Academic Catalog

Physics

(413) 662-5455
www.mcla.edu/phys
Chairperson: Kebra Ward
Email: Kebra.Ward@mcla.edu

Physics Major

The Department of Physics offers a four-year program leading to a Bachelor of Arts or Science in physics. Students study basic physical laws of nature, apply these laws in the laboratory, and explore practical applications found in society. Opportunities are available for advanced study in electronics, optics, solid state physics, computer applications, and elementary particle physics. Upon graduation, students are prepared to enter graduate school in physics or related scientific and engineering fields or to enter directly into the scientific or technological community. An undergraduate degree in physics is also an excellent foundation for graduate work in a host of other fields.

Students graduating with a degree in physics will be able to:

  • Understand the basic principles in the various fields of physics.
  • Make connections between various fields of physics.
  • Solve problems using math and physical reasoning.
  • Use modern computational methods to analyze and present data.
  • Design and conduct experiments to evaluate ideas and verify theories.
  • Evaluate the validity of experimental evidence.
  • Effectively communicate information gained by written and oral means.
PHYS 120 Introduction to Engineering4 cr

Introduces students to basic scientific methodology, current problems and fundamental principles of engineering design. Intended for nonscience majors and potential engineering students. Required laboratory introduces fundamental science and engineering principles through collaborative projects such as robotics. Required laboratory.

Attributes: Core Science & Tech w/lab (CSTL)  
PHYS 131 General Physics I4 cr

This is the first of a two-semester sequence, designed primarily for students in the biological and health sciences and others who desire a rigorous but non-calculus-based course that presents a complete introduction to physics. Covers vectors, one and two dimensional motion, Newton's laws, and rotational motion, conservation of energy and momentum, gravitation, wave motion, sound, heat and thermodynamics. Required laboratory.

Attributes: Core Science & Tech w/lab (CSTL)  
PHYS 132 General Physics II4 cr

This is the second of a two-semester sequence, designed primarily for students in the biological and health sciences and others who desire a rigorous but non-calculus-based course that presents a complete introduction to physics. Covers geometrical optics, electricity and magnetism, electronics, modern physics, relativity. Required laboratory.

Prerequisite: PHYS 131   
Attributes: Core Science & Tech w/lab (CSTL)  
PHYS 140 Astronomy3 cr

Looks at historical and modern aspects of astronomy. Topics covered will include: the Earth-Moon system, our solar system, galaxies, the observable universe, as well as current research in astronomy, including quasars, pulsars, black holes, other planetary systems and the search for extraterrestrial life.

Attributes: Core Science & Tech w/o lab (CST)  
PHYS 151 Introduction to Mechanics4 cr

First course in a three-course introductory physics sequence which utilizes a calculus-based approach to study the natural world. This course focuses on kinematics, dynamics, conservation of energy and momentum, and rotational motion. Required laboratory.

Prerequisite: MATH 150 or MATH 220 or concurrent enrollment in MATH 220  
Attributes: Core Science & Tech w/lab (CSTL)  
PHYS 200 Seminar for Physics Majors1 cr

Explores the discipline of physics in order to support majors in their academic work and help them understand their career options. Explores the diversity of fields within physics through presentations, reading and writing activities and interactions with peers and mentors. This seminar is required for all MCLA physics majors.

PHYS 251 Introduction to Electricity & Magnetism4 cr

Second course in a three-course introductory physics sequence which utilizes a calculus-based approach to study the natural world. This course focuses on electricity and magnetism, including Maxwell's Laws. Required laboratory.

Prerequisite: PHYS 151, MATH 220  
Attributes: Core Science & Tech w/lab (CSTL)  
PHYS 252 Introduction to Waves, Optics, and Relativity4 cr

Third course in a three-course introductory physics sequence which utilizes a calculus-based approach to study the natural world. This course focuses on waves, optics, and special relativity. Required laboratory.

Prerequisite: PHYS 251, MATH 320 or concurrent enrollment in MATH 320  
PHYS 301 Classical Mechanics3 cr

Studies particle motion in two- and three-dimensions, systems of particles, rigid bodies, moving coordinates systems, and Lagrange's equations.

