• Class Number 3336
  • Term Code 3430
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof Adrian Sheppard
    • Prof Adrian Sheppard
    • Dr Lan Fu
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 19/02/2024
  • Class End Date 24/05/2024
  • Census Date 05/04/2024
  • Last Date to Enrol 26/02/2024
    • Jordan McMahon
SELT Survey Results

Thermal physics deals with collections of large numbers of individual particles such as the air in a balloon, water in a lake, electrons in a chunk of metal and photons emitted from the sun. Many properties of these collections are independent of atomic details: examples are the direction of heat flow, that liquids more readily boil at lower pressure, and that the maximum efficiency of an engine depends upon temperature range and not the working fluid and the set of principles that govern these generic properties is referred to as classical thermodynamics. Other properties do depend upon atomic details - the framework by which we relate the quantum behaviour of one individual particle and to properties of a collection of large number of these particles is referred to as statistical mechanics. From understanding the greenhouse effect to the blackbody radiation left over from the Big Bang, no other physical theory is used more widely through out science than thermal physics.

This course provides an introduction to classical thermodynamics, with applications in materials science & engineering and earth science, as well as statistical thermodynamics, with applications in solid state physics and astrophysics.

Note: Graduate students attend joint classes with undergraduates but are assessed separately.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Identify, critically analyse and describe the statistical nature of concepts and laws in thermodynamics, in particular: entropy, temperature, chemical potential, free energies, partition functions.
  2. Expertly use statistical physics methods, such as Boltzmann distribution, Gibbs distribution, Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein distributions to solve complex problems in physical systems.
  3. Apply at an advanced level the concepts and principles of black-body radiation to analyze radiation phenomena in thermodynamic systems.
  4. Apply at an advanced level the concepts and laws of thermodynamics to solve problems in thermodynamic systems such as gases, heat engines and refrigerators etc.
  5. Critically analyze phase equilibrium condition and identify types of phase transitions of physical systems.
  6. Identify, critically analyse and transmit knowledge about the connections between thermal physics and various branches of physics.
  7. Demonstrate autonomy and expert judgement in the design, construction and execution of experiment and/or theoretical investigation; analysing data and explaining any errors; and comparing with theoretical predictions.
  8. Use Mathematica; Python, ANU's MakerSpace, Arduino microprocessors & sensors, tools for generating scientific figures/illustrations; generate/analyse data, and compare with and complete a MakerSpace project and an analysis and report of an MD simulation.

Required Resources

  • An Introduction to Thermal Physics" by Daniel Schroeder, Addison-Wesley, 422 p. (Beware that some paperback versions are missing >60 pages)
  • A device (laptop, smartphone, iPad) that will allow you to access Wattle pages during our workshop and take quizzes. Laptop should have Mathematica (refer to the PHYS6020 Wattle page for download instructions).

Recommended student system requirements 

ANU courses commonly use a number of online resources and activities including:

  • video material, similar to YouTube, for lectures and other instruction
  • two-way video conferencing for interactive learning
  • email and other messaging tools for communication
  • interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities
  • print and photo/scan for handwritten work
  • home-based assessment.

To fully participate in ANU learning, students need:

  • A computer or laptop. Mobile devices may work well but in some situations a computer/laptop may be more appropriate.
  • Webcam
  • Speakers and a microphone (e.g. headset)
  • Reliable, stable internet connection. Broadband recommended. If using a mobile network or wi-fi then check performance is adequate.
  • Suitable location with minimal interruptions and adequate privacy for classes and assessments.
  • Printing, and photo/scanning equipment

For more information please see https://www.anu.edu.au/students/systems/recommended-student-system-requirements

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • Weekly quiz feedback (on Wattle, with partial to full solutions)
  • Weekly homework feedback (on Wattle, personalised marking with solutions)
  • Project Report (on Wattle, personalised marking)
  • Mid-Term Exam (by appointment with Convenor)
  • Second Year Laboratory convenor will provide feedback on laboratory reports.

Students will be able to track their assessment progress on the Wattle grade book.

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). Feedback can also be provided to Course Conveners and teachers via the Student Experience of Learning & Teaching (SELT) feedback program. SELT surveys are confidential and also provide the Colleges and ANU Executive with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement.

