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Haverford College

2011-12 Course Catalog

Natural Sciences: Physics, 2011-2012

DescriptionFacultyMajor RequirementsInterdisciplinary Physics Major RequirementMinor RequirementsRequirements for HonorsCoursesDepartment Homepage


The physics curriculum introduces students to concepts and methods that are fundamental throughout the sciences. It provides opportunities for first-hand experimental and theoretical investigations, together with the study of those basic principles that have led to profound scientific, philosophical and technological developments.

Prospective majors in all of the science disciplines are advised to study some physics in their freshman or sophomore year, because all contemporary sciences rely heavily on basic physical principles. There are three different introductory options. Physics 101 and 102 constitute a year-long, self-contained treatment of all of physics, with particular attention to applications in the life sciences. Physics 105 and 106 use calculus somewhat more intensively and are designed for students who expect to continue their study of physics in other courses, either in the physics or the chemistry department. Physics 115 (followed by 106) provides a third option, designed for students with advanced preparation. Advice on course selection is provided on the department’s web site. The department also offers a half-credit course, Astronomy/Physics 152, intended for first year students who are considering a physical science major and who would like an opportunity to study recent developments in astrophysics.

The department offers several courses that can be taken with no prerequisites or prior experience in physics. Currently, there are three courses that fall into this category: Physics 112 examines the conceptual difficulties of quantum mechanics; Physics 111 considers the science behind various sustainable energy options and the means by which scientists influence policy; and Physics 108 covers applications of the physical sciences to modern medicine.

Physics offers three distinct programs: a traditional major, an interdisciplinary major designed for a broader audience and a minor. The requirements for these three options are listed below.

A typical course sequence introducing both the traditional major and the minor consists of 105 (or 115), 106, 213, 214, and the 211 and 212 laboratories. However, students beginning their study in 101 and 102 may continue with 213 and join the major or minor as well. Physics 105 (or 115), 106, 213 and 214 are also prerequisites for the astronomy and astrophysics majors; Astronomy/Physics 152 is highly recommended, but not required.

The remainder of the traditional major program is quite flexible and, with an appropriate selection of upper-level courses, can accommodate students whose interests extend beyond physics to the interdisciplinary fields of astrophysics, biophysics, chemical physics, philosophy of science, biomedical science or engineering.

The department emphasizes student participation in research with faculty members. Currently, we have active research programs in quantum gravity and theoretical cosmology, quantum computing, observational cosmology, nonlinear physics and fluid dynamics, extragalactic astronomy, biophysics and nanoscience. Courses numbered 412 to 417 provide majors with opportunities to participate in these research efforts for academic credit during their senior year. Paid summer research positions are often available.

In the Senior Seminar (399), majors learn about the wide range of careers related to physics, and prepare a colloquium and senior paper based on independent work. Advanced students interested in teaching may participate in the instructional program by registering for Physics 459 or 460. Physics majors may also take an area of concentration in education; see the section on Education and Educational Studies. (Students interested in physics or science education at the secondary level should also consult the teaching certification information in the section on Education and Educational Studies.)

Concentrations in both computer science and scientific computing are available for physics majors. Both of these programs are described under the Computer Science program. The department coordinator for both of these concentrations is Peter Love. Physics majors with biological interests may also qualify for the biophysics concentration, described under Biochemistry and Biophysics.

Students interested in engineering can complete an individualized major program in preparation for graduate work in engineering or the Engineering 3/2 Program with Caltech. Detailed information is available from the coordinator, Walter Smith. Students interested in materials science should also consult the related offerings in materials chemistry through Haverford’s chemistry department.

