Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Introduction to Computational and Experimental Physics
Academic Year
Semester 1 (Taught over 2 semesters)
Mutually Exclusive
A Level Physics and Mathematics or equivalent
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Practical 3 hours practical per week x 22 weeks


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Data analysis using computer package  15%
Semester Assessment 4 lab reports - 15% each  60%
Semester Assessment Lab Diary  25%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   Practical exam  100%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:

1. keep a laboratory diary

2. write laboratory reports using a word processing package

3. determine the causes and minimize the effect of experimental uncertainty

4. present a value of a physical measurement together with its associated error

5. use and appreciate the limitations of simple laboratory instruments

6. use a computer package to perform basic computational exercises in physics

7. apply the above skills to the performance of basic experiments in physics

Brief description

Experimentation is a fundamental part of the physical sciences process. It allows us to understand the world around us, to develop theories and to test those theories. In this module you will learn the basic techniques of performing experiments, taking measurements, accounting for uncertainty in your measurements, analysing results and comparing them with theory.
In recent years, computational physics has added a new dimension to experimentation because the power of modern computers and software has made the collection of vast amounts of data and realistic simulations of complex phenomena possible. This has widened the areas that are accessible to physicists as well as introducing a new discipline, computational physics, into the curriculum. The widespread use of computer modelling in industrial, financial and managerial areas has meant that students with these skills are in very high demand.
Experimentation forms a fundamental part of a Physics degree in Aberystwyth and the experimental physics modules are arranged so that students progress over the three or four years from following a set of detailed instructions performing simple experiments in the first year, to researching a topic and devising their own experiments and investigations in their final year projects.
This module will introduce physics undergraduates to the key areas of experimental physics which can be used to understand the world around us, and they will learn how to use the power of computational physics to enhance the design and interpretation of experimental results.
Undergraduates will be expected to keep a laboratory diary as they are conducting the experiments. In addition to the notes kept in the diary, students will be expected to write up 4 of the experiments as formal reports, including background research into the topics.


• Introduction to PC packages available in the teaching laboratories.
• Introduction to computational physics using a spreadsheet.
• Basic error analysis.
• Keeping laboratory diaries and writing reports.
• Simple electrical experiments; use of multi-meter and oscilloscope.
• Mechanics Experiments; balancing forces in a static system.
• In addition to the basic experiments detailed above, students will be expected to perform a selection of experiments allocated on a "round-robin" basis. These experiments cover key areas of physics: thermal expansion, conductivity and radiation; gas laws; conservation of momentum; optics, diffraction, lenses and rays.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number In essence, physics is based on the use of mathematics and experimental physics on the manipulation of number. Application of number is a central part of this module.
Communication Students will keep laboratory diaries and write reports on experiments.
Information Technology Modern data analysis is dependent on the use of computers. In the experimental physics, students use a spreadsheet to analyse data and will be expected to word process their lab reports.
Problem solving Students will apply problem solving techniques in the course of experimentation and in the handling of data arising from experiments.
Research skills Students will be expected to research the background to experiments.
Subject Specific Skills Design and performance of experiments. Analysis of experimental uncertainty.
Team work Students will generally do experiments in groups of two and we would encourage co-operation in the solution of modelling problems.

Reading List

General Text
Nelkon, Michael. (1987.) Advanced level physics /Michael Nelkon, Philip Parker. 6th ed. Heinemann Educational Primo search
Should Be Purchased
Tipler, Paul Allen (2004.) Physics for scientists and engineers /[Paul A. Tipler, Gene Mosca] 5th edition. W.H. Freeman Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 4