Course Descriptions

Physics

PHYS 111 - Contemporary Concepts

This course is specifically designed for the liberal arts student who desires an essentially non-mathematical, yet wholly faithful, acquaintance with the fundamental concepts of contemporary physics. Topics include special relativity, curved space-time and black holes, the Big Bang universe, light, quantum theory, and elementary particles. These are presented so as to demonstrate the power of "pure thought" and scientific creativity at its best. The underlying assumption of the course is that physics approached as a way of thinking can be vitally relevant and challenging to students of all intellectual persuasions. Three lectures per week in fall and spring.

Frequency: Every semester.

PHYS 112 - Cosmos: Perspectives and Reflections

This course seeks to acquaint students with recent advances in cosmology, particle physics, nuclear fusion, semiconductors, and genomics. Most of these topics will be presented by experts from major universities and national laboratories. S/SD/N grading only.

Frequency: Alternate years.

PHYS 113 - Modern Astronomy

This course discusses topics of current interest in astronomy and the physical concepts that lead to our understanding of the Universe. There are three main sections: the Solar System, Celestial Light and Stars, and Galaxies and the Universe. Lectures include the formation of the sun and planets, properties of stars and stellar remnants (like black holes and supernovae), characteristics of our Milky Way and other galaxies, and the formation and fate of the Universe.

Frequency: Every year.

Prerequisite(s)

Basic algebra and trigonometry are recommended.

PHYS 120 - Astronomical Techniques

This laboratory course provides active exercises in astronomical measurement techniques, including telescope and other observations of the night sky (as weather permits). The course is ideal for students who desire hands-on observing experience to complement PHYS 113, or as a background for advanced observing projects.

Frequency: Every year.

Prerequisite(s)

concurrent or previous registration in PHYS 113 or PHYS 226.

PHYS 130 - Science of Renewable Energy

This is a course on the current status of the most promising alternative and renewable energy options from a primarily scientific and technological perspective. Current methods of electricity generation and transportation energy sources will be briefly reviewed (fossil fuels, nuclear fission, and hydroelectric), including discussion of their limitations and environmental consequences. The focus of the course will be on understanding the scientific basis of alternative and renewable energy sources, and their promise and technological challenges for wide scale implementation. Biofuels, wind, photovoltaics, concentrated solar power, hydrogen, nuclear fusion, and geothermal will be considered in depth.

Cross-Listed as

ENVI 130

PHYS 194 - Topics Course

Varies by semester. Consult the department or class schedule for current listing.

PHYS 221 - Introductory Physics I

Mechanics, heat and sound, including laboratory experiments and extensive demonstrations. Daily lectures and help sessions, three two-hour laboratories per week. Students cannot receive credit for both this course and PHYS 226.

Frequency: Summer Physics Institute only.

PHYS 222 - Introductory Physics II

Electricity and magnetism, light and optics, modern physics, including laboratory experiments and extensive demonstrations. Daily lectures and help sessions, three two-hour laboratories per week. Students cannot receive credit for both this course and PHYS 227.

Frequency: Summer Physics Institute only.

PHYS 226 - Principles of Physics I

A study of motion, including Newton's Law of Motion, conservation of energy and momentum, rotational kinematics and dynamics, oscillations, waves in elastic media and thermal properties of matter. Three lectures and one two-hour laboratory per week. Students cannot receive credit for both this course and PHYS 221.

Frequency: Fall semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Concurrent or previous registration in MATH 135 or MATH 137.

PHYS 227 - Principles of Physics II

A study of electric charge and currents, electric and magnetic fields, electromagnetic waves, and geometrical and physical optics. Three lectures and one two-hour laboratory per week. Students cannot receive credit for both this course and PHYS 222.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

PHYS 226 and MATH 137 (MATH 137 may also be taken concurrently).

PHYS 237 - Physics II for Life Sciences

An introduction to electric charge and currents, electric and magnetic fields, electromagnetic waves, and geometrical and physical optics, with an emphasis on applications in the biological sciences.  Three lectures and one two-hour laboratory per week. Students cannot receive credit for both this course and PHYS 227.

Frequency: Occasionally offered.

