PHYSICS 356 : Particle Physics and Astrophysics


2020 Semester Two (1205) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Particle physics topics covered will include relativistic dynamics and application to fundamental particle interactions, the properties of strong, weak and electromagnetic interactions and the particle zoo. Astrophysics topics will include some of the following: the Big Bang, "concordance cosmology", redshifts, theories of dark matter, extra-solar planets, stellar evolution, supernovae, gravitational wave sources, nuclear astrophysics and the origin of the elements.

Course Overview

This course is an introduction to particle physics and astrophysics for students who have completed the core second year physics courses. Particle physics topics will include relativistic dynamics and application to fundamental particle interactions, the properties of strong, weak and electromagnetic interactions and the particle zoo. Astrophysics topics will include: the Big Bang nucleosynthesis, stellar nucleosynthesis,  gravitational microlensing and gravitational wave events. This course is suitable for students who wish to know more about the fundamental constituents of the Universe. It is a prerequisite for PHYSICS 753 and is required that students have undertaken PHYSICS 201, 202 and 203. It is recommended that students have also taken PHYSICS 107.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: 15 points from PHYSICS 201, 231, 15 points from PHYSICS 203, 251 and 15 points from PHYSICS 211, MATHS 253, 260, ENGSCI 211 Concurrent enrolment in PHYSICS 390 is recommended Restriction: PHYSICS 355

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Explain and critically evaluate our understanding of the strong, weak and electromagnetic forces in the Standard Model of Particle Physics (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  2. Perform calculations in particle physics using relativistic four vectors, and Feynman diagrams (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  3. Describe the main methods for detecting exoplanets (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  4. Discuss the derivation, from first principles, of the basic equations relating to planet habitability (Capability 1, 2 and 3)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Final Exam 55% Individual Examination
Assignments 45% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4
Final Exam
There are three 15% assignments. The first is on particle physics, the second is half particle physics and half astrophysics, and the third is on astrophysics.

Learning Resources

The Learning resources are books and research articles available online through Talis 

Special Requirements


Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 3 hours of lectures, 4 hours of reading and thinking about the content, and 3 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation per week.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website at

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page:

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter (


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 09/07/2020 03:11 p.m.