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The University of Southampton

MATH2015 Mathematical Methods for Scientists

Module Overview

This is an optional module for second-year students in physical sciences. The module introduces a number of more advanced methods for solving linear matrix equations and ordinary differential equations, as well as introducing Fourier series, and partial differential equations.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Perform matrix mathematics techniques, including computing inverses, determinants, eigenvalues and eigenvectors and solving systems of linear equations
  • Compute the Fourier series expansion of a given periodic function or its periodic extension
  • Solve a range of first and second order ordinary differential equations, including initial and boundary value problems, recognising separable and exact equations, using integrating factors and methods of reduction of order and variation of parameters
  • Solve a range of first and second order partial differential equations with boundary conditions using methods of characteristic curves and separation of variables


1. Matrix mathematics and linear systems: Properties of matrices, determinants, and inverses. Linear independence and orthogonality of vectors. Matrices and systems of ordinary differential equations. Solution of both homogeneous and inhomogeneous linear systems by Gauss elimination to Hermite form. Calculation of eigenvalues and eigenvectors. Matrix diagonalization. 2. Fourier series: Periodic functions. Orthogonality of sines and cosines. Extension to non-periodic functions (full and half-range expansions). Complex Fourier series expansion. Convergence and Gibbs phenomenon. Introduction to Fourier transforms. Orthogonal functions. 3. Ordinary differential equations: Definition and notation. Initial and boundary value problems. Separable and exact ODEs. Integrating factors. Constant coefficient and equidimensional ODEs. Methods of reduction of order and variation of parameters. Eigenfunction expansion. 4. Introduction to partial differential equations: Examples. Method of characteristic curves. Method of separation of variables. Second order PDEs.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, tutorials, private study.

Independent Study102
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

McQuarrie, D.A. Mathematical Methods for Scientists and Engineers. 

Arfken, G.B. Mathematical Methods for Physicists. 

Jordan, D.W and Smith, P. Mathematical Techniques. 

Kreyszig, E. Advanced Engineering Mathematics. 

Riley, K.F. Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 50%
Written assessment 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisites: (MATH1006 OR MATH1008) AND (MATH1007 OR MATH1009)


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase reading texts as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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