University of Virginia
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Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
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Course Descriptions

Department of Physics

Degree Requirements

The Master's Program Three master's-level degrees are offered in the Physics Department. Candidates for the M.S. degree must pass thirty hours of courses approved by the graduate adviser, present a thesis, and defend it in an oral examination. Offered primarily for secondary or community college teachers, the M.A. degree requirements depend on the candidate's background and are developed with the departmental graduate program committee. The MAPE (Master of Arts in Physics Education) degree is designed to provide middle school physical science and high school physics teachers with a strong background in physics. Courses numbered in the 600s are taken to satisfy the requirements for this degree. Typically students take two courses in the summer in residence at UVa and one distance learning course in the academic year totaling ten credit hours each year to complete the required thirty credit hours in two and a half years.

The Ph.D. Program Unless credit for advanced standing is given by the departmental advisor, Ph.D. candidates must pass 12 departmentally required courses (seven specified "core courses" and five electives) in addition to six elective courses passed with a letter grade (not S or U) and six more courses, including non-topical research.

Qualifying Examination Candidates for the Ph.D. degree must pass a qualifying examination in the subjects of classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics. The material for this examination is covered in the seven core courses, which should be completed before the start of the fourth semester.

Research and Thesis Requirements Ph.D. candidates must present a dissertation on their research, satisfactory to their research advisor, and defend it in an oral examination.

The Engineering Physics Program The Department of Physics also offers an engineering physics degree program jointly administrated with the School of Graduate Engineering and Applied Science. The engineering physics program offers the flexibility of pursuing an advanced degree in interdisciplinary fields defined by the student. Students seeking the Ph.D. degree in this program must satisfy the engineering physics degree course requirements: two each in physics and engineering and one in mathematics. In addition, students must also satisfy any other general requirements listed in the School of Graduate Engineering chapter of this Record. Students must choose a research advisor and declare a concentration in the Engineering School within the fall semester of their first year. The qualifying examination for a Ph.D. consists of an oral examination following a written examination of three components; students must take at least one component in physics and one in engineering.

101 Physics Building
P.O. Box 400714
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4714
(434) 924-3781

Course Descriptions


Note The courses listed below are given as the needs of students require.

PHYS 519 - (3) (Y)

Prerequisite: Instructor permission.
Studies practical electronics for scientists, from resistors to microprocessors.

PHYS 521 - (3) (Y)
Theoretical Mechanics I

Prerequisite: PHYS 321 and MATH 522 or instructor permission.
Studies the statics and dynamics of particles and rigid bodies. Discusses methods of generalized coordinates, the Lagrangian, Hamilton-Jacobi equations, and action-angle variables. Relation to the quantum theory is explored.

PHYS 524 - (3) (Y)
Introduction to the Theory of General Relativity

Prerequisite: Advanced calculus through partial differentiation and multiple integration; vector analysis in three dimensions.
Reviews special relativity and coordinate transformations. Includes the principle of equivalence; effects of gravitation on other systems and fields; general tensor analysis in curved spaces and gravitational field equations; Mach's principle, tests of gravitational theories: perihelion precession, red shift, bending of light, gyroscopic precession, radar echo delay; gravitational radiation; relativistic stellar structure and cosmography; and a short survey of cosmological models.

PHYS 531 - (3) (Y)

Prerequisite: Knowledge of vector calculus and previous exposure to Maxwell's equations.
Includes reflection and refraction at interfaces, geometrical optics, interference phenomena, diffraction, Gaussian optics, and polarization.

PHYS 547 - (3) (IR)
Introduction to Molecular Biophysics

Prerequisite: PHYS 331 or CHEM 361, PHYS 355 or CHEM 362, MATH 521, or instructor permission.
Introduces the physics of molecular structures and processes in living systems. Includes molecular structure analysis by X-ray (and neutron) diffraction; electronic configuration of atoms, groups, and small molecules of critical importance in biology; physical methods of macromolecular structure determination, in solution and in the solid state; thermodynamic and electronic factors underlying group interactions, proton dissociation, and charge distribution in macromolecule; solvent-macromolecule interactions; action spectroscopy; and rate processes in series and parallel.

PHYS 551, 552 - (3) (IR)
Special Topics in Classical and Modern Physics

Prerequisite: PHYS 342 or instructor permission.
Topics of current interest in physics research and pedagogy. May be repeated.

PHYS 562 - (3) (Y)
Introduction to Solid State Physics

Includes crystal structures, lattice vibrations, and electronic properties of insulators, metals, and semiconductors; superconductivity.

PHYS 572 - (3) (Y)
Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics

Studies subatomic structure, basic constituents and their mutual interactions.

PHYS 593 - (3) (Y)
Independent Study

Independent study supervised by a faculty member, culminating in a written report, essay, or examination. May be repeated.
Professional Development Courses for Teachers Courses numbered in the 600s are offered for the professional development of K-12 teachers to improve competency in physics and to assist them in obtaining endorsement or recertification. In the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences these courses count for degree credit only for the MAPE degree.

