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Courses

Course descriptions listed on this page for the Department of Physics are from the 2017-2018 College Catalog. For more information on the courses offered during the fall and spring semesters, please log in to the course schedule through STAR.

Physics 100 - Topics in Physics
Annually
These courses introduce non-science majors to important principles and modes of inquiry of physics, explored in a particular context. Recent offerings: Earth Science; Electricity and Magnetism in Everyday Life; How Things Work; Gravity and Science in Orbit. Non-science majors only. One unit.

Physics 101 - Introduction to Astronomy
Annually
Motions of celestial bodies; the sun, Earth and moon; other terrestrial planets; Jovian planets; asteroids and comets; nebular model for the origin of the solar system; stars and stellar systems; Milky Way galaxy; the universe and the big-bang model. Non-science majors only. One unit.

Physics 115 - Introductory Physics 1: Mechanics, Fluids and Waves
Fall
First semester course of a two-semester, calculus-based sequence, suitable for majors of physics, chemistry, or biology, as well as for those participating in the Health Professions Advisory Program (premedical, predental, etc.), the 3-2 Engineering Program, or in ROTC.  Covers the theory of Newtonian mechanics and methods for solving quantitative and qualitative problems. Specific topics include motion in one and two dimensions; vectors, Newton's laws of motion, work and energy, linear momentum and collisions, rotational motion, static equilibrium, oscillatory motion, gravitation, fluid mechanics, and mechanical waves. There is an emphasis on applications of physics to natural phenomena and aspects of everyday life.  The course meets four days per week and each class is a mixture of lecture and laboratory exercises; there is no separate lab meeting. Prerequisite or co-requisite: Calculus 1 or equivalent. One and one-quarter units.

Physics 116 - Introductory Physics 2: Electromagnetism, Optics and Modern Physics
Spring
Second part of a two-semester sequence (see PHYS 115). Covers electricity and magnetism, optics, and some aspects of modern physics. Specific topics include electric forces, fields, and potential, electrical components and circuits, magnetic forces and fields, electromagnetic induction, geometric optics, wave optics, relativity, and atomic and nuclear physics. There is an emphasis on applications of physics to natural phenomena and aspects of everyday life.  The course meets four days per week and each class is a mixture of lecture and laboratory exercises; there is no separate lab meeting. Prerequisite: PHYS 115. Prerequisite or co-requisite: Calculus 1 or the equivalent. One and one-quarter units.

Physics 221 - Methods of Physics
Fall
Mathematical and numerical techniques needed for the study of physics at the intermediate and advanced level. Ordinary differential equations; vector calculus; partial differential equations; matrices; Fourier series; and complex variables. Prerequisite: PHYS 112 or 116. One and one-quarter units.

Physics 223 - Modern Physics
Fall
Introduction to several major areas of physics, including relativity, quantum physics (photons and deBroglie waves), atomic structure, nuclear physics, and elementary particles. Prerequisite: PHYS 112 or 116. One unit.

Physics 225 - Modern Physics Laboratory*
Spring
This course introduces students to advanced laboratory equipment and techniques, in the context of key experiments from modern physics. Examples of the experiments to be performed are: Nuclear Decay, Speed of Light, Gamma Rays, Balmer Lines Spectroscopy, and Cosmic Ray Muons. There is a strong emphasis on analytical methods and presentations of results. Taken as a fifth course. Prerequisite or co-requisite: Physics 223. One unit.

Physics 231 - Optics
Alternate years
Through an in-depth study of geometric and wave optics, this course allows students to understand electromagnetic fields and optical phenomena under one coherent theory and fosters the concurrent use of many different mathematical methods. Students will also see how the concept of wave-particle duality of the photon is manifested in geometric and wave optics. Geometric optics focuses on topics such as the Fermat’s Principle, laws of reflection and refraction, image-forming properties of mirrors and lenses, analysis and designs of optical systems (the eye, microscopes, etc.). Wave optics covers topics such as dispersion by prisms, interference by two coherence sources (e.g., double-slits) or multiple sources (e.g., gratings), diffraction and scattering of light, thin films, polarization, optical spectra, lasers and holography. Prerequisite: Physics 112 or 116. One unit.

Physics 233 - Optics Laboratory*
Alternate years
In this advanced laboratory course students will assemble optical systems and test their performance, to understand the principles but also the quantitative relations between parameters such as wave length, intensity, geometric sizes and shapes, refractive index, polarization, etc. The experiments allow students to develop skills in a variety of areas, including precision adjustments of optical instruments, working with lasers, computer simulations of image formation, spectrometry, holography and use of optical fibers. Taken concurrently with Physics 231 and as a fifth course. One unit.

