Physics (PHY)

Academic Catalog: 2012–2013

  • Paul Saulnier, Chairperson
  • Thomas Huber
  • Steven Mellema
  • James Miller
  • Charles Niederriter
  • Jessie Petricka
  • Aaron Santos (Visiting, 2012–2013)

The Department of Physics in its curriculum endeavors to provide a unified presentation of all the major areas in physics to fulfill the needs and interests of a variety of students. This presentation is set in a liberal arts context such that, in addition to the ideas, experiments, and theories, the philosophical and cultural implications of physics are considered.

The department offers a comprehensive major designed to prepare students for graduate study in physics, engineering, or related fields. The Physics curriculum also provides for majors in teaching and interdisciplinary programs, as well as the physics component of pre-engineering and other pre-professional programs.

Through its offerings in Curriculum I and II, the department provides distinct courses for the general education of students who are not engaged in the natural sciences, but who would like to explore physics and astronomy.

It is important that students considering a major in Physics begin their studies with PHY-195/196 in the fall of their first year. The normal sequence of courses through the first two years of the major would then proceed through PHY-205/206, PHY-215/216, PHY-225, and PHY-270/271.

Students preparing for graduate studies in physics or engineering are encouraged to take the following courses in addition to those required for the major/minor: PHY-300, PHY-350, PHY-360, PHY-370, PHY-380, PHY-390, and PHY-399. Also recommended are CHE-107 and MCS-321.

Sequential courses and courses with prerequisites require that those prior courses/prerequisites have been completed with a grade of C – or better.

Physics Major: 9.75 courses in Physics, including: PHY-205, PHY-206, PHY-215, PHY-216, PHY-225, PHY-230, PHY-270, PHY-271, PHY-305, and PHY-365.

No course graded below C – shall count toward the Physics major.

PHY-195 and PHY-196 are the only Level I courses that shall count toward the Physics major.

Grades 5-12 Physics Teaching Major: This major is only for students who have been admitted into the Minnesota licensure program to teach all areas of science in grades 5-8 and physics in grades 9 –12. It requires the core science and education courses for Secondary Education and also the requirements for the Physics major. In addition to the Mathematics and Physics courses required for the Physics major, the following core science courses are also required: BIO-101, BIO-102, CHE-107, GEG-108, GEO-111, PHY-195, PHY-196, and EDU-248. Please see the Education Department section of this bulletin for a listing of the Education courses required.

Grades 9-12 Physics Teaching Major: This major is only for students who have been admitted into the Minnesota licensure program to teach physics in grades 9 –12. It requires the core science and education courses for Secondary Education and also the requirements for the Physics major. In addition to the Mathematics and Physics courses required for the Physics major, this major requires PHY-195, PHY-196, and EDU-248.

Please see the Education Department section of this bulletin for a listing of the education courses required.

Department Honors in Physics:Purpose: To promote individual excellence in physics through directed research and demonstration of significant knowledge of the discipline.

Requirements:

  1. The Physics major, including PHY-300, PHY-350, PHY-380, and PHY-390.
  2. A minimum GPA in Physics courses of 3.25.
  3. At least 1.0 course in research in Physics (PHY-291 and/or PHY-391).
  4. Completion of the Graduate Record Exam in physics.
  5. Completion and defense of a senior thesis based on the student’s research.

Applications for Honors in Physics must be received by the department chair and accepted by the tenth class day of the student’s last semester. Application forms are available from the department chair.

Physics Minor: 5.875 courses in physics, no more than 1.25 at Level I. No course graded below C – shall count toward the minor.

100 Physical World (1 course) This course provides a one-semester introduction to both classical and modern physics, and is intended for students with majors outside the natural sciences. Topics of study include mechanics, heat, thermodynamics, wave phenomena, sound, light, electricity, magnetism, relativity, quantum theory, and atomic and nuclear physics. These will be developed historically, and emphasis will be placed on topics which relate to current social issues. The approach will be quantitative, involving use of algebra, but no calculus is required. Lecture and laboratory. NASP, offered occasionally.

