Coping with the Physics Course at NUS
The Physics Society would like to compile some strategies in studying Physics so that it will enhance your learning experience in NUS. We hope some of them are useful for you so that you can gain the most from the courses.
(a) Talk to your seniors
Your seniors are always one of the best sources of information about the things at NUS. They will be more than glad to share their experiences with you, therefore do make some efforts in knowing some of your seniors. If the senior you talk to don’t
know the answer to your questions, they may know somebody who knows. They may also help you in your physics assignments and recommend you which modules to take in the future.
How to know your seniors?
- Your lab demonstrator for your Year 1 labs
- Come for Physics Society Orientation, Annual General Meeting, Physics Society activities (Staff and Student Games, Festival celebrations)
Consult your professors
Most of the physics professors are very friendly and student-oriented. Don’t be afraid and just send them an email to make an appointment with them if you have any doubts in your course materials. If not, just spend some time going to their office and knock on their doors. Make your own initiative and we are sure you will benefit a lot. It’s not restricted to talk about course materials (though usually that’s the case), you
can also ask them about their research and their lives besides spending time in physics labs.
(c) Crashing into physics lectures
The first 2 weeks of every semester are always lecture weeks, most tutorials will
start in week 3, but definitely there are some modules have tutorials starting in week
2. You may consider crashing into higher level physics lectures if you have the free
time. This will give you an impression on how the higher level physics modules are
being conducted. By doing this, you will have an idea on what physics electives to
take in the future.
(d) Get yourself a study group
We believe study in groups is efficient and beneficial. Study groups will make your
life easier on tutorial problems as well as online assignments. You will be able to
understand the material better through discussions. You will also get to know more
of your fellow physics majors. As to where you can study together, Science Library
and Central Library are quite good. If you don’t like the libraries, you may consider
study inside the teaching labs or outside the teaching labs as there are study
(e) Learn your mathematics well and remember them
We cannot stress enough the importance of mathematics in the learning of physics.
The mathematical techniques in solving physics problems are crucial in modules like
quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism etc. The 2 engineering mathematics
modules (MA1505 and MA1506) are used to prepare you with the mathematical
foundations for future physics courses. Make sure you learn them well and
remember the solving techniques, they will help you a lot in the future.
It’s true that the professors will teach new mathematics throughout the courses,
these are also important things to remember as there is always a reason as to why
certain physics problems are being solved in this manner. Do try your best to
understand the solving technique, and use them in your future physics modules. You
don’t know when you will find it handy.
Of course, the 2 engineering mathematics modules are not enough, especially if you
are interested in theoretical physics. The Physics department has 2 more modules
on mathematical techniques, do take them if you are going to do string theory or
cosmology. If you think it’s still not enough, go and check out the modules offered by
the Mathematics department, I am sure you can find modules which suit you the best.
(f) Problem solving strategy
Develop some problem solving strategy during your course of study, so that you will
have an easier life when it comes to tutorials and exams. As to how you can develop
it, we have actually found some good references for you all to read up. We hope it
can benefit you a lot!
(g) Practice past year papers
You can always access the past year papers for your modules from the NUS Library
website by just logging in. It is a good way to prepare for your final exams. However,
if the professor for the class has changed, the final may look different from the past
years. Nonetheless, it gives you a good opportunity to practice.
The Physics Society has kept an archive
of the solutions for the past year papers, prepared by kind and helpful seniors in the committee. The solutions for core modules will usually be uploaded onto the Physics Society website a few weeks
before the exams and you all can download it for free. However, solutions to the
elective modules may not be complete and we welcome contributions from anybody
who have taken the elective modules.
Computers have become part of our lives, and so do physicists’ lives. Theoretical
physicists use them to do modeling and simulations, while experimentalists perform
data analysis to generate meaningful results. If you have some programming
background, you will be highly sought after by the professors, especially those who
are doing modeling and simulations. But don’t fret if you are interested in doing
experiments, you can write some simple software to save the time for taking
measurement, which is something useful for the research group. If you want to learn
some programming language during your undergraduate years, you can always
check the modules offered by School of Computing (SoC), they have modules on C
language, C++, Java etc.
However, physicists don’t restrict themselves to these programming languages only.
They also utilize good mathematical software such as MatLab and Mathematica. If
you happen to know how to use them, that’s a good news to both the professor and
you. As the professor will want you to utilize what you know to help them, and it will
help you to secure a temporary job during the holidays. If you don’t know what they
are, don’t worry, try to ask around the teaching assistants and graduate students,
they may have a copy for you so that you can start to play around with them. Once
you are familiarized with them, it will give you further advantage during your research,
as well as your graduate studies and future career.
This is a question that will present in those minds who are interested. If you are
interested in taking up UROPS, just check your NUS email regularly (at least once a
day) to take note of the registration deadlines. If not, you can consider taking up
temporary jobs during the 3 months holidays (May – July), you can earn rather good
money during that time.
However, you must know that opportunities to do research are always there, you
need to take your own initiative to get involved. One thing you can be sure is that
there are professors who are willing to hire students, and they are waiting for you to
approach them, so just make your presence known to them.
Here are some tips we would like to offer:
(i) Talk to professors
This has been proven to be the most effective method to make your presence known
to them. If you want to work with your lecturer, just drop them an email to introduce
yourself, make an appointment with them and knock on their office doors to let them
know you are interested. Don’t be shy to ask them whether they have temporary
positions for you or not. If you want to know where their offices are, you can always
check the physics departmental website.
(ii) Talk to honours year students
Your year 1 lab demonstrators are mostly honours year students and they will be
doing an honours year project. Their projects could be theoretical, experimental or
computational. You can be a bit busybody by asking them what they are doing, and
from there you will know more about the research areas in our department.
(iii) Attend departmental seminars
Check out the notices that are put up on the notice board outside the lift of block S13
level 2. The information on upcoming departmental seminars will be put up there.
You can always make a quick trip and have a good look at the notices put up there,
you may find something that interests you. Make sure you don’t miss it, as our
upcoming events will be put up there as well.
(iv) Approach your tutors
Your tutors will mostly be physics majors graduated from NUS, so they are also a
good source of such information. It is highly possible that they are doing a part time
master as well. Being a curious physics major, you should find out more about what
their project are. They may have some good suggestions for you, and you can heed
(v) Consult your academic mentor
Every physics major will have an assigned academic mentor. Do make your initiative
to send an email to them to make an appointment with him. He could be able to
suggest to you which professor you can work under if you are interested to do
Some of you may be interested in doing internship, and there are opportunities to do
so. The Physics department or the Physics Society will send out emails to every 2nd
and 3rd year physics majors in the 2nd semester, regarding the chances to do
Data Storage Institute (DSI) and Institute of Materials Research and Engineering
(IMRE) are two research institutes under A-STAR which will provide internships for
physics majors. They will send an email to the department when they are in need of
interns, and then the department will disseminate the information via email to all 2nd
and 3rd year physics majors. So if you are interested, prepare a resume and send to