Physics Department

Courses of Study

[PH120]    Space ... The Final Frontier This writing-intensive course will use the exploration of other worlds, real and imagined, as an opportunity to investigate the shifting relationships between science, science fiction, and fantasy. Students will consider the social and political implications of human exploration, together with the science behind space travel and the historical development of the NASA space program in particular. Literature and films will be treated as texts, illustrating key elements of written craftsmanship such as word choice, style, structure, and narrative. Four credit hours. W1.
PH141f    Foundations of Mechanics A calculus-based survey of classical Newtonian mechanics, including kinematics, forces, work and energy, momentum, gravity, oscillations, and waves. These topics are developed further in discussions, labs, and problem-solving assignments. May not be taken for credit if the student has earned credit for Physics 143. Prerequisite: A working knowledge of high school or college calculus, or concurrent enrollment in Mathematics 121 or 161. Four credit hours. N, Lb. Conover
PH143f    Honors Physics An accelerated, calculus-based, introductory course on Newtonian mechanics supplemented with some coverage of additional special topics. Intended for students who have had substantial courses in physics and calculus in high school. Topics in Newtonian mechanics include kinematics, dynamics, conservation laws, oscillations, and waves. Additional topics include special relativity and nuclear physics. Students acquire knowledge in these areas and skills for solving mathematical problems and doing laboratory work. May not be taken for credit if the student has earned credit for Physics 141. Four credit hours. N, Lb. Tate
PH145s    Foundations of Electromagnetism and Optics Explores the foundations of electrical and magnetic forces, electromagnetic waves, and optics. Students will learn how electric and magnetic fields are described mathematically, how they are interrelated, and how the interrelations lead to a wide variety of physical phenomena. Practical applications in electric circuits and optical devices are explored. These topics are developed further in discussions, laboratory exercises, and out-of-class assignments. Prerequisite: Physics 141 or 143, and Mathematics 121, or 161. Four credit hours. N, Lb. Tate
PH198s    Gravity: From Aristotle to LIGO Why do things fall down? What makes the Earth revolve around the Sun? Does light travel in straight lines? Gravity, the most familiar force in nature, is in some ways the least understood. This course explores the quest to understand gravity over the centuries, from the philosophy of Aristotle to contributions by Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and others, culminating in the recent discovery of gravitational waves. Along the way, we explore various ways that scientific progress is made, what it means for a scientific theory to be right or wrong, and what happens to an old theory when a new one comes along. Three credit hours. N. McElmurry
PH231f    Introduction to Astrophysics Listed as Astronomy 231. Four credit hours. N, Lb. McGrath
PH241f    Modern Physics I An introduction to the two central paradigms of non-Newtonian physics: Einstein's special theory of relativity and the quantum behavior of light and matter. The postulates of Einstein are presented and the consequences explored theoretically along with experimental evidence for relativity. The experimental evidence for quantum mechanics is considered from a historical perspective, beginning with Planck's quantum hypothesis for blackbody radiation through to the Bohr model of the hydrogen atom and the experimental evidence for the Schrödinger equation. Students will acquire skills in solving physics problems and learning to communicate the solutions effectively in writing. Lecture and discussion. Prerequisite: Physics 145 and Mathematics 122 or 162. Four credit hours. Tate
PH242s    Modern Physics II An intermediate-level introduction to quantum mechanics and atomic physics. Topics include the Schrödinger equation, interpretation of the wave function, one-dimensional potentials, hydrogen atom, electron spin, exclusion principle, atomic structure, and atomic spectra. Lectures and discussions. Prerequisite: Physics 241. Four credit hours. Conover
PH250fs    Experiments in Modern Physics Explores physics laboratory practice in connection with the core principles of modern physics. Introduces concepts of experiment design, the use of electronic instrumentation and data acquisition, techniques of data analysis and presentation, and skills in scientific communication through written and/or oral presentations. Lecture and laboratory. Prerequisite: Physics 241 (may be taken concurrently). Four credit hours. Conover, McCoy
[PH253]    Electronic Measurement in the Sciences Electronic measurements are used in all of the sciences as well as interdisciplinary research areas such as environmental science. Provides an introduction to experiment control and measurement instrumentation using modern electronics. Emphasizes laboratory work and includes design and implementation of electronic measurement and signal processing methods. Advanced analysis techniques will be introduced. Normally offered every other year. Prerequisite: Physics 145. Three credit hours.