Prerequisite(s)

PHYS 226

PHYS 294 - Topics Course

Varies by semester. Consult the department or class schedule for current listing.

PHYS 331 - Modern Physics

This course provides an introductory treatment of the exciting foundations of modern microscopic physics, including special relativity, quantum theory, atomic structure, nuclear structure and elementary particles. The primary goal of the course is to build the solid theoretical foundation in microscopic physics necessary for advanced studies in nearly all science disciplines. In addition to the theoretical treatment of the topics there will be laboratory exercises, which recreate the spirit and excitement of the pioneering experiments. Three lectures, one three-hour laboratory per week.

Frequency: Fall semester.

Prerequisite(s)

PHYS 227

PHYS 334 - Optics

Principles of optics and wave phenomena, including the fundamental properties of light, geometrical optics, polarization, interference and diffraction. Laboratory includes basic optical experiments and an independent project. Recent independent projects have included: holography, fiber-optics communications, microwave optics and telescope building. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week.

Frequency: Alternate years.

Prerequisite(s)

PHYS 227 or consent of instructor.

PHYS 340 - Digital Electronics

A survey of fundamental ideas and methods used in the design and construction of digital electronic circuits such as computers. Emphasis will be on applying the theoretical aspects of digital design to the actual construction of circuits in the laboratory. Topics to be covered include basic circuit theory, transistor physics, logic families (TTL, CMOS), Boolean logic principles, combinatorial design techniques, sequential logic techniques, memory circuits and timing, and applications to microprocessor and computer design.  Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week.

Frequency: Offered alternate spring semesters.

Prerequisite(s)

MATH 137 and permission of instructor.

Cross-Listed as

COMP 340

PHYS 348 - Laboratory Instrumentation

This course is an introduction to laboratory methods that are useful in experimental physics and other laboratory-based disciplines, with an emphasis on computer interfacing techniques. Topics will include basic analog electronics, fundamental instrumentation such as analog-digital converters and digital oscilloscopes, and computer interfacing using LabView. Student will design and construct several significant computer interfacing projects throughout the semester. Since this course provides the foundation for advanced experimental work and research, students should take this course in their sophomore or junior year.

Frequency: Spring semester.

Prerequisite(s)

PHYS 227

PHYS 394 - Topics Course

Varies by semester. Consult the department or class schedule for current listing.

PHYS 440 - Observational Astronomy

This is an advanced course in astronomical instrumentation, focused on optical observational astronomy. We will discuss the various and developing instrumentation used at the large observatories worldwide, and discuss the important contributions and techniques of space-based research. Computational image-processing techniques are used for exercises in CCD imaging and spectroscopy using the Macalester Observatory facilities, as well as for independent research projects.

Frequency: Spring semester.

Prerequisite(s)

PHYS 113 and PHYS 120; or PHYS 113 and a lab-based upper-division natural science course (e.g., PHYS 331, CHEM 311).

PHYS 443 - Electromagnetic Theory

This course treats the interactions between electrical charges in free space by developing the concepts of potential, electric and magnetic fields, and electromagnetic induction. Maxwell's equations are developed and used to derive the properties of plane electromagnetic waves in free space. Special emphasis is placed on boundary value problems and other useful mathematical techniques. Three lectures per week.

Frequency: Fall semester.

Prerequisite(s)

PHYS 227 and MATH 237

PHYS 444 - Electromagnetic Radiation

This course extends the treatment of PHYS 443 to the electromagnetic properties of matter, especially the solid state, and the properties of electromagnetic waves and radiation. The treatment of electromagnetism within the special theory of relativity is also covered. Three lectures per week.

Frequency: Alternate years, spring semester.

Prerequisite(s)

PHYS 443.

PHYS 460 - Astrophysics

This course covers advanced topics in astrophysics. It includes spectroscopy of stars, the interaction of light and matter in stellar atmospheres and interstellar medium, nucleosynthesis and the interior of stars, the structure of the Milky Way galaxy and the evidence for dark matter, properties and the formation of different types of galaxies, large-scale structure of the Universe, and observational tests of cosmology. Three hours per week.

