Information for students and supervisors

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.

The various types of project work available are as follows:

Experimental Project: generally, this is a laboratory-based project, working hands-on with experimental apparatus.

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.

1. Finding a project

1.1 Supervisor led abstract submissions: Members of staff and senior researchers upload project abstracts to TIS: see ( This list will be made available to students at the start of term. Students should contact prospective supervisors via email and/or at the project fair, which will be held outside the Pippard lecture theatre on Tuesday 3rd  October 2023 from 2:00pm onwards. When contacting supervisors via email it is recommended that students include a 1 page CV detailing any prior project or research experience and their transcript. Students and supervisors should arrange for further discussions and lab tours (where applicable). Some supervisors may arrange structured interviews, while others may suggest an informal discussion. Students should be mindful that supervisor preference is also taken into account during project allocation and should be prepared to answer questions about their suitability for the project.

1.2 Co-developed abstract submissions: It is anticipated that most students will opt for a supervisor led abstract submission however, students with a specific project idea/theme in mind have the option to co-develop a project abstract. Student should contact prospective supervisors directly to discuss this option. Supervisors should upload co-developed projects on TIS by Friday 6th October. These projects will not be made visible to the whole cohort. Students are permitted to co-develop project abstracts with prospective supervisors who are external to the University of Cambridge where a strong case is presented. Supervisor and project eligibility will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the part III projects coordinator (Prof. Hirst). See section 13.3 Who can be a supervisor. In these cases, the student will also need to identify an internal adviser, which could be a collaborator of the external supervisor, or someone known to the student, for example a college supervisor.

2. Submitting preferences and project allocation:

2.1 Supervisor led abstract submissions: Between Tuesday 10th - Wednesday 11th October by 4:00pm students will be invited to submit a ranked list of three to five projects. It is essential that students contact supervisors in advance to express an interest in all the projects on their preference list. Supervisors will also be invited to submit a ranked list of students during this time period. Supervisors should rank all students who have expressed an interest in the project and whom they would be willing to supervise. The teaching office will then match students with projects based on the student and supervisor lists:

(i) Matches will only be made between pairings where the project is on the students ranked list and student is on the supervisors ranked list for that specific project.

(ii) Mutual first choice pairings will always be matched i.e. a student will always be matched with their first-choice project if the supervisor also ranks the student first for that specific project.

(iii) As a result of the student/supervisor discussions that take place prior to preference submission, it is anticipated that matching across the whole cohort will be achieved within a single cycle, however, it is possible that additional rounds of matching will be required in a few cases.

(iv) Supervisors will not be required to accept a student on a project where they feel it is not a good match and will not result in a successful project outcome.

2.2 Co-developed abstract submissions: Students and supervisors should confirm via email that they are happy for a co-developed project to proceed, after which the supervisor should allocate this project to the student directly on TIS by Monday 9th October. Supervisors must not directly allocate students to projects which were advertised to the whole cohort or without clear confirmation from the student.

3. Safety

The supervisor will identify the risks associated with the project, these should be indicated during the abstract submission. After project allocation supervisors should advise students of any required safety courses. The laboratory will provide safety courses, which will be held in the Michaelmas term and attendance records will be taken. For all projects with an experimental component based in a laboratory, or projects which include travel and/or a field research component, the supervisor must draft a risk assessment, which will contain all the information needed to mitigate risks, with the student. The drafting of this document should be undertaken jointly, to give the student the opportunity to ask for clarifications and offer suggestions.  Once complete the supervisor and student will electronically sign the document and the student submits on TIS. This must be completed before the start of any experimental work or before Friday 27th October 2023, whichever is the sooner. Changes of experimental procedure during the project will require an updated risk assessment form. Updated versions do not need to be uploaded to TIS.

Risk assessment template documents can be found here.

Where work is performed in laboratories outside the Cavendish Laboratory, the supervisor must inform that department, following their local visitor or facility access procedures and ensure any local requirements for safety training are followed. If for any reason a project needs to move between departments the Physics Undergraduate Office must be informed.

4. Workload

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 until the project report submission date.

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.

5. Laboratory Notebook

It is highly recommended that students keep a laboratory notebook during the project, using on-line software such as OneNote for example. This will act as a day-to-day record of the project work. This should be shared with the supervisor and a link to this document should be placed at the top of the report.  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 day-to-day issues were dealt with.

6. Progress monitoring

6.1 Problems: At any point during their project, if a student encounters unforeseen delays or other issues which are preventing them from progressing with their projects they should consult with their supervisor at the earliest opportunity. Alternatively, students can contact the teaching office and the part III projects coordinator directly. Addressing issues earlier on can allow time for suitable remedial action.