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Associate Professor Stephon H.S. Alexander (on leave in 2011-12)
John Farnum Professor of Astronomy Stephen P. Boughn (on leave 2010-11)
John and Barbara Bush Professor in the Natural Sciences Jerry P. Gollub
Associate Professor Suzanne Amador Kane(on leave in Fall 2011)
Assistant Professor Peter J. Love
Visiting Assistant ProfessorJoseph Ochoa
Physics Laboratory Instructor Scott E. Shelley
Professor Walter F. Smith
Assistant Professor of Astronomy Beth Willman
Bettye and Howard Marshall Professor of Natural Sciences R. Bruce Partridge, Emeritus

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Major Requirements

  1. Physics 105 (or 101), 106 (or 102), 213, 214, 211 and 212 (or Bryn Mawr equivalents). The last two may be taken concurrently with 213 and 214
  2. Mathematics 121 and 204 or Bryn Mawr equivalent. For students who are contemplating advanced work in mathematics, 216 can replace 121, and 215 can replace 204.
  3. Six upper-level courses in physics at Haverford or Bryn Mawr. One of these must be a laboratory course such as 316 or 326. All majors must take three of the four core theoretical courses: 302, 303, 308 and 309. Students considering graduate study in physics should take four of the following five courses by the end of their junior year: 302, 303, 308, 309, and 316 or 326 (or their Bryn Mawr equivalents). Two of the six upper-level courses may be replaced by upper-level courses in a related department with the approval of the major advisor. (The student will be asked to prepare a brief written statement explaining the relationship between the proposed courses and the physics major.) One of the six upper-level physics courses may be a 400 level research course. Either 459 or 460 may also be counted among the six upper-level courses.
  4. The department requires one course outside the department at a level consistent with the student's background in astronomy, biology, computer science, chemistry or engineering (at Penn or Swarthmore). (This requirement is waived for double majors.)
  5. Physics 399, including a paper and colloquium based on independent work, and attendance at senior colloquia and distinguished lectures hosted by the department.

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Interdisciplinary Physics Major Requirement

Students with multiple academic interests who are not likely to undertake physics graduate study are invited to consider the Interdisciplinary Physics Major, whose slightly abbreviated set of requirements can be completed in three years. This track, which can also facilitate a concentration, an engineering option or a minor in another department, can be discussed with any member of the Department. The requirements are as follows:

  1. Either Physics 105 and 106, or Physics 101 and 102.
  2. Physics 213 and 214 and 211 (our sophomore lecture course sequence and one sophomore-level laboratory course).
  3. Mathematics 121 (or 216) and 204 (or 215).
  4. Three 300-level physics lecture courses, of which two are drawn from this list of core courses: 302, 303, 308, 309.
  5. An upper-level laboratory course in the natural or applied sciences, such as Physics 212, Biology 300a or b, or Chemistry 301 or 302 . (Alternately, the student can request the substitution of an advanced laboratory course in another area of science or applied science.)
  6. Two other courses at the 200-level or higher in a related field that are part of a coherent program to be proposed by the student and approved by the major advisor.
  7. Senior Seminar (Physics 399) and the associated senior talk and thesis.

The interdisciplinary major differs from the traditional physics major by offering more flexible course choices and by coordinating the physics courses with the student’s work in another field. In the version requiring the fewest physics courses, this major requires 8.5 instead of 10 physics courses, while both majors require two math courses, and three courses in a related field.

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Minor Requirements

  1. Physics 105 (or 101) and 106 (or 102); 213, 214, 211 and 212 labs (or Bryn Mawr equivalents).
  2. Mathematics 121 and 204 or Bryn Mawr equivalent. For students who are contemplating advanced work in mathematics, 216 can replace 121 and 215 can replace 204.
  3. One of the four "core" 300 level lecture courses in physics at Haverford or Bryn Mawr: 302 (Advanced Quantum Mechanics), 303 (Statistical Physics), 308 (Advanced Classical Mechanics) or 309 (Advanced Electromagnetism & Modern Optics).
  4. Participation for two semesters in the public lectures and seminars hosted by the department.

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Requirements for Honors

The award of Honors in Physics will be based upon the quality of performance in course work and the senior colloquium and paper. High Honors carries the additional requirement of demonstrated originality in senior research.

