Department of Physics


Stage I courses


We offer a wide range of Stage One courses letting you choose a programme that matches your background and goals.

Advancing first-year physics courses

The key Stage I physics courses are PHYSICS 120: Advancing Physics 1 and PHYSICS 121: Advancing Physics 2. These courses assume students have mastered Level 3 NCEA physics and mathematics with calculus (or equivalent international qualifications).

PHYSICS 120 and 121 are studio format courses, with three two-hour sessions a week that blend hands-on problem solving, laboratory exercises and information delivery. Studio physics helps improve learning outcomes for all students and gives a fantastic foundation for university study in physics.

PHYSICS 121 is the 'gateway' to Stage II physics and a prerequisite for most our 200 level courses. Students can take PHYSICS 121 after PHYSICS 160, which is part of the Biomedical Common Year. Students with exceptional High School results may enroll directly into PHYSICS 121 – consult the Department for advice if you are considering this pathway.

Students intending to take Stage Two physics will need to take MATHS 108 (or 150) and MATHS 208 (or 250).

 

Biomedical Common Year

If you are in the biological and health sciences, PHYSICS 160: Physics for the Life Sciences will be a key part of your Stage I programme. This course is taught in collaboration with the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and focuses on physical principles that are key to understanding biological systems. Students in PHYSICS 160 should have ideally mastered Level 2 NCEA Physics and Mathematics (or equivalent international qualifications).

The key concepts taught in PHYSICS 160 broadly overlap with PHYSICS 120; students who pass PHYSICS 160 can enroll in PHYSICS 121 and then proceed to to Stage Two.

 

Preparation

PHYSICS 102: Basic Concepts of Physics is for students who have not previously studied physics to a level that will let them confidently enroll in PHYSICS 120 or 160. A pass in PHYSICS 102 along with suitable mathematics courses (MATHS 102 or 108), will prepare students to enroll in PHYSICS 120 or PHYSICS 160.

 

Electronics and Computer Science

PHYSICS 140: Digital Fundamentals is a practical starting point for students wishing to learn about the electronics behind digital systems. It has a strong hands-on laboratory component.

 

Astronomy and Astrophysics

PHYSICS 107/107G: Planets, Stars and Galaxies is a survey of modern astronomy accessible to all students, and assumes no background in physics or mathematics. This course provides an overview of the stunning discoveries that are reshaping our understanding of the universe, starting with the solar system and ending with large-scale cosmology.

Students interested in advanced study in astronomy and astrophysics should enroll in PHYSICS 120/121.

PHYSICS 102: Basic Concepts of Physics


An introduction to the basic principles of physics. Key topics are the physical description of motion, electricity and magnetism. The course focuses on the science of everyday phenomena and the understanding of important physical concepts. This course will equip students with little prior knowledge of physics to succeed in PHYSICS 120 or PHYSICS 160.

Restriction: PHYSICS 91F, 92F, 91P, 103

Course Coordinator: Peter Wills

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PHYSICS 107/107G: Planets, Stars and Galaxies


This course tells the story of our place in the Universe. Key topics are the exploration of the solar system, searches for planets around other stars, the structure and evolution of stars and galaxies, high-energy astrophysics, and the origin and overall properties of the Universe. The course welcomes all students; no background in physics or mathematics is assumed.

Course Coordinator: Nick Rattenbury

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PHYSICS 120: Advancing Physics 1


This is a core course for students progressing in physical science. Key topics are mechanics, electrostatics, optics, energy, and thermodynamics. This is a calculus based course, focussing on fundamental principles, problem solving and hands-on exercises. Students should have passed NCEA Level 3 (or equivalent, including PHYSICS 102) Physics and Mathematics.

Restriction: PHYSICS 160

Course Coordinator: Kathleen Foote

Course Outline: Physics 120 Advancing Physics

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PHYSICS 121: Advancing Physics 2


This is a core course for students progressing in physical science. Key topics are rotational motion, electromagnetism, circuits, relativity and quantum mechanics. This is a calculus based course, focussing on fundamental principles, problem solving and hands-on exercises. Students should have passed PHYSICS 120 or 160, or have exceptional results in NCEA Level 3 Physics and Mathematics, or equivalent.

Restriction: PHYSICS 150

Course Coordinator: Scott Parkins (Semester 1), Mark Conway (Semester 2)

Course Outline: Physics 121 Advancing Physics 2

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PHYSICS 140: Digital Fundamentals


This course provides an introduction to the physical basis of modern computing for Computer Science students and anyone with an interest in modern Information Technology. Key topics are Boolean Algebra, logic circuits, and digital information processing. Hands-on laboratory work is a key component of the course. No prior electronics or programming knowledge is assumed.

Restriction: PHYSICS 219, 243

Course Coordinator: David Krofcheck

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PHYSICS 160: Physics for the Life Sciences


Designed for students intending to advance in the biomedical and life sciences, this course is focussed on physical principles relevant to biological systems. Key topics are motion, waves, thermal physics, electricity and instrumentation. The course is primarily algebra-based and includes lectures, laboratories and tutorials. Students should have NCEA Level 2 Physics and Mathematics, or equivalent.

Restriction: PHYSICS 120

Course Coordinator: Mark Conway

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Stage I Laboratories


PHYSICS 120 and 121 are 'studio' courses with three two-hour sessions a week that blend hands-on problem solving, laboratory exercises and information delivery.

PHYSICS 107, PHYSICS 140, and PHYSICS 160 have a laboratory component as well as lectures. Students must attend the laboratory stream to which they are assigned. Students in PHYSICS 140 and 160 must pass the laboratory component of the course in order to pass the course itself.

Laboratory Organiser: Anna Yang

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