Robert Izzard's Pages of Astronomical Happiness

  Teaching • Robert Izzard's Teaching Schedule

I am no longer teaching at the University of Cambridge. The following information remains purely for the curious.

Ia mathematics for natural sciences supervisions
Supervisions are one of our greatest strengths and a key advantage of studying at Cambridge (here).
You can find course information, lecture notes and exercises at this website.
Supervisions have finished for the year. Best of luck to all in the upcoming examinations!
Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is a supervision?
    Please see this website.
  • When are the supervisions?
    Please see the above table for details. Easter term supervisions start the week beginning 1st May. Term dates are at this web page.
    Please turn up on time. If you are five minutes late for every supervision, you miss 30 minutes per term - that's half a supervision!
  • How many supervisions are there per term?
    Usually six, five in Easter term (the final being a "revision supervision").
  • Deadlines
    For Monday and Tuesday supervisions, 12pm (midday) the previous Friday.
    For Wednesday supervisions, 12pm the previous Monday.
    For Thursday supervisions, 12pm the previous Tuesday.
    For Friday supervisions, 12pm the previous Wednesday.
  • Late work
    I understand that everyone occasionally forgets to hand in their work or has a good reason for it being late. However, repeat offenders and those that fail to apologise or provide a good reason for their tardiness will have their work returned to them unmarked.
  • Where is work to be handed in?
    I have a pigeon-hole in Churchill college porters' lodge.
  • Can I scan in work and send it by email?
    Yes, but only as one file in PDF format. The PDF file must be less than 10 MB in size. Please scan at a resolution that is sufficient to resolve your handwriting. The PDF file should be named maths_supervision_work_DDMMYYYY_NAME .pdf where you replace the DDMMYYYY with the date of the supervision and replace NAME with your name.
  • How many people are in each supervision?
    Two students and one supervisor.
  • Where are the supervisions?
    Usually in the Institute of Astronomy's Observatory Meeting Room (please enter by the East door nearest to Churchill, please knock on the window to the meeting room if it is locked), sometimes at the Kavli Institute for Cosmology or in Churchill, depending on availability. All these locations are very close to one another.
  • How long is a supervision?
    One hour, starting (precisely) on the hour.
  • What should be brought to the supervision?
    Please bring paper and pens, the examples sheets, the lecture notes, and your main textbook. You should not share examples sheets in the supervision.
  • What work is expected?
    Students are expected to attempt all of the questions in all the examples sheets and hand in their solutions for marking (see above). Answers should be presented in the same order as the questions. Unless specifically stated by me, no questions are optional. Revision questions are required material. In Easter term, and if possible during the Easter holiday, students should also attempt some recent exam (Tripos) papers. These are available online or from the mathematics department. Please note, I am happy to go through problems with these papers (which you must make clear) but I do not have time to mark them in detail.
    Each week you must summarise in words, on the front page of your work, what your problems are with the work and lecture material. It is much more efficient that you do this before the supervision, not during. Failure to do this will result in your work being returned unmarked.
  • How should work be formatted?
    You should attach your work with a paperclip, staple it or put it in a plastic folder. You should put your name in full on the front page. You must underline your answers: failure to do so will result in your work being returned to you unmarked. You must answer the questions in (alpha)numerical order. You should not crush your work on the page: allow whitespace for comments and to make your work clear. You should only write one column of text per page.
    Very importantly, you should use words to explain what you are doing. Just algebra is sufficient for simple exercises, but more complicated questions will require you to explain in detail in English. Your examiners will expect likewise!
  • What are all these weird characters? Greek characters are commonly used in mathematics and physics. You should learn at least the most commonly used. Please use the search engine of your choice to do so.
  • How do I sketch graphs?
    Read Eleoquent science by Schulz, Chapter 11. You could also look for tutorials on the interweb.
  • How else can I draw graphs?
    Try one of the online interfaces to Gnuplot, e.g. plotshare or download Gnuplot for your operating system to make great plots!
  • How do I check my answers?
    You can often plug in your answers to the question to test whether you got the right answer or not. Indeed, I expect you to do this!
  • I can't understand xyz from the lectures
    Often this is because the way something is explained doesn't work for you or you need a better example to understand something. Before you come to the supervision to ask specific questions, please consider consoulting either the Great Interweb (e.g. Wikipedia!) or the excellent Churchill college library. You may find books to be useful (see the course reading list). I urge you to use them (whether in paper or digitial format).
  • How do I access the course text online?
    Go to the Cambridge University library digital resources page and search for Riley Hobson Bence using the iDiscover search box. You should soon see the search results. At the top there's a link sign in to get complete results : do this! You should sign in through Raven (for example) and be redirected back to the search results. Now find the link to the book and click on it. Find the online library version and click on it, a box should open with a View Online option. Click this to access the PDF files for each chapter.
    I couldn't find the questions and solutions books this way, but you can probably purchase them electronically, or find them in one of the libraries in the University.
  • Are model answers available?
    No, you have to turn up to find out the answers. However, you may be able to find help through the search engine of your choice.
  • Will/can a supervision time be rearranged?
    Yes, but only when really necessary. Sometimes I shall also have to rearrange times as well.
  • Where is/are the exams?
    Your exams are from mid May to early June. They clash nicely with the Cambridge Beer Festival.
    You also have an in-house progress test in January. This will give us some idea of how you are doing.
  • I turned up at a supervision but you're not there!
    You have my email address and I have given you my mobile number so you can chase me. Sometimes I forget, particularly when times change!
  • But question x does not seem relevant to my subject!
    You are in no position to judge. Experts who have worked in mathematics and science for (often) decades, who have done the appropriate degrees and have the experience have made this decision for you. If you think you know better, that's fine, but you might want to reconsider making this attitude public!
  • Your supervisions are rubbish, how do I complain?
    The first person to speak to is me. I teach in a way that works for well most students, but people are individuals and it can be difficult to tailor the supervisions to their exact needs when we have only one hour per week. I am happy to receive feedback (in person or by email please) and try to fix any issues. If you have serious problems please contact your director of studies at your college.

The Institute of Astronomy is here.
The Kavli Institute is here.
To see historic teaching information (at Uni. Bonn and before) please go to this page.

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