Frequency: Every year.

Prerequisite(s)

PHYS 113 and PHYS 331, or consent of the instructor.

PHYS 461 - Mechanics

The fundamental principles of classical mechanics are discussed and applied to problems of contemporary interest. Topics include: charged particle motion in electromagnetic fields, oscillations and resonance, central force motion including the Kepler problem and Rutherford scattering, Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations of classical dynamics, symmetry and conservation laws, non-inertial reference frames, rigid body dynamics and applications, and an introduction to non-linear dynamics. Three lectures and problem discussions per week.

Frequency: Spring semester.

Prerequisite(s)

PHYS 227 and MATH 312

PHYS 468 - Statistical Mechanics

This course explores the equilibrium and kinetic properties of many-particle systems such as gases, liquids, and solids. The fundamental notions of entropy, temperature, and the Boltzmann relation are rigorously derived from statistical mechanics, and are used to develop other thermodynamic ideas such as chemical potential and free energy. The theory is applied to classical and quantum systems, including photon gases (black-body radiation), Bose-Einstein condensation, fermion systems such as metals and neutron stars, classical ideal gases, vibrations in solids (phonons), chemical reactions, semiconductors, and transport phenomena.  Three lectures per week.

Frequency: Spring semester.

Prerequisite(s)

PHYS 331 and MATH 237.

PHYS 481 - Quantum Mechanics

The course rigorously covers many fundamental concepts of non-relativistic quantum mechanics, including the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and Pauli exclusion principle, single- and multi-particle stationary states in one, two and three dimensions, and quantized angular momentum and spin. Schrodinger equation solutions for atomic and nuclear systems are studied, using differential equation, matrix and perturbation techniques. Three lectures a week.

Frequency: Fall semester.

Prerequisite(s)

PHYS 331 and MATH 312

PHYS 488 - Senior Research

Students in the major concentration in physics select a subject for independent investigation and preparation of a senior thesis. Independent reading and experimentation by arrangement. Prerequisites: senior standing and departmental approval of the project prior to registration.

Frequency: Every year.

Prerequisite(s)

senior standing and departmental approval of the project prior to registration.

PHYS 489 - Physics Seminar

PHYS 494 - Topics Course

Varies by semester. Consult the department or class schedule for current listing.

PHYS 611 - Independent Project

Independent reading and experimentation by arrangement.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

The department chair must approve a written proposal prior to registration and permission of instructor.

PHYS 612 - Independent Project

Independent reading and experimentation by arrangement.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHYS 613 - Independent Project

Independent reading and experimentation by arrangement.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHYS 614 - Independent Project

Independent reading and experimentation by arrangement.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHYS 621 - Internship

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Junior and senior students with declared majors in Physics. Special arrangements must be made well in advance of the normal registration period. Departmental approval and permission of instructor. Work with Internship Office.

PHYS 622 - Internship

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Junior and senior students with declared majors in Physics. Special arrangements must be made well in advance of the normal registration period. Departmental approval and permission of instructor. Work with Internship Office.

PHYS 623 - Internship

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Junior and senior students with declared majors in Physics. Special arrangements must be made well in advance of the normal registration period. Departmental approval and permission of instructor. Work with Internship Office.

PHYS 624 - Internship

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Junior and senior students with declared majors in Physics. Special arrangements must be made well in advance of the normal registration period. Departmental approval and permission of instructor. Work with Internship Office.

PHYS 631 - Preceptorship

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor. Work with Academic Programs.

PHYS 632 - Preceptorship

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor. Work with Academic Programs.

PHYS 633 - Preceptorship

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor. Work with Academic Programs.

PHYS 634 - Preceptorship

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor. Work with Academic Programs.

PHYS 641 - Honors Independent

Independent research, writing, or other preparation leading to the culmination of the seniors honors project.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHYS 642 - Honors Independent

Independent research, writing, or other preparation leading to the culmination of the seniors honors project.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHYS 643 - Honors Independent

Independent research, writing, or other preparation leading to the culmination of the seniors honors project.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHYS 644 - Honors Independent

Independent research, writing, or other preparation leading to the culmination of the seniors honors project.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.