PHYSICS 7546 - Statistical Mechanics

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2022

This course develops concepts in classical laws of thermodynamics and their application, postulates of statistical mechanics, statistical interpretation of thermodynamics, microcanonical, canonical and grant canonical ensembles; the methods of statistical mechanics are used to develop the statistics for Bose-Einstein, Fermi-Dirac and photon gases; selected topics from low temperature physics and electrical and thermal properties of matter are discussed.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code PHYSICS 7546
    Course Statistical Mechanics
    Coordinating Unit School of Physical Sciences
    Term Semester 1
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 3 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites PHYSICS 2510, MATHS 2101 or MATHS 2201, MATHS 2102 or MATHS 2202
    Incompatible PHYSICS 3004, PHYSICS 3542
    Assumed Knowledge PHYSICS 2532, PHYSICS 2534
    Assessment Tests, assignments, written exam
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Professor Gavin Rowell

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes

    1. explain statistical physics and thermodynamics as logical consequences of the postulates of statistical mechanics;

    2. apply the principles of statistical mechanics to selected problems;

    3. apply techniques from statistical mechanics to a range of situations;

    4. use the tools, methodologies, language and conventions of physics to test and communicate ideas and explanations

    5. use the tools, methodologies, language and conventions of physics to test and communicate ideas and explanation.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)

    Attribute 1: Deep discipline knowledge and intellectual breadth

    Graduates have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of their subject area, the ability to engage with different traditions of thought, and the ability to apply their knowledge in practice including in multi-disciplinary or multi-professional contexts.


    Attribute 2: Creative and critical thinking, and problem solving

    Graduates are effective problems-solvers, able to apply critical, creative and evidence-based thinking to conceive innovative responses to future challenges.


    Attribute 3: Teamwork and communication skills

    Graduates convey ideas and information effectively to a range of audiences for a variety of purposes and contribute in a positive and collaborative manner to achieving common goals.


    Attribute 4: Professionalism and leadership readiness

    Graduates engage in professional behaviour and have the potential to be entrepreneurial and take leadership roles in their chosen occupations or careers and communities.


    Attribute 8: Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

    Graduates are self-aware and reflective; they are flexible and resilient and have the capacity to accept and give constructive feedback; they act with integrity and take responsibility for their actions.

  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources

    - Mandl, F. (1998): Statistical Physics, 2nd edition, Wiley
    Recommended Resources

    - Reif, F. (1965): Fundamentals of Statistical and thermal Physics, McGraw-Hill
    Online Learning

    MyUni: Teaching materials and course documentation will be posted on the MyUni website (
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes

    - 2 Lectures of 1 hour each per week

    - 2 Tutorials of 1 hour per week

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    A student enrolled in a 3 unit course, such as this, should expect to spend, on average 12 hours per week on the studies required. This includes both the formal contact time required to the course (e.g., lectures and practicals), as well as non-contact time (e.g., reading and revision).
    Learning Activities Summary

    Ø The First Law of Thermodynamics
    - Concepts of thermal physics
    - First law of thermodynamics
    - Heat capacities

    Ø The Second Law of Thermodynamics
    - Direction of natural processes
    - The statistical weight of a macrostate
    - Fundamental postulates of statistical mechanics
    - Derivation of concepts of T and P
    - The Schottky defect
    - Equilibrium of a system in a heat bath

    Ø Paramagnetism
    - Paramagnetic solid in a heat bath
    - Isolated paramagnetic solid

    Ø Infinitesimal changes and the Second Law
    - The Fundamental Thermodynamic Relation and Maxwell’s First Relation
    - The Clausius inequality and availability
    - Helmholtz free energy
    - Gibbs free energy
    - Enthalpy
    - Useful work
    - The third law and its consequences

    Ø Simple thermodynamic systems
    - Other forms of the second law
    - Heat engines and refrigerators
    - The difference of heat capacity
    - Applications to irreversible processes
    - Heat capacity of solids
    - Examples of low temperature behaviour
    - Einstein’s model for heat capacity of solids

    Ø The Ideal Classical Gas
    - Ideal classical gas
    - The partition function
    - Validity criteria for classical regime
    - Characterizing the ideal classical gas
    - The Maxwell velocity distribution
    - Classical statistical mechanics

    Ø Quantum statistics
    - The Ideal quantum gas
    - The Gibbs distribution
    - Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein distributions
    - The classical limit
    - The free electron model of metals
    - Electronic heat capacity of metals

    Ø Systems with variable particle numbers
    - Bose-Einstein Condensation
    - Thermodynamics of the Gibbs distribution

    Ø Diffusion and Random Walk Processes
    - Description of Particle transport theory via diffusion processes
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment task Type of assessment Percentage of total assessment

    Yes or No #
    Objectives being assessed / achieved
    Assignments, tests & online responses Formative & Summative 30 - 40% No 1 – 5
    Exam Summative 60 - 70% No 1 – 4
    Assessment Detail

    While this course is offered concurrently to undergraduate students, all postgraduate students are expected to perform at a higher level both qualitatively and quantitatively. To facilitate this, postgraduate students are required to address additional content in the assignments and the examination within the same timeframe as undergraduate students.

    Assignments, Tests and online responses

    The mix of assignments and tests will be decided at the start of the semester by negotiation with students. A combination of on-line responses, tests and summative assignments will be used during the semester to address understanding of and ability to use the course material and to provide students a benchmark for the progress in the course (40% of total course grade). Postgraduate students are required to complete additional assessment tasks within each assignment, test and online responses to demonstrate additional understanding of the course material, in particular the ability to integrate different course components in a novel context.


    One 2-hour exam will be used to assess knowledge and understanding of and ability to use the material (60% of total course grade). Online responses to questions in the Statistical Mechanics component will contribute 2% of the final result. Poor performance in assignments and tests can be partially compensated by a higher weighting of the examination in the final assessment.

    Submission of Assigned Work
    Coversheets must be completed and attached to all submitted work. Coversheets can be obtained from the School Office (room G33 Physics) or from MyUNI. Work should be submitted via the assignment drop box at the School Office.

    Extensions for Assessment Tasks
    Extensions of deadlines for assessment tasks may be allowed for reasonable causes. Such situations would include compassionate and medical grounds of the severity that would justify the awarding of a supplementary examination. Evidence for the grounds must be provided when an extension is requested. Students are required to apply for an extension to the Course Coordinator before the assessment task is due. Extensions will not be provided on the grounds of poor prioritising of time. The assessment extension application form can be obtained from:

    Late submission of assessments
    If an extension is not applied for, or not granted then a penalty for late submission will apply. A penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment for each calendar day that is late (i.e. weekends count as 2 days), up to a maximum of 50% of the available marks will be applied. This means that an assignment that is 5 days or more late without an approved extension can only receive a maximum of 50% of the mark.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

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