PHS3031 - Foundations of contemporary physics - 2018

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

Chief examiner(s)

Dr Alex Bishop


Associate Professor Meera Parish

Unit guides



  • First semester 2018 (On-campus)


One of: PHS2011 or PHS2061; and

one of: PHS2022 or PHS2062; and

one of: MTH2010, MTH2015 or ENG2005; and

one of: MTH2032 or MTH2040


This unit consists of two 12-lecture sub-units, Quantum Mechanics, Statistical Physics and laboratory work. The key areas for each sub-unit are:

  1. Quantum Mechanics: QM states and the Dirac notation. Operators, measurement and observables. The quantum harmonic oscillator. The hydrogen atom, angular momentum and spin. Time evolution and perturbation theory.
  2. Statistical Physics: Heat, temperature and entropy. Classical and quantum statistics. Counting states and probability. The Maxwell-Boltzmann, Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein probability distributions. Applications to real systems.
  3. Laboratory work: experimental laboratory work on relevant topics.


On completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Describe concepts and perform calculations in Quantum Mechanics, using the Dirac and Schrodinger formalism, and apply this knowledge to the analytical solution of model quantum systems.
  2. Describe and perform calculations associated with fundamental concepts in Statistical Mechanics, which include both classical and quantum many-body systems.
  3. Solve new problems in physics related to the core concepts of the unit by drawing on the theoretical underpinnings that illustrate the physics.
  4. Perform measurements and analysis on experiments that demonstrate the theoretical physics described in this and other physics units.
  5. Produce experimental reports that present results, analyse and discuss the implications and outcomes of experimental work.


Examination (3 hours): 46%

Laboratory work: 34% (Hurdle)

Assignments: 20%

Hurdle requirement: Students must achieve a pass mark in the laboratory work to achieve an overall pass grade.

Workload requirements

The workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours spread across the semester (roughly 12 hours per week) - approximately an even mixture of attendance at scheduled activities and self-scheduled study time. Learning activities comprise a mixture of instructor directed, peer directed and self-directed learning, which includes face-to-face and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

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