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For Clients

Aims of the Course

The module aims to:

  • Give students an insight into real research
  • Help students gain a better understanding of the needs of industry
  • To give students experience in teamwork and project management
  • To encourage self-assessment
  • To improve communication skills

How They Work

The projects are open to all 3rd year students in Physics, on either the 3-year BSc Physics/Physics & Astronomy or the 4-year MPhys Physics/Physics & Astronomy/Theoretical Physics courses. Students undertake the project in either the Michaelmas term (October-December) or the Epiphany term (January-March/April).


Teams consist of 4-6 students grouped together by the course organiser. Each student is expected to work on the project for 9 hours per week for 8 weeks. Students are required to meet together on a regular basis and to keep minutes of those meetings.


Student teams meet with their client at the beginning of the project and provide an oral presentation and a copy of their report to their client at the end. If the project has required that they build a piece of equipment, this is normally provided to the client as well.

…the team gave a great presentation and seemed really enthusiastic about the project which was great. My colleagues were really impressed with their work.

Owen Jones

The students are provided with a staff consultant from the Physics Department, whose role is to facilitate the project and also to assess the students' work. They are also provided with lab space, computers and some basic laboratory equipment, plus a small budget of £200-300 for the purchase of equipment and consumables and (if necessary) extra travel.


Input Needed From Clients

  • Provide a short (~1 page of A4) brief for the students to read before starting the project.
  • Meet with the students at the start of their project (October or January), ideally at your place of work.
  • If necessary, lend the students specialised equipment.
  • Be prepared to answer e-mail queries from the students, and perhaps to undertake a mid-project review.
  • Listen to the students' final presentations, either at the Physics Department in Durham or at your place of work.
  • Read the students' final report and provide feedback for the academic staff member marking the project.

Typical Projects We Look For

We are looking for real projects rather than just exercises – projects that clients would really like an answer, but perhaps haven’t the time, resources, or expertise to pursue. They can be blue sky projects on which some preliminary investigation is required, testing of new devices or materials, investigation of curious phenomena observed in the development laboratories, or simply questions for which a fresh perspective might be helpful. Quite often, students are working with clients who have no physics expertise in-house, but who have a problem which clearly needs some physics input.

This has been a fruitful project for me in that the final report gives me clear conclusions which I can pass on to my team for future reference.

Peter Luke
Cleveland Cascades

Some examples of previous projects, with selected case studies, can be found here.



Team Projects can be an effective way of performing a preliminary investigation, getting equipment or software produced, or even finding a solution to a niggling problem. However, clients should be aware that their teams consist of students, and they often have differing strengths, motivation, and skillsets coming into the project. Although the teams generally perform well—often well above their previous performance in their course—there is no guarantee that an answer to the problem will be forthcoming.


In addition, sometimes a team makes excellent progress towards a solution, but there is not enough time to finish the project in the course of a single term. In those cases, we often run a ‘follow-up’ project in the next available term with a different team of students.


Contact Details

Prof. Del Atkinson

Phone: 0191 334 3592


Postal: Department of Physics, Durham University, Science Laboratories, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE.