Physics and Astronomy Courses

For information about the courses needed for a Physics major, click here.
For a preliminary schedule for when the upper level courses will be offered, click here.

Intro Phys Survey
PHYS 1030. (4 hours) -- Presents an interdisciplinary approach to the physical sciences with a concentration in physics. Relates the role of science to the daily activities of an educated person. Three hours lecture, one hour demonstration/discussion each week. Not open to students who have any previous college credit in any of the physical sciences.

Astronomy I
ASTR 1010. (4 hours) -- An introductory course which includes historical astronomy, celestial motions, properties and observation of light, and physical characteristics of the solar system and the Sun. Includes laboratory activities involving telescope observations of solar system and stellar objects. Designed for students desiring a laboratory science for its general education value.

Astronomy II
ASTR 1020. (4 hours) -- Introduces students to the study of stars, galaxies, and the universe as a whole. Includes laboratory activities involving telescope observations of star systems, nebulae, and galaxies. Three hours lecture, two hours laboratory each week. NOTE THAT IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO HAVE TAKEN ASTRONOMY I TO TAKE ASTRONOMY II.

Life in the Universe
ASTR 1035 (4 hours) -- In this course, we use the scientific method to explore the possibility of the existence of life elsewhere in the Universe. We will discuss the origin and evolution of life on Earth, the possibility of life in other locations in our solar system, recent discoveries of extrasolar planets, and the possibility of advanced civilizations elsewhere in the Galaxy. We will also cover topics in interstellar communication, space travel, and UFOs. In this course, we will utilize aspects of astronomy, physics, geology, paleontology, biology, and chemistry to investigate the question of life in the Universe. This course has a required laboratory. There are no prerequisites for this course; it is not necessary to have taken either Astronomy I or II before taking this course.

Variable Stars
ASTR 3970. (2 hours) -- Prerequisite: ASTR 1010, 1020. A self-paced independent-study laboratory course on variable stars. Students will make approximately weekly observations of variable stars using the 14-inch Celestron Telescope at the Harry D. Powell Observatory. The observations will be analyzed and light curves derived.

ASTR 3415. (3 hours) -- Prerequisite: PHYS 2120. Students will be introduced to the theoretical basis of what we understand about the Universe. Students will study astronomical phenomena through techniques described in physics: mechanics, atomic and molecular physics ( i.e., quantum mechanics), nuclear physics, relativity, and electromagnetism. Specifically, the physics of the solar and stellar atmospheres and interiors will be discussed, as well as stellar evolution. The Milky Way Galaxy and galaxies in general will be studied in detail. The course will conclude with a treatment of gravitation and cosmology in the presentation of the Big Bang theory.

Extragalactic Astronomy

ASTR 4110 (4 hours) --This course will provide an in-depth look at modern extragalactic astronomy, including normal galaxies, active galaxies, radio galaxies, and quasars, as well as the Universe as a whole.   The course will examine galaxy structure, evolution, dynamics, and formation from both an observational and theoretical perspective.

General Physics I, II Lecture
PHYS 2010-20. General Physics I,II (3, 3 hours) -- Prerequisite: Mathematics 1040 or equivalent. A survey of the topics in classical physics intended primarily for students in preprofessional curricula and majors in various engineering technology concentrations. (Engineering transfer students should take Physics 2110-20.) Topics include mechanics, thermodynamics, waves, electricity and magnetism, and geometrical options. Good working knowledge of algebra and trigonometry is assumed; heavy emphasis on solutions to numerical problems. Physics 2110-20 should be taken in sequence. (Most curricula require a laboratory course in physics. Students in these curricula must also take 2011-21, General Physics Laboratory I, II.) Three one-hour lectures each week.

PHYS 2011-21: General Physics Laboratory I, II

General Physics Laboratory I, II (1, 1 hour) -- Experiments dealing with the basic laws of physics, designed to reinforce and supplement concepts learned in general physics. One two-hour lab session each week.

Technical Physics

PHYS 2110-20. Technical Physics I, II (5, 5 hours) -- Prerequisite: One semester of calculus. A survey of physics for students majoring in technical fields such as physics, chemistry, engineering, etc. Also intended for preprofessional students (pre-med, pre-dentistry, etc.) who desire a stronger preparation for professional school. Three one-hour lectures and three hours of laboratory/recitation each week.

PHYS 2810. Statics (3 hours) -- Prerequisite: MATH 1910, 1920; Corequisite: PHYS 2110. Calculus-based course in applied mechanics of engineering statics. Topics include vectors, Newton's laws, torque, equilibria of rigid bodies, and aspects of friction.

PHYS 2820. Dynamics (3 hours) -- Prerequisite: PHYS 2810; Corequisite: PHYS 2120. Calculus-based course in applied mechanics of engineering dynamics. Topics include kinematic equations of motion, rotational motion, energy, collisions, and vibrations.

PHYS 3010. (4 hours) -- Prerequisites: PHYS 2110-2120. Statics and dynamics of particles and systems of particles. An introduction to Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations of Newtonian mechanics. Three one-hour lectures and one two-hour recitation session each week.

