Each Part III and MASt Physics student is required to undertake a project worth about one-third of the final tripos mark. A project is aimed at investigating a topic of current interest in physics, giving an opportunity to perform original work and develop new ideas. The precise form of the project may vary from topic to topic and will be specified by the supervisor.

The various types of project work available are as follows:

Experimental Project: generally, this is an extended investigation, which is open-ended and gives considerable freedom of approach.

Theoretical Project: this is a small-scale theoretical research project, requiring an element of original theoretical development and/or computation.

Computing Project: this generally requires the writing or use of computer programs to investigate some aspect of physics. Some theoretical work is usually required as a basis for the program.

Finding a project

The project abstracts, provided by members of staff and Senior Research workers, are available on the web: see ( Students may also suggest projects of their own, but they must find a supervisor (who may be external) and the project must be approved in advance by Professor Hirst.  Students interested in a particular project should discuss it as soon as possible with the relevant supervisor. The list of projects on the web will be continuously updated to show which ones have already been taken. There will be an in person project fair outside the Pippard lecture theatre at the start of term on Tuesday 4 October 2022 from 1:00pm onwards.  Supervisors will be available to explain their projects in more detail. 

Students studying remotely will normally be restricted to theoretical or computational projects, although in some cases experimental projects may be possible, where the supervisor agrees that the project can be conducted remotely, e.g. data analysis.

Project assignment

Supervisors will offer a project to a student using the web interface Teaching Information System (TIS) and students will be asked to indicate their acceptance of the offer, via email.  In the interests of fairness both to the supervisor and to fellow students, students will not normally be allowed to change their project once they have accepted an offer.  Supervisors are asked not to make a decision on allocations until Friday 14 October 2022, at the earliest.  The deadline for students to accept a project is Friday 21 October 2022.  This time window gives students an opportunity to speak with multiple supervisors and for supervisors to find the most suitable students for their projects.


In response to student concerns, a code of practice for projects allocations has been agreed by both the Teaching Committee and the Staff-Student Consultative Committee – see below for the full version.


In all research there are possible risks associated with performing the work.  Each supervisor will indicate what the risks are associated with their experiment on the on-line project description.  Before the project starts the student will download the starting project card and electronically add their signature and send this to their supervisor who will electronically sign it and return this to the student to upload onto the TIS system. The project card will confirm that the student will be trained appropriately to cover the risks associated with the project.  No project will start until this card is uploaded onto the TIS.  The card will also list the name of the “day to day” supervisor and the laboratories in which the student will be working.   If there is a safety hazard associated with the project, then supervisors will suggest appropriate safety courses for the student to go on. The laboratory will provide these safety courses, which will be held in the Michaelmas term.  Attendance records will be taken at these lectures and no student will be allowed to start their project unless they have attended the appropriate courses. These courses include tests that should be completed before Monday 24 October 2022.

The supervisor will identify the risks associated with your project and will draft a risk assessment document related to your project work, which will contain all the information you need to know to mitigate risks.  The student will review this document and may request clarifications and offer suggestions.  Once complete the supervisor and student will electronically sign and submit them on the TIS. This must be completed before the start of experiments or before Friday 4 November 2022, whichever is the sooner.  Changes of experimental procedure during the project will require an updating of the risk assessment forms..

Where work is performed in Laboratories outside the Cavendish Laboratory, the Undergraduate Office will write to the department concerned drawing attention to the fact that one of our students will be working there to get their agreement on the project going ahead.  If for any reason a project needs to move between departments the Undergraduate Office must be informed, and the new department made aware of the arrangements.

Expected time students should spend on the project

The project workload is expected to take up one-third of your time for the year:

    Michaelmas Term: approximately one-sixth of your project time spread through the term.

    Lent Term: approximately four sixths of your time.

    Easter Term: one-sixth of your project work, at the beginning of Full Term.

Students should not devote too much time to the project to the detriment of their preparation for the examinations. Students should schedule their time carefully, and start as early as possible, so as not to conflict with preparation for exams during the vacations.

Laboratory Notebook

It is suggested that students should keep a laboratory notebook during the project, using on-line software such as OneNote for example.  This should be shared with the supervisor.  This will act as a day-to-day record of the project work and will be handed in with the project write-up.  Although the notebook will not be marked, the information in it may be used to help with the assessment of the project and will help indicate how the day to day issues that come up in the research project were dealt with. 

