Course Descriptions

Course Catalog for PHYSICS
PHYS 101
Principles of Physics I
An introduction to the fundamental ideas of physics. Beginning with kinematics—the quantitative description of motion—the course covers the Newtonian mechanics of point masses, Newton’s theory of universal gravitation, the work-energy principle, and the conservation of energy and momentum. Three lecture periods and one laboratory period per week. A student taking Physics 101 cannot earn credit for Physics 131 or Physics 141.
1.25 units, Lecture
PHYS 102
Principles of Physics II
A continuation of Physics 101L, this course covers topics such as electricity and magnetism, elementary thermodynamics, the theory of special relativity, classical wave behavior, and the description of microscopic physical systems via quantum theory. Three lecture periods and one laboratory period per week.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 101L or Physics 131L or Physics 141L.
1.25 units, Lecture
PHYS 104
Environmental Physics
A study of the physical properties of the atmosphere, the oceans, and the earth, as well as a discussion of man-made modifications of these media. The relationship between the physics of our environment and the fundamental laws of physics (such as the conservation laws) will be stressed.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 108
Energy and Society
A study of the energy sources man has used, from the steam engine to the nuclear reactor, and the effects they have had on his life and environment. We will examine the historical development of various energy sources and their technologies, the physical principles underlying these sources, the limitations imposed by pollution and resource exhaustion on the continued growth of energy use, the effect of the development of new energy sources on the quality of life, and the alternatives.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 111
Frontiers of Physics
A course for non-science majors which examines selections of the exciting developments in contemporary physics. Topics to be explored may include (but are not limited to); aspects of Einstein's theory of special and general relativity such as the nature of space, time, and gravity, the search for gravitational waves, the structure of exotic astrophysical objects like neutron stars and black holes, and the origin, evolution, and expected fate of the universe; advances in physicists' understanding of the quantum structure of matter such as the Standard Model accounting for the families of elementary particles (e.g. quarks, electrons, neutrinos and others); nuclear physics and the generation of energy by fission and fusion; speculative “theories of everything” such as string theory; extraordinary macroscopic quantum processes such as superconductivity and super fluidity; novel materials with remarkable properties (such as graphene and meta-materials), and other topics. The development will be carried out with a minimum of mathematics at a pre-calculus level.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 141
Physics I - Mechanics
This course is the first part of a three-term calculus-based introduction to physics for students intending to major in physics or one of the physical sciences. It is taught in an interactive studio format, which emphasizes collaborative problem solving, hands-on experimentation, and data analysis. This course is designed to provide the student with a working knowledge of the language and the analytical tools of Newtonian mechanics. Topics include kinematics, forces, conservation laws, work and energy, momentum, gravity, and rigid-body motion. Time permitting, the course will conclude with the study of the first two laws of thermodynamics and their application to the prototypical thermodynamics system, the ideal gas. Three two-hour class meetings per week. The laboratory is integrated into the course.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Math 131, or concurrent enrollment. Students may not earn credit for both Physics 101 and Physics 141.
1.25 units, Lecture
PHYS 231
Physics II: Electricity, Magnetism, and Waves
This second part of the three-term calculus-based introductory sequence is devoted primarily to the study of electromagnetism. The emphasis is on the description of electric and magnetic phenomena in terms of fields. Topics to be covered include electrostatics and magnetostatics, electromagnetic induction, Maxwell’s equations, electromagnetic waves, and the characterization of energy and momentum in the electromagnetic field. The remainder of the course is taken up with basic properties of waves in general: wave kinematics, standing waves and resonance, and the Doppler effect. Three lecture periods and one laboratory period per week.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 131L or Physics 141L and concurrent registration in or previous completion of Mathematics 132 or 142 with a C- or better.
1.25 units, Lecture
PHYS 232
Physics III: Optics and Modern Physics
Concluding the three-term calculus-based introductory physics sequence, this course begins with the study of interference and diffraction, which provide compelling evidence for the wave nature of light. We then turn to geometrical optics to understand the properties of lenses, mirrors, and optical instruments. The remainder of the course is devoted to the treatment of phenomena at the atomic and subatomic levels using the ideas of quantum physics. From the introduction of the photon, the Bohr atom, and de Broglie’s matter waves, we proceed to the unified description provided by Schrodinger’s wave mechanics. This is used to understand basic properties of atoms, beginning with hydrogen, and to describe the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and matter. As time permits, the course will include a brief introduction to the theory of special relativity and to nuclear physics. Three class meetings and one laboratory per week.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 231L and either Mathematics 132 or 142, with concurrent registration in Mathematics 231 strongly recommended.
1.25 units, Lecture
PHYS 300
Mathematical Methods of Physics
This course focuses on mathematical methods essential to the expression and application of the laws of physics. It is designed to provide a mathematics background for other upper-level physics courses and for physics research, and thus ideally should be taken in the spring of the sophomore year. Topics to be discussed may vary somewhat from year to year depending on the emphasis of the instructor, but will ordinarily include elements of vector analysis, differential geometry, linear algebra, functions of a complex variable, Fourier analysis, and some of the special functions of mathematical physics. Additional topics, such as probability theory, the calculus of variations, or an introduction to group theory, may be taken up if time permits.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 231L and Mathematics 231.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 301
Classical Mechanics
A detailed analytical treatment of Newtonian mechanics. Lagrange’s and Hamilton's equations are developed and applied to the analysis of motion governed by several exemplary force laws. The general problem of motion under the influence of a central force is formulated and applied to problems of planetary motion and to Rutherford scattering of particles. Other topics to be treated include the dynamics of rigid bodies, oscillations of systems of masses connected by springs and elements of the mechanics of continuous media such as fluids.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 231 and either Mathematics 231 or 234.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 302
Electrodynamics
A study of the unified description of electromagnetic phenomena provided by Maxwell’s equations in differential form. The scalar and vector potentials, multipole expansions, boundary value problems, propagation of electromagnetic waves, radiation from accelerated charges.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 231L and Mathematics 231 (concurrent registration in Mathematics 234 is strongly recommended).