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101 Classical and Modern Physics I NA/QU

J. Ochoa /S. Shelley
Three class hours and one laboratory period. The first of a two-semester comprehensive introduction to physics, with an emphasis on life science applications involving Newtonian mechanics, oscillations, mechanics of materials, fluids and thermal physics. Prerequisite: Calculus at the level of Mathematics 113A or equivalent should be taken prior to or concurrently with this course. Typically offered every Fall.

102 Classical and Modern Physics II NA/QU

W.Smith/S.Amador Kane/S.Shelley
Three class hours and one laboratory period. A continuation of Physics 101, covering electricity and magnetism, optics, waves, sound, quantum physics and nuclear physics. Applications include topics such as nerve conduction, the optics of vision and radioactivity. Prerequisite: Physics 101a. In addition calculus at the level of Mathematics 114b or equivalent should be taken prior to or concurrently with this course. Typically offered every Spring.

105 Fundamental Physics I NA/QU

Three class hours and one laboratory period. Newtonian mechanics and thermodynamics. Applications are drawn primarily from the physical sciences. This sequence (105/106) is meant as a one-year introduction suitable for students interested in the physical sciences. Prerequisite: Mathematics 113a or equivalent. Typically offered every Fall.

106 Fundamental Physics II NA/QU

Three class hours and one laboratory period. A continuation of Physics 105, covering electricity and magnetism, optics, and special relativity. Prerequisite: Mathematics 114 and Physics 105 or equivalent. Typically offered every Spring.

108 Physics in Modern Medicine NA

S.Amador Kane
This course introduces the nonscientist to many of the technologies used in modern medicine and the basic physical principles which underlie them. Topics will include laser surgery, ultrasound imaging, laparoscopic surgery, diagnostic x-ray imaging, nuclear medicine, computed tomography (CAT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and radiation therapy. Safety issues involved in the use of each technique will be considered in depth, and discussions will include societal implications of the growing use of technology in medicine. No prerequisites. Does not count toward the major. Typically offered in alternate years.

111 Energy Options, and Science Policy NA

Examination of the process by which scientists influence policy, seen through the lens of energy issues. The course considers the science behind various sustainable energy options, including solar heat and electricity, wind and tidal power, and efficient methods of heating and refrigeration. It also examines the efforts of the National Academies to provide objective policy advice on the complex decisions involving energy alternatives. Prerequisite: A college level mathematics course is recommended. Willingness to engage in quantitative reasoning on a regular basis is required. Does not count toward the major. Typically offered in alternate years.

112 Conceptual Quantum Mechanics NA/QU

Examination of the conceptual difficulties of quantum mechanics as illustrated by canonical experiments. Questions of the nature of observations, uncertainty and quantum correlations including entanglement, will be considered in detail. Prerequisite: None. Does not count toward the major.

115 Modern Introductory Physics: Beyond Newton NA/QU

Three class hours and one laboratory period. This introductory course provides students who have an advanced background in mechanics with an alternative pathway into physics by exploring applications of introductory physics through a modern perspective. Examples will be drawn from topics such as quantum physics, materials and nanoscience, biophysics, chaos and fluid motion, and relativity. This course forms a year-long sequence with Physics 106: Fundamental Physics II (Electricity and Magnetism) in the spring semester. Prerequisite: Calculus at the level of Mathematics 114 plus significant prior experience in calculus-based introductory physics (mechanics) at the level of Physics 105, such as the Advanced Placement Physics C course (or an International Bacccalaureate "higher level" course), with laboratory. Typically offered every Fall.

152 Freshman Seminar in Astrophysics NA (Cross-listed in Astronomy)

Prerequisite: Physics 101a or 105a and concurrent enrollment in Physics 102b or 106b (or Bryn Mawr equivalents). Typically offered every Spring.

211 Laboratory in Electronics and Wave Physics NA

S.Shelley/J. Ochoa
The first half of this laboratory is an introduction to analog electronics and instrumentation. The second half includes experiments in waves and optics. Normally taken concurrently with Physics 213. Prerequisite: Physics 102 or 106. Typically offered every Fall.

