Faculty-Physics

Physics

Matthew B. Koss, Ph.D., Professor

Janine Shertzer, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Science

De-Ping Yang, Ph.D., Professor

Robert H. Garvey, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Tomohiko Narita, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair

Paul K. Oxley, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Timothy M. Roach, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Ben Kain, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Physics is the study of the behavior of the universe, especially the fundamental laws underlying natural phenomena. The Department of Physics has offerings to meet a range of interests, from a Topics in Physics course, to a minor, to a complete major program on the principles and analytic methods of the field. The curriculum leading to a bachelor’s degree can provide a solid foundation for graduate study in physics, applied physics, engineering, medicine, or law; or for entry-level positions in research, business, teaching, and other fields.

Introductory Courses

Students required to take a one-year course in general physics as part of their academic program should take Introductory Physics 1, 2 (PHYS 115, 116). This is 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. Advanced Placement Credit: Students who scored 4 or 5 on the AP Physics exam may receive advanced standing in the Physics curriculum.  Contact the department chair to discuss this option.

The Major in Physics

The requirements for a major in physics are the following:

• Three semesters of calculus (MATH 135, 136 and 241 or the equivalent)

• Introductory Physics 1, 2 (PHYS 115, 116)

• Methods of Physics (PHYS 221)

• Modern Physics with the laboratory (PHYS 223, 225)

• Classical Mechanics (PHYS 342)

• Thermal Physics (PHYS 344)

• Electromagnetic Theory (PHYS 351)

• Quantum Mechanics (PHYS 353)

• at least two additional lecture courses and one laboratory course, at the 200 level or above.

Advanced electives include Optics with the laboratory (PHYS 231, 233), Electronics with the laboratory (PHYS 234, 236), Introduction to Astrophysics (PHYS 355), and Advanced Topics in Physics (PHYS 399).  In some instances, after consulting with the chair, a course taken outside the department may be substituted for an advanced elective.  Introductory Physics 1, 2 are prerequisites for all 200 level physics courses; Multivariable Calculus (MATH 241) and Methods of Physics (PHYS 221) are prerequisites for most 300 level physics courses. Students may take Independent Study (PHYS 461, 462) under faculty guidance to pursue topics of interest that fall outside the regularly offered courses. Programs of supervised research in theoretical or experimental physics (PHYS 471, 472) are available for qualified physics majors. In addition, summer research positions with a stipend are usually available, on a competitive basis.

Notes: A minimum grade of C in Introductory Physics 1, 2 is required to continue in the major. A laboratory course is taken as a fifth course in any given semester. Physics majors, who are also Mathematics majors, are not required to take Methods of Physics. Two special academic programs may be of interest to Physics majors. The 3-2 Program in Engineering provides the opportunity to combine the study of physics with training in engineering. The Teacher Education Program leads to state licensure as a secondary school teacher of physics. Students interested in one of these programs should consult early in their career with the department chair and either the 3-2 program advisor or the director of the Teacher Education Program.

The Minor in Physics

A minor in physics is also offered for those seeking an exploration of physics beyond the introductory level. Students must take two semesters of calculus (MATH 135 and 136, or the equivalent). The required physics courses are Introductory Physics 1, 2 (PHYS 115, 116), and Modern Physics (PHYS 223). In consultation with their physics advisors, minors are required to choose three additional physics courses, two of which must be lecture courses at the 200 level or above.

Courses

Physics Courses

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

See Introductory Courses description, above. 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

See Introductory Courses description, above. 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.