PHYS 605, 606 - (3) (SI)
How Things Work I, II

Prerequisite: Undergraduate degree or instructor permission.
These courses consider objects from our daily environment and explain how they work with emphasis on physics concepts. PHYS 605 focuses on mechanics and heat; PHYS 606 treats objects involving electromagnetism, light, special materials, and nuclear energy. These may be distance learning courses intended for in-service science teachers with lectures, homework and exams conducted via the internet.

PHYS 609 - (3) (SI)
Galileo and Einstein

Prerequisite: Undergraduate degree or instructor permission.
This course examines how new understanding of the natural world developed from the time of Galileo to Einstein taking the two famous scientists as case studies. This may be a distance learning course intended for in-service science teachers with lectures, homework and exams conducted via the internet.

PHYS 611, 612 - (3) (IR)
Physical Science for Teachers

Prerequisite: Undergraduate degree and presently (or intending to be) a K-8 teacher.
Laboratory-based course providing elementary and middle school teachers hands-on experience in the principles and applications of physical science. Not suitable for physics majors; no previous college physics courses are assumed.

PHYS 613 - (1-3) (SI)
Topics in Physical Science

Prerequisite: Undergraduate degree or instructor permission.
Small classes studying special topics in physical science using cooperative teaching in a laboratory setting. Hands-on experiments and lecture demonstrations allow special problems to be posed and solved. May be taken more than once.

PHYS 620 - (1) (SI)
Topical Physical Science

Prerequisite: Undergraduate degree or instructor permission.
A series of one credit hour science courses of interest to K-12 teachers, as well as the general public. These courses are offered anywhere in the state as needed through School of Continuing and Professional Studies regional centers. The courses are designed to meet Virginia's SOLs and consist of lectures, demonstrations, and many hands-on science activities. Current course topics include Sound, Light & Optics, Aeronautics and Space, Electricity, Meteorology, Magnetism, Heat & Energy, Matter, and Force & Motion. May be taken more than once.

PHYS 631, 632, 633 - (4) (SI)
Classical and Modern Physics I, II, III

Prerequisite: Undergraduate degree and instructor permission.
A comprehensive study of physics using some calculus and emphasizing concepts, problem solving, and pedagogy. This course series is intended for in-service science teachers, particularly middle school physical science and high school physics teachers. These courses can be used for crossover teachers who wish to obtain endorsement or certification to teach high school physics. They are required courses for the MAPE degree. The courses are typically taught for 4 weeks in the summer with a daily two-hour lecture and two-hour problem session. Problem sets continue for three months into the next semester.
I. Motion, kinematics, Newton's laws, energy and momentum conservation, gravitation, harmonic motion, waves, sound, heat, and fluids.
II. Coulomb's law, Gauss's law, electrostatics, electric fields, capacitance, inductance, circuits, magnetism, and electromagnetic waves.
III. Geometric and physical optics, relativity, and modern physics.

PHYS 635, 636, 637 - (3) (SI)
Curriculum Enhancement I, II, III

Prerequisite: Undergraduate degree and instructor permission.
A laboratory sequence normally taken concurrently with PHYS 631, 632, 633, respectively. It includes experiments with sensors that are integrated with graphing calculators and computers and other experiments using low cost apparatus. The courses are typically held in the summer for four weeks and are extended into the next semester creating an activity plan. The laboratories utilize best teaching practices and hands-on experimentation in cooperative learning groups.

PHYS 640 - (3-6) (SI)
Independent Study

Prerequisite: Undergraduate degree and instructor permission.
A program of independent study for in-service science teachers carried out under the supervision of a faculty member culminating in a written report. A typical project may be the creation and development of several physics demonstrations for the classroom or a unit activity. The student may carry out some of this work at home, school, or a site other than the University.

Advanced Graduate Courses Courses primarily for students seeking M.A., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physics.

PHYS 719 - (3) (Y)
Advanced Experimental Physics

Selected experiments designed to introduce students to concepts and techniques from a variety of fields of contemporary physics.

PHYS 725 - (3) (Y)
Mathematical Methods of Physics I

Prerequisite: MATH 521 and 522 or instructor permission.
Discusses matrices, complex analysis, Fourier series and transforms, ordinary differential equations, special functions of mathematical physics, partial differential equations, general vector spaces, integral equations and operator techniques, and Green's functions.

PHYS 742 - (3) (Y)
Electricity and Magnetism I

Prerequisite: PHYS 725 or instructor permission.
A consistent mathematical account of the phenomena of electricity and magnetism; electrostatics and magnetostatics; macroscopic media; Maxwell theory; and wave propagation.