Other Information

Please note, that where there are multiple assessment tasks of the same type, e.g weekly quizzes, a date range is used in the Assessment Summary. The first date is the release date of the first task, the return date is the due date for the final task. Further information is provided in the assessment section of the class summary, and details are provided on the course wattle site.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Weekly Lesson Plans Weeks:1 - 12 Follow the week's Lesson Plan (released a week before the workshop) and complete tasks which include:
  • Understand Lecture videos and/or reading assignments.
  • Take the Quiz, which includes >5 questions/problems. You must open and attempt the quiz at least once before the workshop: it will close at the advertised time.
  • Do the Homework Assignment, which must be uploaded before the due date
  • Attend and participate in the 2 hr workshop, where a marked quiz will be administered. 

Bring to each workshop:
  • questions or comments about misunderstandings of the week's content
  • writing materials, paper, a calculator or laptop (with Mathematica) for Wattle-based short quizzes
  • a copy of Schroeder

Complete one individualised project Week 2-11, chosen from

• Web-based Molecular Dynamics Simulation

• MakerSpace Projectsand complete a short report/video of your work and conclusions.

3 Week 1Temperature & heat transfer, Ideal & Real gases, Equipartition Quiz
4 Week 2The First Law, compression and expansion, enthalpy, heat capacities Quiz
5 Week 3Micro/Macrostates & Multiplicity of macrostates for Einstein Solids & Ideal Gas Quiz
6 Week 4Entropy, the 2nd law and a better definition of temperature Quiz, Milestone Project Report #1
7 Week 52-state paramagnet and negative temperatures, pressure, chemical potential, the thermodynamic identity Quiz
8 Week 6 Quiz, Mid-Term
9 Week 7Carnot Cycle, Cyclic Engines, heat pumps and refrigerators Quiz
10 Week 8Gibbs and Helmholtz Free energy, Phase Transformations & Fuel Cells Quiz, Milestone Project Report #2
11 Week 9Boltzmann Statistics and the Partition Function Quiz
12 Week 10Ideal gases and Quantum Statistics Quiz
13 Week 11Fermions: Degenerate Fermi gases Quiz, Final Project Report Due
15 Week 12Bosons: Blackbody Radiation & Planck's Distribution Quiz

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Learning Outcomes
Weekly Wattle Quizzes 5 % 1,2,3,4,5
Weekly Homework Assignments 20 % 1,2,3,4,5
Project 25 % 2,3,5
Mid-semester exam 25 % 1,2,3,4,5
Final exam 25 % 1,2,3,4,5

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines , which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Integrity Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Skills website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


  • Update your Profile on the Wattle page (Top Right Corner of the page), inserting a photograph of yourself. This is useful for us to learn your name and so that your picture appears with any forum post.
  • Wednesday 1-hr workshop is used to complete problems from the previous Monday 2-hr workshop, and to consult on homework, HPO/ASE, and project submissions.
  • You may sign up for the HPO optional extension, which consists of 5 assignments throughout the semester that expand upon the concepts in the course. It contributes 15% to your final grade. There is no deadline for signing up.


A mid-term exam and a final exam will be scheduled. Please refer to the ANU examinations timetable or PHYS6020 Wattle page for examination times and location.

Please note, that where a date range is used in the Assessment Summary in relation to exams, the due date and return date for mid-semester exams indicate the approximate timeframe in which the exam will be held; the due and return date for end of semester exams indicate the approximate timeframe in which the exam will be held and the date official end of Semester results are released on ISIS. Students should consult the course wattle site and the ANU final examination timetable to confirm the date, time and venue of the exam.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 5 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Weekly Wattle Quizzes

Note the conditions of each question/problem in the quiz:

  • Multiple attempts are usually allowed with varying degrees of penalty for wrong attempts.
  • Because inputs are chosen randomly for each student's quiz, your classmates correct solution is not necessarily your correct solution. 
  • Students may be randomly allocated different sets of quiz questions.
  • You must open and attempt the quiz at least once before the workshop: it will close at the advertised time.
  • Refer to the PHYS6020 Wattle page for weekly submission dates

There are 24 quizzes administered over the semester:

• 12 weekly quizzes are administered with each week's lesson plan. These quizzes contain 6-10 questions/problems with multiple attempts allowed, and are open for 10 days. To receive a mark on this quiz, at least one attempt must be made before the workshop. At the advertised closing date, the student will receive immediate, automated feedback on all saved responses, as well as solutions.

