Faculty of Science

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This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2016 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

Monash University

6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

School of Physics and Astronomy


Dr Scott Findlay (Unit coordinator) and Dr Russell Anderson (laboratories coordinator), Email contact: phs2022-coordinator@monash.edu



  • First semester 2016 (Day)


The atomic physics sub-unit explores the development of our current understanding of the electronic properties of atoms. Much of the fundamentals of quantum mechanics were developed in response to the difficulties of reconciling observed physical phenomena with classical physics. This sub-unit introduces the wavefunction description for electronic orbitals as applied to hydrogenic atoms, and explains the concept of atomic magnetism, including magnetic coupling, which leads to an explanation for fine and hyperfine spectroscopic structure. The origin and nature of selection rules in various atomic systems is examined.
The nuclear physics sub-unit introduces a range of observable phenomena that result due to the structure of atomic nuclei, describes our current understanding of the constituents and structure of nuclei, and considers nuclear processes such as the various forms of radioactive decay, fission and fusion, and neutron-induced reactions. The concept of a reaction cross section is developed. The ubiquity and utility of conservation laws are emphasized, leading to an appreciation of the power of these tools for understanding nuclear phenomena.
The condensed matter physics sub-unit examines how fundamental properties of solid matter - such as electrical, mechanical and optical properties - arise from the atomistic and electronic structure of materials. The arrangement of atoms in solids is explored via diffraction and imaging. Correlations between properties such as hardness and melting point are understood through bonding and the cohesive energy. Electrical conduction is explored in detail through a series of increasingly complex models: classical free electron theory, quantum free electron theory and band theory. Concepts such as mobility, the Fermi level and the Fermi-Dirac distribution are thereby introduced in the context of simple systems like metals before being applied to more complex systems like semiconductors. Semiconductor physics is introduced, with a focus on the quantum technologies which it underpins, including solar cells, light emitting diodes and transistors.


On completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Describe and perform calculations appropriate to key concepts in atomic physics, including the model of angular momentum in hydrogenic atoms, the selection rules for allowed transitions in a range of atomic systems, the origin of fine and hyperfine structure, and the structure of the periodic table based on the electronic properties of atoms.
  2. Describe and perform calculations appropriate to key concepts in nuclear physics, including nuclear binding energy and stability, the origin of different types of radioactive decay, and whether nuclear processes will occur based on energy considerations.
  3. Describe and perform calculations appropriate to the classical free electron model, the quantum free electron model and the band theory model for electrical conduction in solids, and compare the strengths and shortcomings of these models.
  4. Demonstrate awareness of scientific computing methods and visualization.
  5. Acquire, manipulate and interpret physical data and write scientific reports at a level suitable for publication.


Examinations: 40%
Assignments: 30%
Practical work: 30%

Students must achieve a pass mark in the practical component to achieve an overall pass grade.

Workload requirements

  • Two 1-hour lectures per week
  • One 2-hour laboratory class per week
  • One 2-hour class per week - alternating between a computational class and a tutorial
  • Six hours of independent study per week

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study



Recommended: MTH2010 or MTH2015 as this is required for PHS2062 in second semester