PHYS 743 - (3) (Y)
Electricity and Magnetism II

Prerequisite: PHYS 742 or instructor permission.
Development of the theory of special relativity, relativistic electrodynamics, radiation from moving charges, classical electron theory, and Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations of electrodynamics.

PHYS 751 - (3) (Y)
Quantum Theory I

Prerequisite: Twelve credits of 300-level physics courses and MATH 521, 522 or instructor permission.
Introduces the physical basis of quantum mechanics, the Schroedinger equation and the quantum mechanics of one-particle systems, and stationary state problem.

PHYS 752 - (3) (Y)
Quantum Theory II

Prerequisite: PHYS 751 or instructor permission.
Includes angular momentum theory, techniques of time-dependent perturbation theory, emission and absorption of radiation, systems of identical particles, second quantization, and Hartree-Fock equations.

PHYS 795, 796 - (3) (Y)

Research leading to a master's thesis.

PHYS 797 - (3-12) (Y)

Continuation of PHYS 796.

Note Admission to 800- and 900-level PHYS courses requires the instructor's permission.

PHYS 822 - (3) (E)
Lasers and Nonlinear Optics

Prerequisite: PHYS 531 and exposure to quantum mechanics.
Studies nonlinear optical phenomena; the laser, sum, and difference frequency generation, optical parametric oscillation, and modulation techniques.

PHYS 831 - (3) (Y)
Statistical Mechanics

Prerequisite: PHYS 751.
Discusses thermodynamics and kinetic theory, and the development of the microcanonical, canonical, and grand canonical ensembles. Includes Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac distributions, techniques for handling interacting many-particle systems, and extensive applications to physical problems.

PHYS 832 - (3) (IR)
Statistical Mechanics II

Prerequisite: PHYS 831.
Further topics in statistical mechanics.

PHYS 842 - (3) (O)
Atomic Physics

Prerequisite: PHYS 752 or instructor permission.
Studies the principles and techniques of atomic physics with application to selected topics, including laser and microwave spectroscopy, photoionization, autoionization, effects of external fields, and laser cooling.

PHYS 853 - (3) (Y)
Quantum Theory III

Prerequisite: PHYS 752.
Introduces the quantization of field theories, including those based on the Dirac and Klein-Gordon equations. Derives perturbation theory in terms of Feynman diagrams, and applies it to simple field theories with interactions. Introduces the concept of renormalization.

PHYS 854 - (3) (Y)
Modern Field Theory

Prerequisite: PHYS 853.
Applies field theory techniques to quantum electrodynamics and to the renormalization-group description of phase transitions. Introduces the path integral description of field theory.

PHYS 861 - (3) (Y)
Solid State Physics I

Prerequisite: PHYS752 or instructor permission.
The description and basic theory of the electronic properties of solids including band structure, electrical conduction, optical properties, magnetism and super-conductivity.

PHYS 861 - (3) (IR)
Solid State Physics II

A discussion of various topics and problems relating to the physical properties of crystalline solids.

PHYS 871 - (3) (E)
Nuclear Physics

Discusses nuclear theory and experiment. Description and interpretation of nuclear reactions including fission, and the structure of nuclei.

PHYS 872 - (3) (IR)
Nuclear Physics II

A continuation of the topics of Physics 871.

PHYS 875 - (3) (IR)
Elementary Particle Physics

Discusses the various topics and problems relative to the physical properties and interactions of elementary particles.

PHYS 876 - (3) (IR)
Elementary Particle Physics II

Extension of PHYS 875. Studies topics in modern elementary particle physics, including unified gauge theory of electroweak interactions and introduction to QCD and lattice gauge theory.

PHYS 881, 882 - (3) (IR)
Selected Topics in Modern Physics

PHYS 897 - (3-12) (Y)
Non-Topical Research, Preparation for Research

For master's research, taken before a thesis director has been selected.

PHYS 898 - (3-12) (Y)
Non-Topical Research

For master's thesis, taken under the supervision of a thesis director.

PHYS 901, 902 - (3) (Y)
General Physics Research Seminar

PHYS 925, 926 - (3) (IR)
Research Seminar in Theoretical Physics

PHYS 951, 952 - (3) (Y)
Atomic and Molecular Seminar

PHYS 961, 962 - (3) (Y)
Research Seminar in Solid State Physics

PHYS 971, 972 - (3) (Y)
Research Seminar in Nuclear Physics

PHYS 981, 982 - (3) (Y)
Research Seminar in Particle Physics

PHYS 997 - (3-12) (Y)
Non-Topical Research, Preparation for Doctoral Research

For doctoral research, taken before a dissertation director has been selected.

PHYS 999 - (3-12) (Y)
Non-Topical Research

For doctoral dissertation, taken under the supervision of a dissertation director.

Physics Colloquium The faculty and graduate students meet weekly for the presentation by a visiting speaker of recent work in the physical sciences.

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