alternative semester-one physics may enrol in level-two units at the discretion of the head of school. Any level-one physics provides a foundation for level two in astronomy and astrophysics and materials science. Students entering level-two physics should have completed sufficient level-one mathematics to undertake MTH2010.

The school also offers ASP1010 (Earth to cosmos - introductory astronomy) at level-one. See the astronomy and astrophysics entry for details.

Level two

Coordinator: Dr Greg Jakovidis (School of Physics)

The units PHS2011 and PHS2022 develop key areas of physics including quantum physics, condensed matter physics, electromagnetism, optics, atomic and nuclear physics, and statistical physics. Many key concepts are linked via appropriate applications.

Students intending to proceed to level three physics (including theoretical physics) must complete the mainstream units PHS2011 and PHS2022, and should also take MTH2032. In addition, ASP2011 complements the mainstream physics units and supports students who wish to include level three astrophysics units. For information on ASP2011 including the observatory facilities at the Clayton campus, see the astronomy and astrophysics entry in this section of the Handbook.

Level three

Coordinator: Associate Professor Andrei Nikulin (School of Physics)

The School of Physics offers a range of level-three units that cover theoretical physics, spectroscopies, condensed matter, statistical, nuclear, fundamental particle and photon physics. In addition, the school offers units in observational astronomy and astrophysics. One or two physics research project units may be taken by capable students wishing to do independent work. PHS3031 is essential for any student considering honours in physics.

Level-three physics units normally consist of two series of 12 one-hour lectures, a further 12 hours of tutorial/workshops, and an average of 2.5 hours of laboratory per week or one-hour seminar work per week for theoretical units.


Coordinator: Csaba Balazs (School of Physics)

Honours in physics prepares students for a role as a professional scientist. One major component is a research project carried out under the guidance of an academic member of staff. Six lecture topics are taken, each consisting of approximately 18 hours of class contact. The project and lecture topics are chosen in collaboration with the project supervisor and the honours coordinator. Students also participate in one of the research groups of the school.

Students apply for honours towards the end of their third year. A distinction average or higher in 24 points of PHS or other relevant units at level three is required. Not all fourth-year lecture topics are available every year. Students may include suitable units from other schools with permission of the honours coordinator.

Lecture units are normally given during the first semester of the calendar year and, accordingly, most of the project work is carried out during the second semester. Mid-year entry to the honours program is also available.

Full details regarding entrance requirements and course structure for honours is described in the course entry in this Handbook for the course 0051 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science.