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(TR) Mathematics, Astrophysical Laboratories & Skills - PHY00055I

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  • Department: Physics
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Alison Laird
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
    • See module specification for other years: 2024-25

Module summary

N/A - transition module

Related modules

Pre-requisites: Mathematics, Professional Skills & Experimental Laboratories 1 or equivalent and Mathematical, Computational & Professional Skills 2 or equivalent

Prohibited Combinations: Mathematics, Theoretical Laboratories & Skill, Mathematics, Physics Laboratories & Skills

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims


Mathematics is a fundamental tool for studying and understanding Physics. The aim of the mathematics part of this module is to introduce linear algebra in its matrix form, which can be used to solve complex problems in an elegant and efficient way, e.g. in quantum mechanics. You will also learn how to solve differential equations which are used in all areas of physics to describe the fundamental behaviour of many different phenomena.

Astrophysical Laboratories:

This module builds on the knowledge gained in the Stage 1 and Stage 2 (Semester 1) lectures and the skills learned in the Stage 2 Semester 1 laboratory. This module aims to further increase the level of sophistication in the astrophysical experiments, approach to data analysis, and laboratory report writing. There is emphasis on the use of and critical evaluation of modern (computer-based) instrumentation, in particular in astrophysics. Typical experiments will take 2 full days to complete and a series of such experiments will be undertaken throughout the semester. This is complemented with laboratory skills sessions, for instance formal report writing.

Professional Skills:The aim of the Professional Skills part of this module is to continue the development of career preparedness and enhance recruitability skills. Emphasis will be placed on group-based work, understanding recruitment processes, and developing interview skills and techniques.

Module learning outcomes


  • Solve second-order partial differential equations that describe a range of physical phenomena

  • Apply linear algebra in its matrix form to solve a range of problems, from simultaneous equations to determining eigenvectors and eigenvalues.

Atsrophysical Laboratories:

  • Be able to independently plan and execute physics and astrophysics experiments over an extended time, using a range of experimental techniques and appropriate data analysis and processing methods.

  • Be able to identify and assess experimental errors and to critically analyse and discuss experimental results to an advanced standard.

  • Be able to communicate and present experimental results to a professional standard.

Professional Skills:

  • Understand the steps involved in a recruitment process, and know how to prepare for and conduct effective interviews.

  • Absorb, organise and synthesise information from different fields and use critical skills to provide coherent answers to open-ended and general questions.

  • Construct coherent arguments and discussions of broad questions supported by fact, theory and speculation.

  • Select and adapt communication styles to convey information and ideas in an appropriate way.

  • Create and implement plans to achieve key career objectives.

Module content


  • Linear Algebra: Matrix algebra and solving simultaneous equations. Rank, ill-conditioning, linear dependence, diagonalisation, eigenvectors and eigenvalues, Hermitian, Unitary and Normal matrices, transformation matrices

  • Further Differential Equations: Second order PDEs, separation of variables.

Astrophysical Laboratories:

  • Lab scripts for each experiment will be provided.

  • Guidance for notebook keeping and formal report writing will be provided.

Of the 50% weighting for the laboratory component, 30% is attributed to the laboratory notebooks and 20% to the formal report.

Professional Skills: Career preparedness, recruitability, interview skills and techniques, recruitment processes and team activities.


Task Length % of module mark
Closed/in-person Exam (Centrally scheduled)
(TR) Mathematics, Astrophysical Laboratories & Skills
1 hours 25
Laboratory Notebooks and Formal Report
N/A 50
Physics Practice Questions
N/A 10
Professional Skills Assignments
N/A 15

Special assessment rules




Module feedback

'Feedback’ at a university level can be understood as any part of the learning process which is designed to guide your progress through your degree programme. We aim to help you reflect on your own learning and help you feel more clear about your progress through clarifying what is expected of you in both formative and summative assessments.

A comprehensive guide to feedback and to forms of feedback is available in the Guide to Assessment Standards, Marking and Feedback. This can be found at:

The School of Physics, Engineering & Technology aims to provide some form of feedback on all formative and summative assessments that are carried out during the degree programme. In general, feedback on any written work/assignments undertaken will be sufficient so as to indicate the nature of the changes needed in order to improve the work. Students are provided with their examination results within 25 working days of the end of any given examination period. The School will also endeavour to return all coursework feedback within 25 working days of the submission deadline. The School would normally expect to adhere to the times given, however, it is possible that exceptional circumstances may delay feedback. The School will endeavour to keep such delays to a minimum. Please note that any marks released are subject to ratification by the Board of Examiners and Senate. Meetings at the start/end of each semester provide you with an opportunity to discuss and reflect with your supervisor on your overall performance to date.

Our policy on how you receive feedback for formative and summative purposes is contained in our Physics at York Taught Student Handbook.

Indicative reading


  1. Introduction to Linear Algebra, 3rd Edition Textbook by Gilbert Strang

  2. Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences Textbook by Mary L. Boas.

Astrophysical Laboratories:

Lab scripts - available on the VLE

Professional Skills:

John M. Lannon & Laura J. Gurak: Technical Communication, Global Edition. 15th Ed 2021 (Pearson)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.