102 Astronomy, Cosmology, and Astrophysics (1 course) Designed for non-science students, this course covers two basic and related topics. The first acquaints the student with the methods of observational astronomy and the use of small astronomical telescopes. The second topic is concerned with the astrophysical evidence which forms the basis of cosmological theories of the nature and origin of the solar system, galaxies, and the universe. Included are discussions of intelligent life in the universe, general relativity, space travel, quasars, and pulsars. Lecture and laboratory. NASP, offered annually.

104 Physics of Sound and Music (1 course) This course will introduce students to the basic physical processes related to production of sound and music, as well as the scientific instrumentation and techniques used for sound measurement. Using this basis, students will investigate a variety of topics such as: how musical instruments, including the voice, produce musical tones, psychoacoustics (how we perceive sound), architectural acoustics, sound recording, and sound reproduction. Lecture and laboratory. NASP, offered occasionally.

120 General Physics I (1 course) This course will focus on the following topics and their applications in chemistry and life sciences: kinematics, dynamics, conservation laws of mechanics, fluids, heat and transport phenomena, thermodynamics, simple harmonic motion, traveling waves, and sound. Lectures, demonstrations, and recitations. Requires concurrent enrollment in PHY-121. Fall semester.

121 General Physics I Laboratory (.25 course) The course will consist of one two-hour lab session each week. Experiments will explore phenomena in the following areas: kinematics, dynamics, conservation laws of mechanics, fluids, heat and transport phenomena, thermodynamics, simple harmonic motion, traveling waves, and sound. Requires concurrent enrollment in PHY-120 or PHY-122. Fall semester.

122 General Physics I (with Calculus) (1 course) This course will focus on the following topics and their applications in chemistry and life sciences: kinematics, dynamics, conservation laws of mechanics, fluids, heat and transport phenomena, thermodynamics, simple harmonic motion, traveling waves, and sound. Lectures, demonstrations, and recitations. Prerequisite: MCS-119 or MCS-121 and concurrent enrollment in PHY-121. Fall semester.

170 General Physics II (1 course) This course will focus on the following topics and their applications in chemistry and life sciences: light and optics; electricity and magnetism; atomic, molecular, condensed matter, and nuclear physics; quantum physics; and special relativity. Lectures, demonstrations, and recitations. Prerequisite: PHY-120/121 and concurrent enrollment in PHY-171. Spring semester.

171 General Physics II Laboratory (.25 course) This course will consist of one two-hour lab session each week. Experiments will explore phenomena in the following areas: light and optics; electricity and magnetism; atomic, molecular, condensed matter, and nuclear physics; quantum physics. Requires concurrent enrollment in PHY-17O or PHY-172. Spring semester.

172 General Physics II (with Calculus) (1 course) This course will focus on the following topics and their applications in chemistry and life sciences: light and optics; electricity and magnetism; atomic, molecular, condensed matter, and nuclear physics; quantum physics; and special relativity. Lectures, demonstrations, and recitations. Prerequisites: PHY-121/122 and concurrent enrollment in PHY-171. Spring semester.

195 The Cosmic Universe (1 course) This course is the first semester in the sequence of courses that begin the Physics major or minor. The focus of the course is astrophysics, and the astrophysical evidence which forms the basis of cosmological theories of the nature and origin of the solar system, galaxies, and the universe. Specific topics in physics that are studied in order to understand and interpret that evidence include: classical mechanics, optics, thermodynamics, spectroscopy, quantum physics, and relativity. Requires concurrent enrollment in PHY-196 and concurrent or previous enrollment in MCS-119 or MCS-121, or permission of the instructor. Fall semester.