6.2. Progress report: Students will be asked to complete a progress report at the end of Michaelmas Term. This initial Report (between 4 and 6 A4 pages in length) should describe the project in their 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 the student and the supervisor to indicate their agreement with the plan and should be uploaded by the student onto the TIS by Friday 1st December 2023. Failure to submit an Initial Report will result in the loss of 5% of the available project marks.

6.3. Presentation: Students are required to deliver a small group presentation, of preliminary project results; either to the supervisor’s research group (strongly encouraged) or to a small group of around 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 report and 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.

7. The project write-up

The project should usually be presented in the style of a paper published in a scientific journal. The main text should be concise (20–30 pages, 5000 words maximum. Abstract, appendices and references not included in the word count. The abstract should be 500 words at most. 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.

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 at the start of Lent term.  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: 

8. Submission of the final project report

The deadline for submission of the project is:

4:00 pm on the third Monday of Easter Full Term (13th May 2024)

Late submission will delay the assessment process, which may delay student graduation. Requests for extensions to the submission deadline of more than seven days must go through the student’s Director of Studies and then be agreed by the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee.

The project report should be submitted as a pdf file to TIS before the submission deadline. A link to the student’s on-line notebook is also provided at the top of the report.

To preserve anonymity in case the report is checked by the Part III examiners, the students name must not appear on the project report itself.  The student should ensure that their candidate number appears on the first page of the project, together with the title of the project and the supervisor’s name. 

The 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.

9. Plagiarism

Project reports may be checked for plagiarism using the Turnitin system.  The department's statement on plagiarism can be found at

Content produced by AI platforms, such as ChatGPT, does not represent the student’s own original work so would be considered a form of academic misconduct. The University statement can be found here:

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.

Students are permitted to use text and figures they prepared for their Michaelmas progress report within their final report. This is not considered plagiarism.

10. 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 oral examination (viva) of the student on the project work. The assessor, who will be appointed by the Director of Undergraduate Education, 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 submitting their project report, 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 summarise the work and respond coherently to questions?

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

If there are any questions about these arrangements please contact the part III projects coordinator, Prof. Louise Hirst (

12. Timetable

Before the start of term

Students can be researching prospective areas of study for their part III project and can approach prospective supervisors if they are interested in co-developing a project abstract.

Early September

Call for supervisor led projects abstracts opens

Friday 29th September 2023

Deadline for supervisors to upload projects to TIS. Co-developed projects with students will still be accepted

Monday 2nd October 2023

Project list goes live on TIS. Students should start contacting prospective supervisors to express an interest in projects

Tuesday 3rd October

Project fair

Tuesday 3rd – Monday 9th October 2023

Consultation period - student/supervisor discussions, lab visits, interviews

Friday 6th October 2023

Deadline for co-developed project abstract uploads

Monday 9th October 2023

Deadline for supervisors to allocate students directly to co-developed projects

Tuesday 10th – Wednesday 11th 2023

Students and supervisors are invited to submit preferences

Friday 13th October 2023

Students and supervisors receive allocations and project discussions can begin.

After allocation

Supervisors advise of safety courses and prepare risk assessments with the student as required.

Friday 27th October 2023

Deadline for students to upload a risk assessment (where required). Risk assessments must be signed prior to starting any laboratory work.

Friday 1st December 2023

Deadline for students to upload progress report, signed by supervisor. %5 mark deduction for non-submission

Lent term, or early Easter term

Small group presentation. %5 mark deduction for not giving a presentation.

Monday 13th May at 4pm 2024

Final report submission deadline

Final three weeks of May

Report and viva assessment


13. Additional Information for supervisors:

13.1 Supervisions and expenses: Up to twelve supervisions can be claimed on camCORS per project. These can be divided between supervisors and daily supervisors. Research expenses are not provided for projects as standard, although hardship cases may be supported in some instances via the teaching office.

13.2 Assessment: Supervisors also contribute to assessment of their projects (report and viva), along with a assessor appointed by the department. This task cannot be delegated, and supervisors must ensure they will have sufficient availability to assess their projects in the final three weeks of May, following the project report submissions.

13.3 Who can be a supervisor: 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. Researchers with different types of fellowship or research position who would like to offer part III projects, should contact the part III projects coordinator providing a brief CV and specific details of prior research project supervision experience. In some cases, researchers with less project supervision experience may propose projects jointly with other academics.

The part III projects coordinator reserves the right to decline projects.

13.4 External Supervisors: Students are permitted to co-develop projects with supervisors who are external to the University of Cambridge. In these cases, an internal adviser would usually be sought, which maybe a collaborator of the supervisor or someone known to the student. The role of the adviser is to contact the student at least once per term to confirm that the work being undertaken fits with the requirements of our degree programme. 

13.5 Dignity at work:  Supervisors should be familiar with our dignity at work policy:

There is no place for bullying, harassment, discrimination, sexual misconduct, or victimisation in our community.




Dr Louise HirstCoordinator
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