• 12 short (single attempt) quizzes are administered within the workshop, requiring the student's attendance at the 2 hr workshop. These short quizzes are marked immediately upon submission.

Students are expected to contribute on an on-going basis throughout the semester.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 20 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Weekly Homework Assignments

Homework assignments are administered with each week's lesson plan. You are given 10 days to complete each of the 12 assignments

  • Refer to the PHYS6020 Wattle page for weekly submission dates as well as upload to wattle information
  • Homework must be submitted through Phys6020 Wattle page before advertised due date and may include a jpg/png/pdf file of legibly handwritten work.

There are 12 assignments due over the semester. It is intended that the marked assignments will be returned within 7 days after submission. Further details can be found on the Course Wattle site.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 25 %
Learning Outcomes: 2,3,5


You will need to choose one of the five options listed on the wattle page for your individual project: Experimental projects are the Stirling Engine, Water Bottle Rocket, Drinking Bird and Moka Pot, and there is a simulation project. The project is all about trying things out and 'having a go' - the marks are allocated for originality, problem-solving and understanding of physics. The secondary workshops (particularly the second hour) can be used to discuss your project with the teaching team.  The project is worth 20% of the course grade, 18% of which comes from your final submission which is either a brief report (up to 6 pages long) or a 4-7 minute video.  

Refer to the PHYS6020 Wattle page for submission of 3 milestone due dates, including the final submission in Week 11.


Assessment Task 4

Value: 25 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Mid-semester exam

The mid-semester exam covers the first 6 weeks of the course. Allowable materials for the 3 hour exam are

• calculator, pen/pencil

• A4 sheet of handwritten notes, double-sided

Please check the course Wattle site and the ANU Examination Timetable to confirm the date, time and location of the mid semester exam.

Assessment Task 5

Value: 25 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Final exam

The final exam covers the last 6 weeks of the course. Allowable materials for the 3 hour exam are

• calculator, pen/pencil

• A4 sheet of handwritten notes, double-sided

Please refer to the ANU examinations timetable or PHYS6020 Wattle page for examination times and location.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. The University’s students are an integral part of that community. The academic integrity principle commits all students to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support, academic integrity, and to uphold this commitment by behaving honestly, responsibly and ethically, and with respect and fairness, in scholarly practice.

The University expects all staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle, the Academic Integrity Rule 2021, the Policy: Student Academic Integrity and Procedure: Student Academic Integrity, and to uphold high standards of academic integrity to ensure the quality and value of our qualifications.

The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 is a legal document that the University uses to promote academic integrity, and manage breaches of the academic integrity principle. The Policy and Procedure support the Rule by outlining overarching principles, responsibilities and processes. The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 commences on 1 December 2021 and applies to courses commencing on or after that date, as well as to research conduct occurring on or after that date. Prior to this, the Academic Misconduct Rule 2015 applies.


The University commits to assisting all students to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. All coursework students must complete the online Academic Integrity Module (Epigeum), and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are required to complete research integrity training. The Academic Integrity website provides information about services available to assist students with their assignments, examinations and other learning activities, as well as understanding and upholding academic integrity.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

All assessable items must be submitted through the Wattle site. Submissions emailed to convenor/tutors cannot be accepted.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

In Phys6020, no hardcopy submissions are permissible.

Late Submission

Late submission of the project report without an extension is penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of project report is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date. Late submission is not accepted for quiz or homework assessments.

Referencing Requirements

The Academic Skills website has information to assist you with your writing and assessments. The website includes information about Academic Integrity including referencing requirements for different disciplines. There is also information on Plagiarism and different ways to use source material.

Returning Assignments

All feedback, including personalised marking of the project report and homework, is returned to the student through the Course Wattle grade book.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

No resubmission are permitted.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Prof Adrian Sheppard

Research Interests

3D Imaging, complex materials, carbon storage, biophysics

Prof Adrian Sheppard

Monday By Appointment
Wednesday By Appointment
Prof Adrian Sheppard

Research Interests

Prof Adrian Sheppard

Monday By Appointment
Wednesday By Appointment
Dr Lan Fu

Research Interests

3D Imaging, complex materials, carbon storage, biophysics

Dr Lan Fu

Jordan McMahon

Research Interests

Jordan McMahon


Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions