Ursinus College Catalog

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Physics and Astronomy

Professor Riley; Associate Professors Nagy (Chair), Carroll, Cellucci.

The courses in physics are designed to give the student an understanding of the logic and structure of physics. Methods of analysis and presentation of concepts and ideas are emphasized. Laboratory work demonstrates the dependence of physical theory on experimentation.

Requirements for Majors

Physics Track

Students must take the following courses: 

  • CS-173; MATH-112; PHYS-121Q, 122Q, 201, 207W, 299, 408W, 450W
  • any three of PHYS-304, 309, 401, 409
  • and at least four credits of additional work at the 300 level or above

Astrophysics Track

Students must take the following courses:

  • CS-173; MATH-112, PHYS-121Q, 122Q, 201, 207W, 299, 408W, 450W
  • any three of PHYS-304, 309, 401, 409
  • PHYS-301, and at least two credits of research (from 411, 412, 421, 422, 491)

Physics majors fulfill the W, oral presentation, and capstone requirements by taking PHYS-207W, PHYS-408W and PHYS-450W.

Students anticipating graduate study in physics or astrophysics should select additional courses from PHYS-305, 316, 401, 405, 409, 410 and from MATH-235, 310, 413. 

Requirements for Secondary School Teaching Certification

Students must take the following courses:

  • BIO-101Q or 102Q or ENV-100; MATH-112 and CS-173; PHYS-121Q, 122Q, 201, 207W, 299, 408W, 450W
  • Any three of PHYS-304, 309, 401, 409
  • and at least four credits of additional work at the 300 level or above

Requirements for Minors

Minor concentration in physics:

MATH-112; PHYS-121Q, 122Q, 201, 207W, 299, and four credits of additional work at the 300 level or above (excluding PHYS450).

Pre-engineering:

Students interested in pursuing pre-engineering should contact the departmental pre-engineering adviser at the earliest opportunity to plan a program of study.

COURSES

PHYS-101Q. Introduction to Astronomy Faculty

A survey of astronomy, including the following topics: the development of astronomy as a modern science, the birth and death of stars (white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes), the origin of the solar system, galaxies and the origin of the universe, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Three hours of lecture and two hours of laboratory per week. Four semester hours. (LS.)

PHYS-111Q. General Physics I Faculty

A study of mechanics and thermodynamics, utilizing the principles of calculus in the presentation and in exercises. Prerequisite or corequisite: MATH-111, or permission of instructor . Three hours of lecture and three hours of lab per week. Four semester hours. (LS.)

PHYS-112. General Physics II Faculty

A continuation of PHYS 111Q. A study of waves, electricity, magnetism, and light, utilizing the principles of calculus in the presentation and in exercises. Prerequisites: PHYS-111Q, MATH-111 or permission of the instructor. Three hours of lecture and three hours of lab per week. Four semester hours. (LS.)

PHYS-121Q. Spacetime and Quantum Physics Faculty

A study of special relativity and an introduction to quantum physics, utilizing the principles of calculus in the presentation and in exercises. Topics will include spacetime diagrams, the relativity of simultaneity, time dilation, relativistic kinematics, probability, quantization, and interference. Prerequisite or corequisite: MATH-111, or permission of the instructor. Three hours of lecture and three hours of lab per week. Offered fall semester. Four semester hours. (LS.)

PHYS-122Q. Electricity, Magnetism, and Waves Faculty

A study of electricity and magnetism (electric forces, capacitance, currents, magnetic forces, induction). Introduction to vector calculus. Prerequisite or corequisite: PHYS-121, MATH-112, or permission of the instructor. Three hours of lecture and three hours of lab per week. Offered spring semester. Four semester hours. (LS.)

PHYS-201. Introductory Classical Mechanics Faculty

Vectors, vector calculus, classical mechanics, statics, kinematics, dynamics of a particle, energy, harmonic motion, moving reference systems, central forces, chaos. Prerequisites: PHYS-122, MATH-112. Three hours of lecture. Offered fall semester. Four semester hours.

PHYS-207W. Modern Physics Faculty

Origins of quantum theory, physics of atoms, molecules, solids, nuclei, and elementary particles. Work will include a literature review and presentation on a topic of current interest. Offered spring semester. Prerequisites: PHYS-122Q. Three hours per week. Four semester hours.

PHYS-299. Mathematical Physics I Faculty

Ordinary differential equations, special functions of mathematical physics, linear algebra, coordinate transformations, vector analysis, Fourier series, numerical solution of algebraic equations. Offered spring semester. Prerequisites: PHYS-122, MATH-112. Three hours per week. Four semester hours.

PHYS-301. Introduction to Astrophysics Faculty

Astrometry, astronomical photometry, CCD imaging and image processing, spectroscopy. The astronomical two-body problem, tidal forces, the Sun and planets, observable properties of stars, stellar structure and evolution, binary stars, galaxies and cosmology. Prerequisites: PHYS-201, 207. Three hours lecture and three hours lab per week. Four semester hours. (LS.)

PHYS-304. Thermal Physics Faculty

An introduction to thermodynamics and classical and quantum statistical mechanics with an emphasis on the statistical foundations. Topics include temperature, laws of thermodynamics, work, heat, energy, entropy, thermodynamic potentials, kinetic theory of dilute gases, equations of state. Offered fall semester in even numbered years. Prerequisites: PHYS-122, PHYS-299. Three hours per week. Four semester hours.

