Courses: Sketches on Courses
The courses listed below are a snapshot of some of the different classes offered in the department. A course website and syllabus is given for each.
An introduction to some of the exciting new developments in astrophysics.
Astronomy 152 - Freshman Seminar in Astrophysics
This half-credit seminar introduces beginning physical science students to some of the exciting new developments in astrophysics. Topics include black holes, quasars, neutron stars, supernovae, dark matter, the Big Bang, and Einstein's relativity theories. The overall theoretical understanding of many of these topics can be expressed in terms of fundamental physics at the level of an introductory course (e.g., Phys 105-6). Students create simple models of these astrophysical phenomena both in the context of bi-weekly assignments and in every other week, 3-hour evening workshops. To prevent getting bogged down in detailed mathematical calculations, only rough (order-of-magnitude) approximations are the fare. Even so, the student will gain a fundamental understanding of some of nature's most fascinating phenomena.
Focuses on a global view of the Milky Way as a galaxy and on untangling its formation history.
Astronomy 342 - Modern Galactic Astronomy
This research-driven class focuses on a global view of the Milky Way as a galaxy and on untangling its formation history. Although just one galaxy of billions in the Universe, the singular detail with which the Milky Way can be studied makes it the necessary stepping stone to interpret and understand observations of galaxies throughout the Universe. After students investigate and apply several modern approaches to mapping our Galaxy, we question whether the picture painted by the panoply of existing Milky Way observations makes sense within the current paradigm of structure formation in the Universe. This field lies at the intersection of stellar astronomy, extragalactic astronomy, and cosmology - making Astronomy 342 an appropriate course for upper-level physics/astro students with a range of interests.
This course consists of seven quantum physics labs that introduce students to modern experimental techniques.
Physics 301 - Laboratory in Quantum Physics
This sophomore-level course consists of seven quantum physics labs that introduce students to modern experimental techniques (laser spectroscopy, particle physics techniques, scanning tunneling microscopy, electron spin, superconductivity and electron diffraction) while connecting to topics from our sophomore-level Introductory Quantum Mechanics lecture course (Physics 214). In a typical semester, we have about five to six pairs of students working in our dedicated intermediate laboratory facility on project labs that last for two weeks. Students learn scientific communication skill as they give oral reports on their labs and prepare written reports in the form of scientific journal articles.
Computational physics enables us to treat problems by a combination of brute force calculation and sophisticated algorithmic techniques.
Physics 304 - Computational Physics
Physical theories such as Newtonian mechanics, Maxwell's equations and quantum mechanics give us simple descriptions of physical phenomena. Much of the undergraduate syllabus treats powerful analytical tools for the solution of the equations derived from the relevant physical law. Such solutions enable physicists to move from a general formalism to the description of specific situations and phenomena, and enable comparison with experiment. Frequently, however, the calculation of the behavior of specific physical systems is out of the reach of pencil and paper calculation. Computational physics enables us to treat such situations by a combination of brute force calculation and sophisticated algorithmic techniques. The first seven weeks of the course will be devoted to lectures and exercises covering several aspects of computational physics. The course will begin by considering effects in Newtonian mechanics which are usually neglected, including air resistance in projectile motion and nonlinear and chaotic behavior of mechanical systems. We will learn how to use numerical simulation to study such effects. We will then turn to the numerical treatment of fields in physics, and consider the numerical solution of Poisson's equation. This enables the solution of problems in electromagnetism which possess insufficient symmetry for analytical treatment. The last portion of the lecture section of the course will move from deterministic algorithms to stochastic algorithms, and we shall consider the numerical treatment of systems in statistical mechanics using Monte Carlo techniques.