Logo Advanced Certificate in Powder Diffraction on the Web

Course Information 2002/2003

School of Crystallography, Birkbeck College, University of London

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Both industry and academia are producing materials with novel properties, e.g. zeolites for gas filtration and catalysis, ceramics, ferroelectrics, high-temperature superconductors, fullerenes, etc., the majority of which are not produced, at least initially, in single-crystal form. The advent of ultra high-resolution and high-intensity synchrotron diffractometers, high-resolution laboratory X-ray powder diffractometers, plus the combination of modern computer hardware and software has led to tremendous advances in the analysis of novel materials by powder crystallography.

From an industrial viewpoint, the trend has been away from simple phase identification and more towards quantitative analysis using similar software to that used by the solid-state crystallographer. Furthermore, the modern solid-state materials chemist/physicist has to be a multi-technique-oriented scientist with hands-on skills.

This Advanced Certificate course, now in its third year, proposes to offer training in one of the major techniques used for solid-state materials research, namely powder diffraction. It will concentrate on providing the necessary crystallographic and computational skills required for an understanding and usage of the technique.

Course Organisation and Objectives

The Advanced Certificate in Powder Diffraction on the WEB, is a tutor-assisted, university-level, accredited course, offered by the School of Crystallography, Birkbeck College, University of London. Successful students who complete the whole course and pass the final examination receive the award of an Advanced Certificate. Exceptionally, a student may opt not to take the unseen final examination, in which case a Certificate of Attendance may be given on the basis of course work only.

The course consists of 3 units taught annually. All teaching material will be delivered via the Internet.

Unit 1:

The general objectives of this unit are to provide the experimental and background information required for a student to use powder diffraction as an experimental technique. In addition, it aims to provide the relevant crystallographic theory for an understanding of the technique and for data interpretation.

Unit 2:

The general objectives of this unit are to teach the different methods of analysing powder diffraction data according to different research objectives. The unit aims to give students practical skills in computational analysis of the diffraction data and to demonstrate current developments in the technique.

Unit 3: Project

The general objective is for students to apply and demonstrate the skills and tools learnt in Units 1 & 2 via a computer-based project involving the analysis of powder diffraction data. The project will be written up and submitted as Web-based documents (in HTML) to show the students skills in Web publishing.

Specific objectives are:

Further details of the course content are given in the syllabus.

Academic Requirements

Birkbeck College requires as minimum eligibility requirements BSc (Bachelor of Science degree) or equivalent (for EU or non-EU overseas students) a subject allied to one of the following: Physics, Chemistry, Earth or Geological Sciences, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Biology, Mathematics, or Computer Science. Equivalent practical work experience with powder diffraction will also be considered as an alternative for those students lacking any of the formal qualifications listed above.

If you are a PhD student registered at another university in the UK you are eligible if your supervisor/university agree to you undertaking this course. When you apply you will need to include a letter from your supervisor/university stating that there is no objection to you undertaking this course. Please e-mail this to the course administrator.

If you are an undergraduate student you are normally not eligible to undertake this course (for exceptions contact the course organiser Dr Jeremy Karl Cockcroft).

Technical Requirements

The Internet is a new and innovative medium for teaching. We hope it will provide the means of finding out more about the technique of powder diffraction for students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to do so. However, because of the nature of this method of teaching there are certain prerequisites.

Students will be expected to have a standard windows-based PC and access to the Internet. The minimum equipment/know-how required to take the course will be:

We anticipate that most students will be using PCs running MS Windows (95 or better). However, most of the course material can be browsed (and interacted with) using PCs running Linux or other Unix computers or even Macs. However, the School cannot guarantee an equal level of technical support for students not using PCs running MS Windows (95 or better). Further information on hardware and browsers is available.

This list of requirements should act as a guide only as there are bound to be variations and combinations which are not mentioned above. If after reading the above you are still unsure about the level of your technical know-how or the equipment you will need then please contact the course organiser.

If you should decide to pursue your application with the School you will be asked to complete, along with the college application form, a technical information form. It is only at this point, once we have all your details available to us, that your technical equipment/know-how will be assessed formally and we will be able to confirm your suitability to undertake the course.

Workload and Course Participation

This course has no attendance requirements at Birkbeck College itself: participation is purely via the Internet. The time requirements for this course are based on our estimates for the time spent in downloading the material, reading and understanding it. Additional time will be required for interactive exercises, assignments, and course revision.

In contrast to face-to-face teaching at Birkbeck College (or elsewhere), students on the Web course participate asynchronously: students may therefore choose to spend, if they need to, 12 hours (typically) one week and 0 hours the next. However, our experience shows that success on Internet distance-learning courses is achieved through regular study.

Due to the very nature of Internet courses, no experimental work on a powder diffractometer is possible (at least at this moment in time). Experimental methods will be demonstrated via photographs of diffractometers in "action" and real powder data, where it is used in this course, will be supplied by the course lecturers.


The language of the course is English combined with HyperText Markup Language (HTML) for the delivery and receipt of course material, assignments, and projects.

Course Textbooks

Since this is a web-based course, you are not required (or even expected) to have access to a library of textbooks. Registration for this course provides no entitlement to Birkbeck College library or to on-line journals available via subscription. It is a general course aim that the material is self-contained, though links will be given to external material publically available on the Internet where relevant.

Assessment & Qualification

The course leads to the award of an Advanced Certificate from Birkbeck College, University of London. Each student is assessed by a combination of the work assignments submitted in terms 1 and 2, the project submitted in term 3 and an unseen final written examination after term 3. On very rare occasions, a short oral examination by telephone may also be required. Further details are available regarding assessment. Students should also read the General Rules for Taught Courses that apply within the School of Crystallography.

Course Fees

The full rate is the same as the part-time fee for Master's courses at Birkbeck College (based on the fact that the value of an Advanced Certificate course is approximately half that of an MSc course). Concessionary rates are available for self-financing students, especially for students from the European Union, countries in transition to European Union status, and from developing countries.

The fee levels for 2002/2003 have now been confirmed by the college for Web-based Advanced Certificates as follows:

Payment can be made by credit card, by cheque, or other form of bank credit transfer. All cheques should be drawn on a British bank and should be made payable to Birkbeck College. Payment should be made before the beginning of the course, and no later than the 29th November 2002, but after you have received notification that you have been accepted onto the course.

An additional one-third (1/3) fee will be payable for those students who have followed the course, but who simply decide to postpone the written examination to the following year for their convenience.

Course Organiser and Admissions Tutor

Dr Jeremy Karl Cockcroft

Course Tutors

Dr Martin Attfield
Prof Paul Barnes
Dr Jeremy Karl Cockcroft

Course Administrator

Ms. Maureen Austin

Contact details are given below:

Application & Enrolment

Details of the application and enrolment procedure are given separately.

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