MA2MPH-Mathematical Physics

Module Provider: Mathematics and Statistics
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring / Summer term module
Pre-requisites: MA1CA Calculus and MA1LA Linear Algebra
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Alex Lukyanov


Summary module description:

The course continues the applied stream of mathematical education from e.g. mathematical modelling and enables one to choose more detailed physics-related modules in the third and fourth years. The overarching theme connecting these will be dimensions of the quantities governing the processes under consideration. What is the relevance of calculus, ODEs and PDEs to real life? The majority of these mathematical concepts were created to describe (or model) processes of nature. For example problems like sound wave propagation or heat transfer have led to partial differential equations. In this module you will study how different mathematical concepts arise from physical phenomena, and in particular discover that completely different areas of physics can be described by exactly the same mathematical equations. Note that this course will be very different from A-level physics: it will focus on the mathematical aspects of physics, i.e. the physics useful for understanding mathematics, whereas A-level physics avoided mathematics at all costs.


1. Break down possible barriers between physics and mathematics, learn their differences and similarities and thus be able to translate from one level of description to another;

2. Build up mathematical intuition from analogies with physical problems. Absolute majority of good mathematicians use physical analogies to guide their research;

3. Familiarise students with the main concepts of theoretical physics to broaden their horizons;

4. Provide motivation and connections for other modules and to explain the practical applications of undergraduate mathematics studied in the department.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module students will be familiar with the concepts of units, dimensional analysis and well-defined physical laws. They will be able to apply them to analyse physical descriptions and formulate well-defined mathematical problems based on the descriptions.

The main skill we will be developing during the module is the ability to separate important factors
from the unimportant ones and to create models of different levels of sophistication. We will study this using examples from heat transfer and mass diffusion.

Additional outcomes:

Confidence in facing real world problems.

Outline content:

• System of units, class of system of units and dimensional monomial theorem;

• Dimensions, physical laws and pi-theorem;

• Conservation of mass and diffusion;

• Non-linear diffusion versus linear diffusion: similarities and differences;

• Diffusion in a composite medium, convection-diffusion;

• Conservation of energy and thermal conductivity;

• Thermal conductivity in composite media;

• Physical origin of the boundary conditions in the description of diffusion and thermal conductivity;

• Conditions on the moving boundaries with the phase transitions - melting, solidification and chemical reactions;

• Instabilities and waves in reaction-diffusion systems.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Lectures, supported by problem sheets and lecture-based tutorials.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20 2
Tutorials 9
Guided independent study 69
Total hours by term 98.00 2.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 70
Written assignment including essay 30

Other information on summative assessment:
Three assignments (10% each) and one examination.

Formative assessment methods:
Problem sheets.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    2 hours.

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    One examination paper of 2 hours duration in August/September - the resit module mark will be the higher of the exam mark (100% exam) and the exam mark plus previous coursework marks (70% exam, 30% coursework).

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 31 March 2017

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