PH311s    Classical Mechanics Newton's laws, oscillatory motion, noninertial reference systems, classical gravitation, motion of rigid bodies, and Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics. Lecture and discussion. Prerequisite: Physics 145 and Mathematics 122 or 162. Four credit hours. Patton
PH312s    Physics of Fluids All living things, from the smallest cells to the largest communities, interact with the fluid environment of liquids and gases that covers the planet. Our understanding of fluid motion helps us build better airplanes, investigate climate change, and discover new design principles in biology. We will view this subject as an exciting, interdisciplinary opportunity to see the laws of physics in action. Emphasis will be on a core set of basic concepts and mathematical tools used to describe fluids and explore a range of applications drawn from biology, chemistry, geophysics, and engineering. Prerequisite: Mathematics 262 and Physics 242. Four credit hours. McCoy
PH321f    Electricity and Magnetism A theoretical treatment of electrostatics and magnetostatics in vacuum and material media through Maxwell's equations. Lecture and discussion. Prerequisite: Physics 145 and Mathematics 262. Four credit hours. Kocevski
PH332s    Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics Examines the concepts of temperature, energy, heat, work, and entropy. Thermodynamic relations between these quantities are studied from both a microscopic and macroscopic point of view. The laws of thermodynamics are developed from an underlying statistical treatment. Topics such as heat flows, heat engines, phase transitions, chemical reactions, Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac statistics, and blackbody radiation are discussed. Lecture and discussion. Prerequisite: Mathematics 122 (or 162) and either Physics 242 (may be taken concurrently) or Chemistry 342 (may be taken concurrently). Four credit hours. McGrath
PH333f    Experimental Soft Matter Physics An introduction to scientific research, focusing on soft matter physics and nonlinear science. Uses advanced experimental topics such as Brownian motion, pattern formation, hydrodynamic instabilities, and chaos to provide basic training in modern interdisciplinary research methods. Strong emphasis will be placed on the use of computers and computer programming, image analysis, wet lab techniques, and other broadly applicable skills, including the reading and writing of scientific research articles. Prerequisite: Physics 242 and Mathematics 262. Four credit hours. McCoy
[PH335]    General Relativity and Cosmology An introduction to Einstein's general theory of relativity, including a treatment of tensor analysis, Einstein's equations, Schwarzschild metric, black holes, expansion of the universe, and cosmology. Prerequisite: Physics 241. Four credit hours.
[PH338]    Nuclear and Particle Physics An overview of nuclear and particle physics. Topics in nuclear physics include radioactivity, nuclear reactions and decays, and nuclear models. In particle physics, topics include relativistic particle interactions, the strong and weak interactions, the standard model description of quarks, leptons, and gauge fields, and ideas for new physics that goes beyond the standard model. Prerequisite: Physics 242. Four credit hours.
PH342s    Galaxies and Cosmology Listed as Astronomy 342. Four credit hours. Kocevski
PH401f, 402s    Senior Physics and Astronomy Seminar Seminars will focus on student-led discussions of readings from the primary literature and will also include playing host to outside speakers. Required of all senior physics majors. Prerequisite: Senior standing. Two credit hours. Kocevski, McCoy
PH401Sf    Senior Physics and Astronomy Seminar Noncredit. McCoy
PH431f    Quantum Mechanics Study of the structure and interpretation of quantum mechanics at an advanced level. Quantum states and observables are described in terms of abstract state vectors and operators. Students learn about representations of state vectors and operators in terms of wave functions and differential operators in addition to the tools of linear algebra: vectors and matrices. We will approach the abstract representation of quantum objects using the concrete example of spin-1/2 particles and photons to provide insight into fundamental principles. Deep issues concerning the nature of locality and realism are explored. Weekly discussions and problem-solving assignments are used to clarify concepts. Should be taken by students intending to go to graduate school in physics or a related area. Prerequisite: Physics 242 and Mathematics 253. Four credit hours. Patton
PH483fj    Independent Honors Project Research conducted under the guidance of a faculty member and focused on an approved topic leading to the writing of an honors thesis. Two to four credit hours. Faculty
PH491f, 492s    Independent Study Individual topics or research in areas where the student has demonstrated the interest and competence necessary for independent work. Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor. One to five credit hours. Faculty