Physics 234 - Electronics
Alternate years
An introduction to analog and digital electronics using discrete semiconductor components and integrated circuit chips. Theory and methodology are discussed in terms of Kirchhoff ’s laws applied to DC and AC circuits, the characteristics of diodes and transistors, and the properties of IC chips. This course also explores the physics of semiconductors, behaviors of diodes and transistors, and their circuit applications including rectifiers, regulators, amplifiers, oscillators, and feedback systems, specifically operational amplifier circuits. The digital circuitry focuses on logic gates, comparators, binary number counting and processing, and programmable microcontrollers. Prerequisite: Physics 112 or 116. One unit.

Physics 236 - Electronics Laboratory*
Alternate years
This is the advanced laboratory course accompanying Physics 234. It is designed to allow students to explore various analog and digital circuits. Professional equipment including digital oscilloscopes, prototyping boards, digital multimeters are used in the design, construction, and testing of AC and DC circuits, including low- and high-pass filters, resonance circuits, rectifiers, transistor amplifiers with feedback, oscillators, 555-timer circuits, operational amplifiers, transistor-transistor logic (TTL) integrated circuits, logic gates, flip-flops, binary counters, binary-coded decimal representations and displays, binary computations, and a programmable microcontroller. Taken concurrently with Physics 234 and as a fifth course. One unit.

Physics 342 - Classical Mechanics
Spring
Newtonian (non-relativistic) mechanics is studied in detail using advanced mathematical methods. Onedimensional motions that are studied include those with fluid friction, where the force is a function of velocity, and the forced harmonic oscillator. Two-dimensional motions include projectiles with air friction and motion under an inverse-square law central force. Motion of a system of particles includes the rocket problem, the two-body problem, coupled harmonic oscillators, and rigid-body rotation. Coriolis and centrifugal forces on the rotating Earth are studied. Finally, a thorough introduction of Lagrangian dynamics is presented. Prerequisite: PHYS 221 and MATH 241. One unit.

Physics 344 - Thermal Physics
Fall
How does a refrigerator work, and what is its maximum efficiency? How much energy do we need to add to a kettle of water to change it to steam? How and why does a snowflake form and how and why do liquids turn into solids? Why does an iron magnet lose its magnetism above a certain temperature? In fact, what do we mean by temperature, heat, and energy? Our understanding of these topics formed in two distinctly different ways starting about two-hundred years ago. James Joule, Sadi Carnot, and others developed what we now call classical thermodynamics, which treats matter and energy in terms of macroscopic quantities that obey the four “laws of thermodynamics.” Later, Ludwig Boltzmann, James Clark Maxwell, Josiah Willard Gibbs, and others applied classical mechanics and probability theory to molecules in an approach now called statistical mechanics and kinetic theory. In our modern approach to thermal physics, we add our understanding of quantum physics and use both classical and statistical approaches as best suits the question under investigation. Prerequisite: PHYS 221 and MATH 241. One unit.

Physics 351 - Electromagnetic Theory
Spring
The aim of this course is to introduce the basic principles of electricity and magnetism and their application in a variety of situations. The focus is on the physics behind how electric and magnetic fields are created, but the course includes substantial mathematical complexity. A solid foundation of multivariable calculus is, therefore, required. Specific topics covered include: the electrostatic field and potential; work and energy in electrostatics; special techniques for calculating potentials; electric fields in matter; the Lorentz force and the Biot-Savart law; magnetic vector potential; magnetostatic fields in matter; electromagnetic induction and Maxwell’s equations. Prerequisites are PHYS 221 and MATH 241. One unit.

Physics 353 - Quantum Mechanics
Fall
The formalism of quantum mechanics; solutions of the one-dimensional Schrödinger equation including the infinite square well, the harmonic oscillator, and the finite well/barrier; solutions of the three-dimensional Schrödinger equation; the hydrogen atom; angular momentum and spin. Prerequisite: Physics 221 and 223 and MATH 241. One unit.

Physics 355 - Introduction to Astrophysics
Alternate years
Celestial mechanics; spectra; solar physics; equations of stellar structure; thermonuclear reactions; stars and stellar systems; polytropes; stellar evolution; white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes; Milky Way galaxy; Hubble’s law; active galactic nuclei; big-bang model. Prerequisite: Physics 221 and 223. One unit.

Physics 399 - Advanced Topics in Physics
Alternate years
Exploration of a selected topic at an advanced level. Fulfills one elective requirement for majors. One unit.

Physics 461, 462 - Independent Study
Fall, spring
One unit each semester.

Physics 471, 472 - Undergraduate Research
Fall, spring
Supervised research in theory or experiment. One unit each semester.

*Each of these laboratory courses is taken as a fifth course and, as such, is figured in the GPA, but does not count toward the 32 courses required for graduation.