196 The Cosmic Universe Laboratory (.25 course) Experiments in introductory physics taught in conjunction with PHY-195. One two-hour lab weekly. Requires concurrent enrollment in PHY-195. Fall semester.

205 The Mechanical Universe (1 course) The basic principles of classical mechanics, waves, sound, and thermal physics will be studied in detail. Differential and integral calculus will be used in the analysis and solution of physical problems. Five lectures per week. Requires concurrent enrollment in PHY-206 and concurrent or previous enrollment in MCS-122, or permission of instructor. Spring semester.

206 The Mechanical Universe Laboratory (.25 course) Experiments in introductory physics taught in conjunction with PHY-205. One two-hour lab weekly. Spring semester.

215 The Electromagnetic Universe (1 course) The basic principles of classical electromagnetism, electrical circuits, and wave optics will be studied in detail. Calculus will be used throughout the course. Five lectures per week. Prerequisites: PHY-205/206, concurrent enrollment in PHY-216, and concurrent or previous enrollment in MCS-222, or permission of the instructor. Fall semester.

216 The Electromagnetic Universe Laboratory (.25 course) Experiments in introductory physics taught in conjunction with PHY-215. One two-hour lab weekly. Fall semester.

225 The Quantum Universe (1 course) An introduction to quantum mechanics, atomic and nuclear structure, condensed matter physics, and particle physics, as well as, a more in depth treatment of special relativity. This course presents the structure of these theories and how they differ from the corresponding classical theories. Some historical and philosophical aspects of these theories are also considered. Five lectures per week. Prerequisite: PHY-215/216 and concurrent enrollment in PHY-230, or permission of instructor. Spring semester.

230 Applied Mathematics for Physics and Engineering (.5 course) An introduction to Fourier series, series solutions to differential equations, special functions, partial differential equations, linear equations, vectors, matrices and determinants, and coordinate transformations. Emphasis will be placed on the mathematics needed to describe physical systems. Two lectures weekly. Prerequisite: MCS-222. Spring semester.

244 Special Topics in Physics (.5–1 course) Lecture and discussion on special topics in physics. Requires permission of instructor. Offered occasionally.

270 Electronics and Instrumentation (1 course) This course begins with a condensed review of AC and DC circuit theory and then develops the principles and applications of analog and digital electronic devices and circuits. Topics include equivalent circuits, semiconductor devices, negative feedback, operational amplifiers, comparators, digital logic, sequential logic, counters, and related topics. Three studio/lectures weekly. Prerequisite: PHY-215/216 or PHY-171/172. Spring semester.

271 Electronics and Instrumentation Laboratory (.25 course) Experiments in AC circuits, filters, diode characteristics and applications, voltage regulation, operational amplifier circuits, transistor principles, logic gates, IC counters, Schmitt triggers, and other circuits. Emphasis is placed on developing expertise with modern test equipment in the quantitative study of analog and digital circuits. One two-hour laboratory weekly. Requires concurrent enrollment in PHY-270. Spring semester.

300 Mechanics (1 course) An extension of classical mechanics introduced in PHY-195 and PHY-205 to those formal developments of mechanics appropriate to the study of the quantum theory. Topics include Lagrangian and Hamiltonian dynamics, vibrating systems, and mechanics of rigid bodies. Prerequisites: PHY-215 and PHY-230. Fall semester.

305 Experimental Modern Physics (1 course) This course will involve the student in several areas of experimental modern physics, and will introduce state-of-the-art methods of data acquisition and analysis. While performing experiments in such areas as atomic physics, condensed-matter physics, modern optics, and nuclear physics, the student will maintain a detailed laboratory notebook. The student will also write formal lab reports for some of the experiments carried out in the course. Lecture and laboratory. Prerequisites: PHY-225 and PHY-270/271. WRITD, Fall semester.