Prerequisite: PHYS 252, MATH 330  
PHYS 303 Electricity and Magnetism3 cr

Studies electrostatics, magnetostatics, electrodynamics, Maxwell's equations and its applications. Applications include electromagnetic properties of matter, wave propagation, radiating systems and special relativity.

Prerequisite: PHYS 252, MATH 330  
PHYS 305 Electronics3 cr

Provides experience in building and analyzing analog and digital circuits and becoming familiar with the standard electronics lab equipment, such as oscilloscopes, power supplies, function generators, and multimeters. Students will build circuit containing resistors, capacitors, inductors, transistors, and logic gates and analyze these circuits, which entails calculating the theoretical output (voltage, current, signal shape) and comparing these predictions to the experimental output.

Prerequisite: PHYS 351  
PHYS 351 Modern Physics4 cr

Studies the discovery of various physical phenomena which led to the development of quantum mechanics and introductory quantum mechanics. Required laboratory.

Prerequisite: PHYS 252  
PHYS 361 Mathematical Physics3 cr

Presents mathematical methods of use in the solution of physical problems. Topics covered include linear equations: vectors, matrices, and determinants, multiple integrals: applications of integration, vector analysis, ordinary and partial differential equations, coordinate transformations and tensor analysis, and probability.

Prerequisite: MATH 320  
PHYS 401 Advanced Physics Laboratory I3 cr

Studies laboratory techniques to supplement senior physics courses or work on special projects with departmental approval. Use of current computer technology is integral.

Prerequisite: PHYS 252  
PHYS 402 Advanced Physics Laboratory II3 cr

Continues Physics 401. Use of current computer technology is integral.

Prerequisite: PHYS 401  
PHYS 403 Introduction to Particle Physics3 cr

Introduces the concepts necessary to understand the structure of matter at the most fundamental level. Considers matter in terms of its most elementary constituents, and discusses the properties, classifications, and forces which act on these particles. Discusses the relationship between conservation laws and symmetries. The experimental study of elementary particles is discussed throughout the course. Concludes with a discussion of outstanding questions in the field.

Prerequisite: PHYS 351  
PHYS 460 Statistical Thermodynamics3 cr

Studies statistical techniques applied to physical phenomena. Topics include kinetic theory of gasses, classical thermodynamics and quantum statistical physics.

Prerequisite: PHYS 252  
PHYS 471 Quantum Mechanics3 cr

Studies inadequacies of classical mechanics and explores ways of describing nature at the atomic level. Topics include the Schrödinger equation and its solutions for various simple systems, expectation values, operator formalism and matrix representation.

Prerequisite: PHYS 351  
PHYS 499 Teaching Assistantship in Physics1-3 cr

Provides the opportunity for a student to assist in the preparation and/or implementation of a physics course.

Prerequisite: Department approval  
Repeatable: maximum of 6 credits  
PHYS 500 Directed Independent Study1-3 cr

Open to juniors and seniors who wish to read in a given area or to study a topic in depth. Written reports and frequent conferences with the advisor are required.

Prerequisite: Junior/senior status, department approval  
Repeatable: maximum of 12 credits  
PHYS 510 Independent Research1-3 cr

Participation in research in physics under the direction of a member of the physics faculty in a specific area.

Prerequisite: Department approval  
Repeatable: maximum of 12 credits  
PHYS 540 Physics Internship3-15 cr

Offers the upper-level physics major an opportunity to practice physics in an appropriate professional situation. The student will work with a faculty sponsor and an off-campus supervisor in gaining experience significant to the major.

Prerequisite: Department approval, junior/senior status  
Repeatable: maximum of 15 credits  
PHYS 580 Special Topics in Physics1-4 cr

Studies concepts, problems, issues, topics or themes that are important in the field of physics. Special topic seminars may explore a variety of topics including but not limited to: physics for educators, solid state physics, robotics and engineering applications. Lab may be required depending on topic.

Prerequisite: Department approval  
Repeatable: Unlimited Credits  

Students majoring in physics may opt to pursue initial teacher licensure as an early childhood teacher or elementary teacher. Also, physics majors may pursue initial licensure as a teacher of physics for the middle school or secondary levels. Students seeking any of these licenses must complete a physics major,  and a licensure program in education.