212 Laboratory in Quantum Physics NA

Experiments related to quantum physics, including nuclear spectroscopy, electron diffraction, spin resonance, laser amplification and quantum optics. Normally taken concurrently with Physics 214. Prerequisite: Physics 211f; co-requisite: Physics 214b or equivalent. Typically offered every Spring.

213 Waves and Optics NA/QU

Vibrations and waves in mechanical, electronic and optical systems with an introduction to related mathematical methods such as functions of a complex variable and Fourier analysis. Topics include free and driven oscillations, resonance, superposition, coupled oscillators and normal modes, traveling waves, Maxwell's equations and electromagnetic waves, interference and diffraction. Physics 211f, a related laboratory half-course, is normally taken concurrently and is required for majors. Prerequisite: Physics 102 or 106 and Math 114 or 120 or equivalent. Typically offered every Fall.

214 Introductory Quantum Mechanics NA/QU

S. Amador Kane
Introduction to the principles governing systems at the atomic scale. Topics include the experimental basis of quantum mechanics, wave-particle duality, Schrodinger's equation and solutions in one dimension, time dependence of quantum states, angular momentum and one-electron atoms. Recent developments, such as paradoxes calling attention to the remarkable behavior of quantum systems, or quantum computing, will be discussed. Multi-electron atoms and nuclei will be considered if time allows. Physics 212, a related laboratory half-course is required for majors, and may be taken concurrently. Prerequisite: Physics 213a or consent. Typically offered every Spring.

302 Advanced Quantum Mechanics NA

A continuation of the study of quantum mechanics begun in 214. Topics include matrix mechanics and spin, many-particle systems, perturbation theory and scattering theory. A variety of physical systems will be treated as examples, including simple atoms and solids. Prerequisite: Physics 214. Typically offered yearly in alternation with Bryn Mawr.

303 Statistical Physics NA

Treatment of many particle systems using classical and quantum statistics and ensembles to derive the laws of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. This course includes applications to the thermal properties of matter (solids, liquids and gases), photon and phonon systems. Prerequisite: Physics 214b or consent. Typically offered yearly in alternation with Bryn Mawr.

304 Computational Physics NA/QU (Cross-listed in Computer Science)

An introduction to the methods and problems of computational physics. The course explores areas of physics which require computation for their study including: effects of air resistance and rotation in Newtonian mechanics; fields and potentials in electromagnetism; simulation of nonlinear systems and chaos; stochastic algorithms and statistical mechanics. Prerequisite: Junior standing, Physics 213 and either CMSC 105 or extensive experience with a programming language or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.

308 Mechanics of Discrete and Continuous Systems NA

Classical mechanics of systems of particles, and also continua such as fluids, including oscillations and chaos, Lagrangian mechanics, dynamics of systems of particles, the Navier-Stokes equations of fluids and applications to diverse physical phenomena that may vary from year to year, (e.g., waves, vortices, rotating fluids, flight, instabilities, turbulence and biological flows). Prerequisite: Physics 106 or Physics 213. Typically offered yearly in alternation with Bryn Mawr.

309 Advanced Electromagnetism NA

Boundary value problems, multipole fields, dielectric and magnetic materials, electromagnetic waves, propagation in dielectric media, conductors and waveguides, gauge transformations, radiating systems. Prerequisite: Physics 106b or 213a or BMC equivalent. Typically offered yearly in alternation with Bryn Mawr.

320 Introduction to Biophysics NA

S.Amador Kane
A one-semester introduction to important topics in modern biophysics, drawn from the following list: single molecule techniques for measuring mechanical properties of proteins, DNA and other biopolymers, computational and experimental methods for determining the structure of proteins and nucleic acids, the physical chemistry of membranes, applications of statistical physics in neural networks, artificial evolution and bioinformatics, and the interplay between biology and nanofabrication. Prerequisite: Biology 200 and either Physics 214 or Chemistry 304, or the Bryn Mawr equivalents, or permission of the instructor. Typically offered in alternate years.

