Physics Course Descriptions
- General Physics I
Full course for one year. Fall semester: calculus-based introduction to the classical mechanics of particles and systems—kinematics, laws of motion, conservation principles, rotational dynamics, oscillators, gravitation. Spring semester: electricity and magnetism, optics, and other topics at the discretion of the instructor. Corequisite: Mathematics 111 or equivalent. Lecture-conference-laboratory.
- General Physics II
Full course for one year. Fall semester: AC circuits, damped and driven vibrations, coupled oscillators, waves. Related mathematical methods are introduced: complex numbers, ordinary differential equations, linear algebra, and Fourier analysis. Weekly laboratories provide an introduction to basic electronics, from filters and voltage dividers to transistors and operational amplifiers as well as damped, driven, and coupled oscillators. Spring semester: thermal physics, modern physics—introduction to special relativity and quantum mechanics, with applications to atomic, nuclear, and particle physics, and condensed matter, as time permits. Weekly laboratories include scientific computation, the Millikan oil drop experiment, measurement of the speed of light, determination of Planck’s constant, finding the charge-to-mass ratio of the electron, exploration of microwaves and high-temperature superconductors. Prerequisites: Physics 100; Mathematics 111 (or equivalent) and 112; Mathematics 211-212 should be taken concurrently. First-year students who have successfully completed the equivalent of Physics 100 at the college level may petition the physics department to take Physics 200 in their freshman year. The petition must offer evidence of proficiency in calculus-based electricity and magnetism. Lecture-conference-laboratory.
- Molecular Biophysics
Full course for one semester. The course will cover the physics of measurement techniques for studying the most significant intermolecular interactions of synaptic transmission. An introduction to the biology of neurons will be provided. Measurement techniques such as evanescent wave microscopy, confocal microscopy, X-ray diffraction, fluorescence resonance energy transfer, and Raman and infrared spectroscopy will be explained in terms of the physics of the experiment and its implementation. A clear idea of how these measurements inform the models of cellular processes such as exocytosis as well as the atomic level models of neuromolecular structure and function will be presented. The course will include demonstrations of selected measurement techniques such as total internal reflection microscopy, infrared absorption, and crystallography. Prerequisites: Physics 100, Mathematics 111 and 112. Lecture. Not offered 2006-07.
- Classical Mechanics I
Full course for one semester. Careful examination of the foundations and limitations of Newtonian mechanics leads to development of the Lagrangian formulation, variational principles, Hamiltonian mechanics, and the theory of canonical transformations. Applications to the motion of rigid bodies, systems of coupled oscillators, and celestial mechanics are treated as time permits. Prerequisite: Physics 200. Lecture.
- Electrodynamics I
Full course for one semester. Electrostatics and magnetostatics in vacuum and in matter, electromagnetic induction, force and energy in electrodynamics, Maxwell’s equations. Mathematical methods introduced include multivariable calculus and the solution of partial differential equations by separation of variables. Prerequisite: Physics 200. Lecture.
- Electrodynamics II
Full course for one semester. A continuation of Physics 321, this course emphasizes time-varying electric and magnetic fields. Topics include radiation from point charges and dipoles; propagation of electromagnetic plane waves in vacuum and in matter; reflection, refraction, and dispersion; and the relativistic formulation of electrodynamics. Prerequisite: Physics 321. Lecture.
Full course for one semester. Theories of light, from the seventeenth century to the present. Electromagnetic theory and the modern photon picture. Applications of geometrical optics, including lenses, prisms, polarizers, wave plates; reflection and refraction in general. Huygens’ Principle, Fermat’s Principle, diffraction and holography. Prerequisite: Physics 200. Lecture-laboratory. Not offered 2006-07.
- Advanced Laboratory I
One-half course for one semester. A study of advanced electronics and computer-assisted data acquisition and analysis intended to provide the student with a basis for understanding and designing laboratory systems used in contemporary experimental physics. Topics include operational amplifiers, filters, oscillators, logic circuits, and computer interfacing and analysis using a LabVIEW system. Prerequisite: Physics 200. Lecture-laboratory.