Progress reports

Students will be asked to complete two progress reports. At the end of the Michaelmas Term, you must submit an Initial Report (one copy; between 4 and 6 A4 pages in length).  This Initial Report should describe the project in your own words, putting the physics into context (including references to the relevant literature) and describing the goals of the project; it must also include a project plan. This report should be electronically signed by both you and your supervisor to indicate his or her agreement with the plan and should be uploaded onto the TIS by Friday 2 December 2022 by the student. A copy of the Initial Report will be retained by the Undergraduate Office and forwarded to the assessor in Easter Term – failure to submit an Initial Report will result in the loss of 5% of the available project marks. The second report is a simple “tick box” form, which can be downloaded from the TIS during week three of the Lent term. This will invite you to report any problems with your project, and to confirm that a presentation has been scheduled.  The form should be uploaded to the TIS by Wednesday8  February 2023. The second report will not form part of any assessment but will allow any problems to be identified by Professor Hirst well before the time the project has to be handed in.

It is very important that students bring any unforeseen delays or other problems with their projects to Professor Hirst’s attention at the earliest possible opportunity. The earlier such problems are addressed, the more chance there is of taking suitable remedial action.

Supervisions and presentation

Supervisors should be academic staff members or have a position that allows them to supervise PhD or Master’s Students this includes University Teaching Officers, Directors of research, Senior Research Associates and University Research Fellows.  If you are unsure about your eligiblitiy, please contact the Part III Project coordinator.  Supervisors may delegate some of the day-to-day supervision to members of their group, but supervisors will be available to mark projects and attend project vivas between the dates of project submission and the project assessors meeting in early June.  Supervisors should offer up to six supervisions on the project. One of these should be in the form of a presentation of preliminary project results; either to the supervisor’s research group (strongly encouraged) or to a small group of six project students and supervisors. It is expected that supervisors will organise these presentations in about the seventh week of the Lent term, (or later, perhaps even at the very start of the Easter term, if mutually acceptable). Students will receive feedback on the content and presentation of their projects from the supervisors and others present, which should help them with their project viva. This form of presentation is aimed at developing communication and presentational skills. Failure to give this presentation will result in the loss of 5% of the available marks for the project.

The project write-up

The project should usually be presented in the style of a paper published in a scientific journal. The main text (excluding appendices and abstract) should be concise (20–30 pages, 5000 words maximum (excluding references)). The text should describe and explain the main features of the project, the methods used, results, discussion and conclusions, and should be properly referenced. Detailed measurement records, calculations, programs, etc. should be included as appendices.  In addition, there must be an abstract of at most 500 words.

This final write-up is an important part of the project and must be the student's own work. A lecture on Project report writing will be given on Tuesday 24 January 2023 at 4:00pm in the Small Lecture Theatre.  Once the majority of the research work has been completed, the student and supervisor should discuss the general structure and content of the report before writing is started.  Thereafter, the student must write the final report without advice on the report from the supervisor, although discussion of the scientific results is allowed during this period. A set of handy tips and information is given in the booklet entitled Keeping Laboratory Notes and Writing Formal Reports (

Submission of the project

The deadline for submission of the project is:

4:00 pm on the third Monday of Easter Full Term (15 May 2023)

A request for a delay in the hand-in date of your project report due to illness must go through your Director of Studies and then be agreed by the Applications Committee.  Treat this deadline like you would an exam date.

The project report should be submitted as a pdf file to the TIS before the submission deadline.  A link to your on-line notebook should also be added to the first page of your report before uploading the project.

To preserve anonymity when your project is looked at by the Part III examiners, your name must not appear on the project report itself.  You should ensure that your candidate number appears on the first page of your project, together with the title of the project and your supervisor’s name.

Your project report should contain the following statement on the first page of the project: Except where specific reference is made to the work of others, this work is original and has not been already submitted either wholly or in part to satisfy any degree requirement at this or any other university.


As a result of a case of plagiarism in a Part III project a few years ago, your project may be checked for plagiarism using the Turnitin system.  This system will only be used if the assessor or supervisor has identified what looks like plagiarism in part of the project write-up.  The project coordinator may then submit that project to the Turnitin system.  The department's statement on plagiarism can be found at

The lecture on how to write up your report given in the Lent term will also cover advice on how to properly cite the work of others.

