University of Sydney Handbooks - 2018 Archive

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The School of Physics is part of the Faculty of Science. Units of study in this major are available at mainstream and advanced level.

About the major

Physics is the basis of most of the sciences. Techniques developed by physicists are used across the sciences, e.g, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, radio-carbon dating, medical resonance imaging, nuclear medicine, atomic absorption spectroscopy and electron microscopy.

Physics is a generalist major that, instead of preparing you for a narrow career path in just one area, allows you great freedom of choice in your ultimate employment. This may appeal to students who have not yet committed themselves to one career choice. Skills acquired during a Physics major, such as problem solving, information handling, critical reasoning, logical thought, clear communication, experimentation, and use of computers as an analysis tool are much in demand in many fields of employment. You may end up as a professional physicist, but equally these skills are valued for a job in medicine, communications, manufacturing, teaching, journalism, public service, management, finance, and many more.

Requirements for completion

A major in Physics requires 48 credit points, consisting of:

(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level core units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iii) 18 credit points of 3000-level core units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level selective units

A minor in Physics is available and is a subset of the major.

Pathway through the major

The requirements for a major in Physics are spread out over three years of the degree (possibly four years if students are completing a combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies degree).

A sample pathway for the Physics major (over three years of a degree) is listed below.

Sample pathway: Physics major (48 credit points)



Units of study


Semester 1 or 2

Core: PHYS1001 Physics 1 (regular) or PHYS1902 Physics 1B (Advanced) or PHYS1903 Physics 1A (SSP) or PHYS1002 Physics 1 (Fundamentals)

Semester 2

Core: PHYS1003 Physics 1 (Technological) or PHYS1004 Physics 1 (Environmental and Life Science) or PHYS1902 Physics 1B (Adv) or PHYS1904 Physics 1B (SSP)


Semester 1

Core: PHYS2X11 Physics 2A

Semester 2

Core: PHYS2X12 Physics 2B


Semester 1 or 2

Core: PHYS3X51 Physics Project

Core: PHYS3X50 Physics Core A

Core: PHYS3X53 Physics Core B

Selective: 3000-level units listed for major


Please Note: This sample progression is meant as an example only. Depending on unit prerequisites, students may be able to complete these units in a different sequence from that displayed in the table above.

For details of the core and selective units of study required for the major or minor please refer to the Physics section of the unit of study table, Table S, in this handbook.

Fourth year

The fourth year is only offered within the combined Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Advanced Studies course.

Advanced Coursework
The Bachelor of Advanced Studies advanced coursework option consists of 48 credit points, which must include a minimum of 24 credit points in a single subject area such as Physics at 4000-level. That 24 credit points must include a project unit of study worth at least 12 credit points. 24 credit points of advanced study coursework units in Physics will be available in 2020.

Requirements for Honours in Physics: completion of 24 credit points of project work and 24 credit points of coursework in nominated units, of which 18 credit points must be Physics units. Note that the combined Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Advanced Studies requires two majors (one of which will be Physics) that should be completed before commencing Honours.

Honours units of study will be available in 2020.

Contact and further information

School of Physics
Physics Office, Room 210, Building A28
University of Sydney NSW 2006

Physics Student Services

T +61 2 9351 3037

Associate Professor Michael Wheatland
T +61 2 9351 5965
Learning Outcomes

1. Demonstrate a coherent understanding of the nature of Physics by:

  • Articulating how Physics uses observations of relationships between measurable quantities to create conceptual frameworks which can be used to explain, interpret and predict other observations.
  • Identifying the role of fundamental Physics concepts in a variety of different contexts.
  • Explaining the role and relevance of Physics in society and the development and application of technology.

2. Exhibit well-developed depth and breadth of scientific knowledge in Physics and in the related disciplinary area of mathematics.

3. Critically analyse physical situations by:

  • Gathering, documenting, organising, synthesising and critically evaluating information from a range of sources, both scientific and from the wider community.
  • Designing, planning, carrying out and refining a Physics experiment or investigation.
  • Selecting and critically evaluating practical, computational and/or theoretical techniques or tools in order to conduct an investigation.
  • Applying appropriate Physics concepts to the interpretation of experimental or observational data and the drawing of conclusions from that data.

4. Be effective communicators of Physics by:

  • Communicating Physics data, results and analysis, to a range of audiences, for a range of purposes, and using a variety of modes.
  • Understanding and interpreting arguments or opinions based on Physics, presented by others.

5. Be accountable for their own learning and scientific work by:

  • Being independent and self-directed learners.
  • Working effectively, responsibly and safely in an individual or team context.
  • Demonstrating an ability to manage a project based on applications of physical principles.
  • Exhibiting intellectual integrity and practising ethical conduct.