- Advanced Laboratory II
One-half course for one semester. Guided and independent experimental investigations of physical phenomena using research-style measurement techniques. Prerequisite: Physics 331. Lecture-laboratory.
- Quantum Mechanics I
Full course for one semester. An introduction to quantum theory, beginning with the Schrödinger equation and the statistical interpretation of the wave function. One-dimensional applications, including the infinite square-well, the harmonic oscillator, and scattering; in three dimensions, the theory of angular momentum, central potentials, and the hydrogen atom; time-independent perturbation theory, spin, identical particles, and the Pauli exclusion principle. In general, this course concentrates on exact solutions to artificial problems, in contrast to Quantum Mechanics II, which develops approximate solutions to real problems. Prerequisite: Physics 200. Lecture.
- Thermal Physics
Full course for one semester. Examines the essentials of probability and statistics, the kinetic theory of gases, statistical mechanics, temperature, equations of state, heat, internal energy, entropy, reversibility, and distribution functions. Prerequisite: Physics 200. Lecture.
- Solid State Physics
Full course for one semester. Crystalline lattice structures, vibrational modes, and electronic band theory are explored and used to explain the observed electrical, thermal, optical, and magnetic properties of solids. Prerequisite: Physics 200. Lecture. Not offered 2006-07.
- Selected Topics of Astrophysical Interest
Full course for one semester. Specific topics vary from year to year, drawn principally from the following areas: internal constitution, evolution, and death of stars; structure of galaxies; interstellar medium; radiative processes; and classical cosmology. Prerequisite: Physics 200. Lecture.
- Elementary Particles
Full course for one semester. Introduction to the theory and phenomenology of elementary particle physics. The course includes a semi-historical overview, followed by relativistic kinematics, the Dirac equation, evaluation of simple Feynman diagrams, and a survey of the strong, electromagnetic, and weak interactions from the perspective of gauge theory. Prerequisite: Physics 200. Lecture-conference. Not offered 2006-07.
- Scientific Computation
Full course for one semester. This course covers numerical and laboratory methods for students of science. The primary focus will be on topics in physics, chemistry, and biology. The course begins with the history and modern importance of scientific computation, moves on to methodology and specific algorithms, and closes with individual elective projects to be approved by the instructor. Basic programming will not be taught; the course will concentrate on scientific, not programmatic, aspects, so students must be able to write programs largely on their own. Specific topics include differential equations, matrix methods, signal and image processing, quantum-theoretic models, astrophysical models, and non-linear and chaotic systems. Prerequisites: a sophomore-level course in one of the sciences and experience with a sufficiently strong computer language, such as Pascal or C. Lecture-conference-laboratory. Cross-listed as Biology 367.
- Classical Mechanics II
Full course for one semester. Specific content varies from year to year. Prerequisite: Physics 311. Lecture-conference. Not offered 2006-07.
- Classical Field Theory
Full course for one semester. A modern account of the classical dynamics of systems with infinitely many degrees of freedom. Treats both general principles and more specialized techniques appropriate to the analysis of topics of exceptional current interest (solitons, gauge fields). Although primarily for physicists, the course contains much material of interest to mathematicians. A good command of classical mechanics, linear algebra, and the theory of differential equations is assumed. Lecture.
- Quantum Mechanics II
Full course for one semester. Content varies from year to year, but the course can be thought of as a continuation of Physics 342. The emphasis is on approximation techniques (time-independent and time-dependent perturbation theory, WKB approximation, variational principles, Born approximation), with applications to atoms, molecules, and solids, the quantum theory of radiation, and formal scattering theory. Prerequisite: Physics 342. Lecture.
- Thesis and Physics Seminar
Full course for one year. The thesis is independent work on an original problem and is intended as an introduction to research. In addition to the thesis project itself, all seniors are expected to participate in a weekly seminar in which various topics from the current literature are discussed.
- Special Topics in Physics
One-half course or full course for one semester. Readings and laboratory work of an advanced character. Students choose some field in which they are interested; they are expected to become familiar with the special instruments and methods of that discipline. Open only to juniors and seniors, by consent of the instructor.
Top of Page