322 Solid State Physics NA

Structural and electronic properties of solids, including crystalline and non-crystalline materials, band theory, semiconductors, optical properties and soft matter (to the extent that time allows). Prerequisite: Physics 214b. Typically offered yearly in alternation with Bryn Mawr.

326 Advanced Physics Laboratory NA

Design, execution and analysis of significant experiments, which change from year to year. Those presently available include studies of microfluidics, atomic spectroscopy, cosmic ray physics, laser tweezers, x-ray diffraction and materials synthesis, superconductivity, sensor technologies and chaotic dynamics. The course emphasizes the effective use of contemporary experimental tools, including low-noise measurement techniques, laboratory computers and optical methods. Prerequisite: Physics 212 or consent.

335 Advanced Topics in Theoretical Physics NA/QU

An introduction to advanced theoretical physics. The central ideas covered will include: the use of symmetry in physics, non-euclidean geometry and curved spaces, advanced concepts of quantum theory. The course will address these topics by providing an introduction to one of the following areas of advanced theoretical physics: general relativity, quantum information theory, quantum field theory, particle physics. The specific topic will be determined by the instructor and will vary from year to year. Prerequisite: Junior standing, Physics 213 and 214, or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.

399 Senior Seminar NA

A capstone experience for seniors in physics meeting biweekly throughout the year. An introduction to scientific writing and speaking; scientific ethics; graduate study in physics and astronomy; career options for physics and astronomy majors, both within the field and outside science; preparation and presentation of senior papers and colloquia; attendance at lectures by distinguished visitors; and discussions of student and faculty research projects in the department. Prerequisite: Senior standing.

412 Research in Theoretical and Computational Physics NA

Independent research on current problems in theoretical physics, with emphasis on the physics of condensed matter systems; extensive use is made of computer-based methods. Prerequisite: Consent of Instructor.

413 Research in Biophysics NA

S.Amador Kane
Experimental research on the statistical mechanics of biophysical systems and soft matter physics. Topics include empirical and computational studies of flocking and biological physics approaches to studying problems in evolution. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor. Lab experience at the level of Physics 211 and 212 preferred.

414 Research in Theoretical Physics NA

Independent research on current problems in theoretical physics, with emphasis on particle physics and theoretical cosmology. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.

415 Research in Nanoscale Physics NA

Prerequisite: Consent of instructor. Advanced lab experience preferred.

417 Research in Nonlinear Physics and Fluid Dynamics NA

Experimental research on problems involving nonlinear phenomena, fluid dynamics, granular materials and swimming microorganisms. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor. Advanced lab experience preferred.

459 Teaching Laboratory Physics NA

Study of the principles and practices of laboratory instruction in physics through association with staff in the Physics 102 laboratory. The student will interact with students in the laboratory sessions, prepare and deliver a pre-laboratory lecture, critique the descriptive materials for at least one experiment and develop a new experiment appropriate to the course. This development work will include both written materials and the design and construction of a working prototype. This experiment and the 102 laboratory program as a whole will be evaluated in a final paper. Prerequisite: Open to Junior and Senior Physics and Astronomy Majors only.

460 Association in Teaching Basic Physics NA

Study of the principles and practices of lecture instruction in physics through association with staff in Physics 101. The student will attend and critique course lectures; prepare, practice and deliver a lecture; develop a lecture demonstration to be used in his or her lecture; participate in the preparation of examination problems and their evaluation; address student questions in the physics clinic; and write an evaluative final paper. Prerequisite: Open to senior physics and astronomy majors.

480 Independent Study NA

J. Gollub
Prerequisite: Consent of the instructor.

493 Interdisciplinary Examinations of Biologically Significant Research NA (Cross-listed in Biology and Chemistry and Psychology)

Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.

Courses At Bryn Mawr College

Many upper-level physics courses are taught at Bryn Mawr and Haverford in alternate years. These courses (numbered 302, 303, 308, 309) may be taken interchangeably to satisfy major requirements.

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