320 Astrophysics (1 course) This course will cover topics in astrophysics but will include a review of many other areas of physics as well. The topics studied will include the nature and evolution of the solar system, stars, galaxies, and clusters. Also included will be discussions of the methods of observational astronomy and modeling in astrophysics. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: PHY-300 and PHY-305 and concurrent enrollment in PHY-365. Spring semester, alternate years.

330 Nuclear Physics (1 course) Selected topics in nuclear physics will be discussed, including nuclear structure, nuclear decay and radioactivity, and nuclear reactions. A thorough knowledge of both classical and modern physics and a familiarity with laboratory electronics is expected. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week (or equivalent in January Interim). Prerequisites: PHY-300 and PHY-305. Only .5 course of PHY-330 taken in January may count toward the major or minor. Offered occasionally.

340 Condensed Matter Physics (1 course) This course will cover selected topics in condensed matter physics. The topics studied will include structure, x-ray, electron, and neutron diffraction, phonons, charge transport, and optical properties of crystalline and non-crystalline solids. A thorough knowledge of modern physics as well as classical physics is expected. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: PHY-300 and PHY-305 and concurrent enrollment in PHY-365. Offered occasionally.

344 Advanced Topics in Physics (.5–1 course) Lecture and discussion on advanced topics in physics. Requires permission of instructor.

350 Electromagnetic Theory (1 course) Classical electromagnetism will be studied through Maxwell’s equations and their applications to physical systems. Topics include electrostatics, boundary value problems, electromagnetics, and E-M waves, all using the language of vector calculus. Prerequisites: PHY-215, PHY-230, and PHY-300, or permission of instructor. Spring semester.

360 Optics (1 course) An advanced laboratory-centered course covering topics in geometrical, physical, and quantum optics. The classical phenomena of refraction, dispersion, interference, diffraction, and polarization as well as Fourier optics, coherence theory, nonlinear optics, and other modern optical topics will be studied. Three lectures and one three-hour lab weekly. Prerequisite: PHY-305 and concurrent enrollment in PHY-365. Spring semester.

268, 368 Career Exploration, Internship (Course value to be determined) Off-campus employment experience related to the student’s major. See description of the Internship Program. Prerequisite: junior or senior status. Fall and Spring semesters and Summer.

365 Course Project in Physics (0.0 course) This course is the required co-requisite for those upper level courses in physics that include a substantial student-centered project in experimental physics. Offered annually.

370 Advanced Mathematical Methods of Physics (1 course) This course covers topics in advanced mathematics that are important to physics, using both analytical and numerical techniques. The following topics and their applications in physics will be studied: infinite series; linear partial differential equations; Sturm-Liouville theory; Legendre, Laguerre, Hermite, and other special functions; and Fourier series and transforms. Prerequisite: PHY-230. Spring semester.

380 Thermal and Statistical Physics (.75 course) The laws and concepts of equilibrium thermodynamics and both classical and quantum statistical mechanics are developed from the microscopic dynamics of many-particle systems. Applications of the theory will be made to black body radiation, heat capacities of solids, and selected topics from the following areas: astrophysics, low temperature physics, information theory, and transport theory. Meets three times per week. Prerequisites: PHY-225, PHY-230, and PHY-300. Fall semester.

390 Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (1 course) This course will cover the general structure and formalism of quantum mechanics. Topics will include: Schrodinger equation and solutions for one-dimensional problems; Dirac notation and matrix mechanics; the harmonic oscillator; the hydrogen atom; angular momentum and spin; and approximation methods. Prerequisites: PHY-300 and PHY-370. Fall semester.

291, 391 Independent Study Physics (Course value to be determined) Independent investigations in theoretical or experimental physics for physics majors. Requires departmental approval. Offered Fall and Spring semesters and January Interim.

399 Senior Seminar in Physics (.25 course) This course provides a review of principal topics from across the core areas of physics. Students will prepare solutions to problems from the Graduate Record Examination in physics as well as review journal articles on current physics research topics. The course will meet weekly for two hours. Fall semester.