PHYS 3210. Optics (4 hours) -- Prerequisites: PHYS 2110-2120. Geometrical optics including reflection, refraction, dispersion, thin and thick lenses, optical instruments. Physical optics including electromagnetic character of light, interference, diffraction, polarization, and related topics. Three one-hour lectures and one three-hour lab session, or equivalent, each week.

Modern Physics Lab
PHYS 3410. (2 hours) -- Prerequisites: PHYS 2110-2120. An advanced experimental course covering selected topics in particle physics, atomic and molecular structure, and wave phenomena. One four-hour lab per week.

PHYS 3510. Introduction to Biophysics (3 hours) -- Prerequisites: PHYS 2010/20 or 2110/20. Underlying principles of physics used to explore and explain biological systems. Techniques discussed include energetics, X-ray analysis, absorption spectroscopy, etc. applied to cellular processes. Three one-hour lectures, or equivalent, each week.

Atomic and Nuclear Physics
PHYS 3610. Introduction to Atomic and Nuclear Physics (3 hours) -- Prerequisites: PHYS 2110-2120. A semiquantitative introduction to the physics of the atom and its nucleus: constituent parts of atoms, atomic transmutation, nuclear fission and fusion, and related topics. Three one-hour lectures each week.

PHYS 3710: Electricity and Magnetism
PHYS 3710. (4 hours) -- Prerequisites: PHYS 2110-2120. An intermediate-level course in electromagnetism: electrostatics, dielectrics, magnetic materials and effects, development of Maxwell's equations. Three one-hour lectures and one two-hour recitations/laboratory session each week.

Computational Physics
PHYS 4007-5007. (4 hours) -- Prerequisite: PHYS 2110-2120 (permission to register also given to those students who have had MATH 3200). Numerical techniques to model physical processes using both 32-bit CISC-based PCs (running Windows and Linux) and 64-bit RISC-based computer workstations (running Unix with X-Windows). The numerical solution to systems of linear equations, ordinary differential equations, and partial differential equations will be presented. In addition, techniques in data fitting and Monte Carlo techniques to handle random systems will be investigated. Two computer projects will be required for the course. Though previous computer programming experienced is not required, it would be useful for this course. Students will select which programming language they wish to use ( e.g., Fortran 77, Fortran 90/95, C/C++, IDL, or MatLab) and will receive supplemental training in this language should it be required. Visualization techniques will be discussed to help the student to present their data generated for their projects. Project reports must be written using the LaTeX markup language, which is often used in scientific journals. Besides the two projects, grades will also be based upon two exams and 4 homework assignments. Two 1.5 hours lectures per week will meet in the Physics and Astronomy Computer Laboratory (Brown Hall 264). Students will have access to this lab during nonlecture times to work on their projects. Click here for a more detailed description of Computational Physics.

Thermal and Kinetic Physics
PHYS 4117-5117. (4 hours) -- Prerequisites: PHYS 2110. The first, second, and third laws of thermodynamics, Kinetic theory of an ideal gas, equations of state, distribution of molecular velocities, principles of statistical mechanics, transport phenomena, applications of Boltzmann statistics.

Quantum Mechanics
PHYS 4617-5617. (4 hours) -- Prerequisites: PHYS 3610 and senior standing or permission of the instructor. An introduction to quantum theory and nonrelativistic quantum mechanics. Historical development of ideas which led to present-day theories. Schroedinger's equation and applications, approximation methods, matrix methods, and related topics. Two 1.5-hour lectures and one 1-hour recitation session each week. Note that this is a writing intensive course and a computer project is required.

Electromagnetic Theory
PHYS 4717/5717. Electromagnetic Theory (4 hours) -- Prerequisite: PHYS 3710. Principles of electromagnetic theory, Maxwell's equations, selected applications, and related topics. Three one-hour lectures and one two-hour recitation session each week.

Physics Seminar
PHYS 4850. Seminar in Physics (1 hour) -- A weekly one-hour session devoted to a range in research and/or teaching topics, or other topics of departmental interest (see schedule). Attendance expected of physics majors. May be taken for credit twice.

Special Topics in Physics
PHYS 4860. Special Topics in Physics (1-3 hours) -- Study of a topic of interest to faculty and undergraduate students. May be repeated for credit (up to a maximum of four hours) provided subject matter is not duplicated.

Independent Study in Physics
PHYS 4900. (1-3 hours)--Prerequisite: Prior acceptance by a faculty research advisor. Independent investigation of a problem of interest to the student, under the guidance of a faculty research advisor. May be repeated (up to a maximum of four hours) provided subject matter is not duplicated.

Independent Study in Astronomy
ASTR 4900 (1-4 hours)--Prerequisite: Prior acceptance by a faculty research advisor.   Independent investigation of a problem of interest to the student, under the guidance of a faculty research advisor.   may be repeated (up to a maximum of four hours) provided subject matter is not duplicated.