Project Assessment

As soon as possible after submission, the project will be assessed by two people, normally the supervisor and another staff member (the assessor), who will conduct an informal oral examination (viva) of the student on the project work. The assessor, who will be appointed by the Teaching Committee, will not usually be a specialist in the field. The student will be asked to present a short verbal summary, normally uninterrupted, of the project during the interview. The use of e.g. PowerPoint slides during the summary is acceptable. Students should expect to be contacted by their supervisor shortly after handing their project in, to arrange the oral examination.  Students should be available to attend their project viva from the submission date to the end of May.

The supervisor and assessor will write separate reports plus a joint report to the Part III Examiners and will recommend a mark. These marks are not necessarily final and may be amended by the examiners, who also look at the projects.  The marks and reports will be handed in by the end of May at the latest.

The following guidelines for allocation of marks to Part III Projects will be given to assessors.

Research Skills (37.5%):  How carefully and accurately was the work planned and performed?  Did the student make appropriate use of available facilities, including the literature?  Did the student show an appreciation of the errors or other limiting factors?

Scientific content (25%):  How much appropriate understanding of science (particularly physics) was shown?

Communication skills - report (18.75%):  Was the report well written and clearly organised, with clear and well-balanced arguments, appropriate use of figures, tables and references etc?

Communication skills - viva (18.75%):  Was the student able to summarasie the work and respond choherently to questions?

After the oral examination, the assessors will return their report and recommended marks. .

If there are any questions about these arrangements contact Professor Louise Hirst, in the Mott Building, Room 358B, telephone 37483, e-mail

Further information:

Allocation of Projects

In response to concerns about the transparency of the project allocation process, the following text has been approved by the Teaching Committee and the Staff Student Consultative Committee. Project supervisors are enjoined to act within the spirit of the following code.

Code of Practice for allocation of Part III Projects

Part III Projects cover the full range of research in Physics, involving analytical, experimental and computational work in various proportions. They may involve working in research groups either in the Department of Physics or elsewhere in the University.  Part III projects are often closely linked to the supervisor’s own research and may result in single or joint publication. Unlike Part II Research Reviews, the successful conclusion of a project requires a reasonable match between the skills and interests of the student and those required by the project. It is reasonable that the project supervisor should be the judge of these: it is not therefore appropriate to assign projects by a general lottery, for example.

Supervisors are, however, asked to ensure fair play in the allocation process. This requires that the requisite skills be fully advertised in the project abstract and that the supervisor should be prepared to discuss the project with all students who make serious inquiries. They should also keep an open mind until the end of the consultation period and should then make and announce a decision as quickly as possible, to avoid keeping students “on a string”. If more than one student indicates serious interest, the supervisor should make clear how he or she intends to make the allocation – in some cases, this might be as simple as drawing names from a hat, while for an analytical project closely tied to the supervisor’s research project, it might be on the basis of performance in TP1 and/or TP2 in the previous year. The essential point is that whatever method is used should be seen to be appropriate and fair, should be clear to the students, and should be settled expeditiously once the system opens to allocations. Students can then make a reasonable guess at their chances and can pursue such other projects as they wish.

Supervisors may create projects expressly for a particular student and are encouraged to do so (either in response to the student’s initiative in proposing the project or in response to strong demand). However, such projects should not be advertised to the class via the web but should be flagged as “hidden” or “inactive” until allocated. As well as not raising false hopes, this will also avoid having to answer unwanted inquiries.

Out of fairness to supervisors, students are not normally allowed to change projects once they have been allocated one and have accepted it. This places an additional responsibility on supervisors to ensure a fair, transparent, and efficient allocation.

Further Health and Safety considerations

Supervisors should always discuss safety aspects of their projects with the students concerned, mentioning potential hazards and procedures with which students may not be familiar. Supervisors should ensure that the student has read and understood the relevant risk assessments for the activities to be carried out.  For new activities, risk assessments should be carried out by the supervisor in consultation with the student. For safety reasons, students must at all times remain within shouting distance of help, and, if performing an experiment, They are only allowed to work on experiments in the Department outside normal lab hours in exceptional circumstances, by prior arrangement with the supervisor, and with the approval of the Departmental Safety Officer and the Head of Department. Supervisors must ensure that students are aware of general and experiment-related emergency procedures. By accepting the project, students are indicating their agreement to abide by these and other safety rules.

Dr Louise HirstCoordinator
Course section:

Search for Abstracts: Projects

Academic year:
Project type
Show only unallocated projects