nl en

Computational Physics (3 EC)


Admission Requirements

Knowledge of statistical physics is expected, as well as basic programming skills.


An important aspect of physics research is modeling: complex physical systems are simplified through a sequence of controlled approximations to a model that lends itself for computations, either analytic or by computer. In this course, the origin of a number of widely used models will be discussed. For instance, the liquid-gas transition of Argon can be studied by a Lennard-Jones system of particles. Insight into these models can be obtained through a number of ways, one of which is computer simulations. During this course, simulation methods of various models will be discussed in the lectures as well as in computer lab sessions.
There are three projects:
Project 1: Molecular dynamics simulation of Argon atoms
Project 2: Monte Carlo simulation of the two-dimensional Ising model
Project 3: Choice from a large number of possible projects (march of the penguins, computational astrophysics, lattice Boltzmann model, simulation of piano strings, self-organized criticality, pandemics, cosmological simulations and more)

Note: The course is also offered in a short version (3 EC). The long version (6 EC) is recommended for students who expect to go into performing computational research projects in the future whereas the short version (first project only) is recommended for all students.

Course Objectives

After completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • write efficient and well-documented computer code and validate it,

  • assess the pros and cons of various computational methods,

  • investigate particular topics in computational physics and present the findings in scientifc reports and an oral presentation


You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of Instruction

One meeting per week, consisting of a mixture of lectures and supervised working on the projects. There will be online learning material as well.
The main emphasis of the course are the computational projects that are mostly performed outside the regular contact hours. In a hands-on approach, concepts are immediately applied to a concrete problem. The basic concepts taught in the lecture will be deepened by the students individually in setting up and running the simulations, and by independent literature study.

Assessment method

The students (working in pairs) produce two reports (project 1 and 2) including the code and an analysis of the results.
Project 3 is chosen from a large set of possible problems and is presented as a talk.

The final grade is the average of the grades for these three projects.

The short version of this course (3EC) only comprises the first project.

Reading list

See Brightspace.


As a student, you are responsible for registering for each course component. This can be done via Mystudymap. You do this twice a year: once for the courses you want to take in semester 1 and once for the courses you want to take in semester 2.

Registration for courses in the first semester is possible from July onwards; registration for courses in the second semester is possible from December onwards. For more information, see this page

Please note that it is mandatory for all students to register for their exams. This can be done up to and including 10 calendar days prior to the exam or up to five calendar days in case of a retake exam (retake registration opens 30 days before the retake takes place). You cannot participate in the exam or retake without a valid registration in My Studymap.


Lecturer: Dr. Matthieu Schaller


Transferable Skills

You will be able to:

  • master a new field of study in computational physics within a given time period

  • present your findings to fellow students in a convincing and inspiring way

  • write structured essays on computational projects