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 304
Statistical and Thermal Physics
This course provides an intermediate-level presentation of basic principles of statistical physics with applications to scientific inference, stochastic phenomena, and thermodynamics. Classical thermodynamics describes the equilibrium properties and phase transformations of macroscopic physical systems in terms of relations independent of any atomic model of matter. Statistical physics, by contrast, provides a fundamental theoretical foundation for the thermodynamic relations in terms of the specific statistical laws obeyed by the elementary particles of matter and general considerations of probability theory. Together, thermodynamics and statistical physics provide the tools for studying the behavior of aggregates of particles far too numerous to be analyzed by solving directly the equations of motion of either classical or quantum mechanics. Among the concepts, systems, and processes to be discussed are heat, work, temperature, pressure, energy, entropy, chemical potential, chemical equilibria, gases, liquids, solids, solutions, neutron stars, and fluctuation phenomena (not necessarily in that order and subject to time constraints).
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 131L or Physics 141L and Mathematics 132.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 312
Geophysics
A study of the physical properties of the Earth, how they are measured, and how they can be used to explore the interior of the Earth, inaccessible to direct observation. Topics for discussion include the shape of Earth and gravitational potential, seismology, and Earth's thermal, magnetic, and electrical properties.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 131L or Physics 141L and Mathematics 132.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 313
Quantum Mechanics
A thorough study of the general formalism of quantum mechanics together with some illustrative applications, including the postulates of quantum mechanics; states, observables, and operators; measurements in quantum mechanics; the Dirac notation; simple systems: the square well, the harmonic oscillator, the hydrogen atom; approximation techniques and perturbation theory; and elements of the quantum theory of angular momentum.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 232L.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 314
Applications of Quantum Mechanics
This course surveys the application of quantum mechanics to a number of quantum systems or quantum processes basic to atomic, molecular, nuclear, and condensed matter physics. Examples may include the energy level structure of atoms and molecules, taking account also of the contribution of electron and nuclear spin to the fine and hyperfine structure, the effects of electric and magnetic fields on atoms (Stark effect and Zeeman effect), nuclear alpha decay as an illustration of quantum tunneling, molecular vibration as an example of the quantum harmonic oscillator, the quantum theory of light absorption and emission, and the quantum basis for conductivity in solids and superconductivity in metals at very low temperatures. Procedures for solving the quantum equation of motion (Schroedinger equation) exactly and by different methods of approximation (such as time-independent and time-dependent perturbation theory, the WKB aproximation, and use of the variational principle) may also be discussed.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 232L.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 315
Contemporary Optics
A survey of current techniques and applications for classical and nonclassical light. Topics may include Fourier optics, nonlinear optics, statistical optics, holography, polarization, interferometry, quantum cryptography, optoelectronics, and ultrafast optics.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 231L and 232L
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 317
Relativity and Fundamental Particles
The theories of special and general relativity describe space, time, mass, and the gravitational force. The standard model describes subatomic particles and their interactions via the strong nuclear, weak nuclear, and electromagnetic forces. Together, these theories embody all that is known today about matter and energy at the largest and smallest scales, and they form the basis of modern cosmology – the study of the history and structure of the universe.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 231L.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 320
Modern Physical Measurements
A series of measurements in a focused area of modern experimental physics, this course is designed to offer an in-depth exposure to and understanding of instruments and techniques employed in current experimental investigations. It also provides experiences pertinent to participation in experimental research typified by Physics 490. The series of experiments to be performed will be determined in advance by the student(s) and the instructor(s).
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 232L.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 325
Condensed Matter Physics
An introduction to the fundamental physics which governs the properties of solids at a microscopic level. Topics will include crystal structures and symmetries, phonons, diffraction, reciprocal space, optical properties, superconductivity, magnetism, band theory, and the electronic properties of conductors and semiconductors. Time permitting, applications in the fields of materials science and nanotechnology will be considered.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 231L and 232L
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 399
Independent Study
Submission of the special form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and chairperson are required for enrollment.
1.00 units min / 2.00 units max, Independent Study
PHYS 405
Senior Exercise
This exercise is intended to familiarize the student with a problem of current interest in physics, and to develop his or her ability to gather and interpret the information relevant to the problem. During the fall semester each senior student will meet with an assigned faculty adviser to plan an essay or research project to be completed during the year. Topics may involve any aspects of physics, including its various applications. While students may write on original research they have undertaken, they are not required to do so. This exercise is required for the physics major.
This course is open only to senior Physics majors.
0.50 units, Independent Study
PHYS 466
Teaching Assistant
No Course Description Available.
0.50 units min / 1.00 units max, Independent Study
PHYS 490
Research Assistantship
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and chairperson are required for enrollment.
0.50 units min / 1.00 units max, Independent Study
PHYS 497
Senior Thesis
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar's Office, and the approval of the instructor and chairperson are required for enrollment in this single-semester thesis.
1.00 units, Independent Study