PHYS-305. General Relativity Faculty

Development of Einstein’s theory of general relativity from basic physical principles. Introduction to the mathematics of curved spacetime. Astrophysical applications, including gravitomagnetism, blackholes, cosmology and the creation and detection of gravitational waves. Prerequisite: PHYS-201, 299. Three hours per week. Four semester hours.

PHYS-309. Electronics for Scientists Faculty

Foundations of analog and digital circuits. D-C and A-C circuits, transistors, operational amplifiers, digital electronics. Offered spring semester in odd numbered years. Prerequisite: PHYS-122. Three hours lecture and three hours laboratory per week.Four semester hours. (LS.)

PHYS-316. Mathematical Physics II Faculty

Complex analysis, partial differential equations, numerical integration and differentiation, numerical solution of ordinary differential equations, Fourier and Laplace transforms. Prerequisite: PHYS-299. Three hours per week. Four semester hours.

PHYS-350. Special Topics in Physics Faculty

Study and discussion of advanced topics or recent developments in physics. Students must consult the chair of the department before registering for this course. Three hours per week. Four semester hours.

PHYS-381. Internship Faculty

A laboratory project in cooperation with industry at an industrial site, a national lab, or other appropriate academic site. Before beginning the internship, the student must submit a proposal to be approved by the Physics faculty and the on-site supervisor. Upon completion of the work, written and/or oral reports must be presented to the department. Open to juniors and seniors. The term during which the internship work is performed will be noted by one of the following letters, to be added immediately after the internship course number: A (fall), B (winter), C (spring), or D (summer). Internships undertaken abroad will be so indicated by the letter I. The intern must complete a minimum of 120 hours of work. Graded S/U. Three semester hours. (I.)

PHYS-382. Internship Faculty

A laboratory project in cooperation with industry at an industrial site, a national lab, or other appropriate academic site. Before beginning the internship, the student must submit a proposal to be approved by the Physics faculty and the on-site supervisor. Upon completion of the work, written and/or oral reports must be presented to the department. Open to  juniors and seniors. The term during which the internship work is performed will be noted by one of the following letters, to be added immediately after the internship course number: A (fall), B (winter), C (spring), or D (summer). Internships undertaken abroad will be so indicated by the letter I. The intern must complete a minimum of 160 hours of work. Graded S/U. Four semester hours. (I.)

PHYS-401. Applications of Quantum Mechanics. Faculty

The hydrogen atom, angular momentum, systems of identical particles, perturbation theory, and other applications selected from atomic, molecular, solid-state, and nuclear physics. Offered fall semester in odd numbered years. Prerequisites: PHYS-207W, 299. Three hours per week. Four semester hours.

PHYS-405. Computational Physics Faculty

Sophisticated numerical and nonlinear techniques will be developed and applied to modern and traditional problems in physics. Problems whose solutions are not accessible analytically will be explored through the use of symbolic and compiled languages with visualization. Prerequisites: PHYS-299, CS-371, or permission of a member of the physics faculty. Three hours per week. Four semester hours.

PHYS-408W. Advanced Physics Laboratory Faculty

Experimental investigations of physical phenomena with emphasis on laboratory techniques and the written and oral communication of scientific results. Offered spring semester. Prerequisites: PHYS-201, 207W. Six hours of laboratory per week. Four semester hours. (LS.)

PHYS-409. Electrodynamics Faculty

Electric and magnetic fields and potentials, Laplace’s equation, dielectrics and magnetic materials, Maxwell’s equations, electromagnetic waves. Offered spring semester in even-numbered years. Prerequisites: PHYS-122, 201, 299. Three hours per week. Four semester hours.

PHYS-410. Classical Mechanics Faculty

Dynamics of a system of particles, mechanics of rigid bodies, general motion of a rigid body, Lagrange’s equations, Hamilton’s equations, theory of vibrations. Prerequisites: PHYS-201, 299 Three hours per week. Four semester hours.

PHYS-411. Research Faculty

Investigations, of experimental or theoretical nature, pursued independently by the student. The preparation of a summarizing report is required. To register for this course, a student must have the consent of a member of the physics Faculty to serve as the adviser. One semester hour.

PHYS-412. Research Faculty

Continuation of PHYS-411. One semester hour.

PHYS-421. Research Faculty

Same as PHYS-411, but more extensive in scope. Two semester hours.

PHYS-422. Research Faculty

Continuation of PHYS-421. Two semester hours.

PHYS-431. Research Faculty

Same as PHYS-421, but more extensive in scope. Three semester hours. (I.)

PHYS-432. Research Faculty

Continuation of PHYS-431. Three semester hours. (I.)

PHYS-450W. Senior Seminar Faculty

Senior Seminar is the capstone course in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Each student will select a topic of current interest in physics and investigate the primary literature on that topic. Students will meet and give a series of informal presentations on their chosen topics. The final products of the course are a formal literature review paper and a presentation. Four semester hours. 

PHYS-491. Research/Independent Work Faculty

This course is open to candidates for departmental honors and to other students with the permission of the departmental chairman. Four semester hours. (I.)

PHYS-492W. Research/Independent Work Faculty

A continuation of PHYS-491. Writing a major paper and giving an oral presentation are required. Prerequisite: PHYS-491. Four semester hours. (I.)