Chair and Associate Professor
MARTA DARK MCNEESE
Science Center – Room 327
The primary goal of the physics program is to lay a strong foundation in the knowledge, practice, and applications of physics so that the student will be motivated for further studies and will be competent scientifically in all her endeavors. The courses strongly support majors in other fields such as chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and engineering.
The Physics Department seeks to produce competent, productive physics graduates, as well as to contribute to the science education of all students. Upon successful completion of the prescribed program, the student will be able to
1. demonstrate a breadth and depth of knowledge of physics which would lead to a successful career in a physics-related profession such as engineering or education;
2. demonstrate a breadth and depth of knowledge of physics which would allow her to begin a graduate program in physics;
3. apply her analytical skills to such diverse professions as law, medicine, finance, telecommunications, etc.;
4. demonstrate proficiency in the application of physics to problems of science, society, and technology.
General Core Requirements
PHY 101 (Astronomy)
International/Women’s Studies Requirement
Courses that satisfy the International/Women’s Studies requirement are listed in the Course Sequence Booklet or on the Spelman Web page.
The student majoring in physics will complete the core courses and one of the options to complete the major. The options are advanced theory and experiment, suitable for students who will use physics heavily in their careers; chemical physics, suitable for students leaning toward a career in industry, materials science, or professional school; applications in engineering for students in the dual degree program; and teaching.
The core courses are PHY 151, 241, 251, 261, 311, and 411. Required cognates are MATH 231, 232, and 324; CHE 111 and 111L; a CIS elective (programming language).
The remaining courses for each option are listed below:
Advanced Theory and Experiment Option
PHY 305, 312, 322, 362, 462, and one physics elective 300 or greater, and one physics elective 400 or greater.
Chemical Physics Option
PHY 322 (or CHE 345), 356, 362, and one physics elective 300 or greater. Other cognates for this option are CHE 112, 112L, 231, 232, 233, 234, one chemistry elective 300 or greater.
PHY 305, 343, 362, 462, two physics electives 300 or higher. Other cognates are CHE 112, 112L, 231, 232, 233, 234; BIO 115 and 120; biology elective.
Dual Degree Engineering Option
PHY 312, 322, 362, one physics elective 300 or greater, and one physics elective 400 or greater (or two physics electives 300 or greater). Other cognates are CHE 112, 112L, and other pre-engineering courses – Introduction to Engineering, Engineering Graphics, Statistics, and Dynamics. The student must also complete an engineering major in the Dual Degree Engineering program; however, some physics courses may be substituted using the engineering courses. See the Physics Department for a list.
PHY 305, 312, 322, 362, 356 or 462, and one physics elective 300 or greater. Other cognates are CHE 112, 112L, and the courses required for teacher certification (see the Education Department under Secondary Education Teacher Certification).
The minor in Physics consists of seven courses, some of which have prerequisites. They are PHY 151, 241, 251, 261, and three elective physics courses at the 300 level or greater. One of these electives must be laboratory-based (PHY 356, 362, or a course approved by the department).
Students in the dual-degree engineering program may substitute one engineering course, from an approved list, for one of the electives.
PHY 101 – INTRODUCTION TO ASTRONOMY (4)
An introduction to important phenomena of astronomy and how they follow from universal physical law and apply to local circumstances, drawing on principles from physics, chemistry, geology and biology. The course covers aspects of planetary, stellar and galactic astronomy, and cosmology as they all relate to determining the age of the universe. This course contains a laboratory component and will fulfill the natural sciences requirement.
PHY 111 – GENERAL PHYSICS I (4)
An introduction to the physics of motion and forces, solids and fluids, wave phenomena and thermal processes. The focus is on kinematics and Newtonian dynamics, conservation of energy and momentum, rotational motion and its relation to forces, oscillation and wave (including sound), elastic properties of solids, properties of fluids at rest and in motion, and thermodynamics. Lecture three hours per week; recitation discussion one hour per week. Prerequisite: MATH 116 or equivalent (algebra and trigonometry).
PHY 112 – GENERAL PHYSICS II (4)
An introduction to electricity and magnetism, optics and modern physics. The focus is on electrical fields and energy, electrical circuits, magnetic fields and induction, lenses and mirrors, wave phenomena of light, atomic and nuclear physics. Lecture three hours per week; recitation discussion one hour per week. Prerequisite: PHY 111.
PHY 151 – PHYSICS I: MECHANICS (4)
An introductory study of the principles underlying the motion of particles, systems of particles and rigid bodies. The focus is on Newton’s theory of motion, the work-energy principle, the laws of conservation of energy, momentum and angular momentum, and Newton’s theory of gravitation. Other topics include rotational motion, simple harmonic motion and equilibrium. Lecture three hours per week; laboratory three hours per week. Prerequisite: MATH 231 or equivalent.
PHY 241 – PHYSICS II: ELECTRICITY AND MAGNETISM (4)
An introductory study of the laws of electromagnetism. The emphasis is on Coulomb’s law and the Lorentz force law. Gauss’ law, Ampere’s law, Faraday’s law, and basic circuit analysis are also presented. Basic circuit analysis are also presented. Lecture three hours per week; laboratory three hours per week. Prerequisite: PHY 151, and MATH 232 or equivalent.
PHY 251 – OSCILLATIONS AND WAVES (3)
A study of oscillations and waves in various physical systems, including development of mathematical theory, computer simulations, and experimental investigation. The course focuses on the pendulum, an LRC circuit, coaxial cable, and a finite quantum well. Topics include driven damped oscillators, use of the Fourier series and Fourier transform, reflection and transmission of waves, and quantum states. Two two-hour class sessions per week. Prerequisite: PHY 241 and MATH 324.
PHY 261 – OPTICS (1)
A laboratory-based course in introductory optics. Topics include laws of geometric and physical optics. Basic applications of optics and optical phenomena are presented. One two-hour lab session per week. Prerequisite: PHY 241.
PHY 305 – MATHEMATICAL PHYSICS (4)
An introduction to some advanced mathematical topics required in physics. These topics include Fourier analysis, partial differential equations, complex analysis and vector calculus. Physical applications are discussed as well as some special functions such as Hermite polynomials and Bessel functions. Lecture four hours per week. Prerequisites: PHY 251 and MATH 324. Corequisite: MATH 365.
PHY 311 – CLASSICAL MECHANICS (4)
A study of the laws of mechanics including Newton’s Theory and the formalism of Langrange and Hamilton. Topics include generalized coordinates, oscillations, two-body motion and collisions. Lecture four hours per week. Prerequisite: PHY 242. Corequisite: MATH 365.
PHY 312 – ELECTROMAGNETIC THEORY (4)
An advanced study of electric fields, magnetic fields, Maxwell’s equations and electromagnetic waves. The course focuses on the use of vector calculus for electrostatics and magnetostatics, analytical and computational methods for solving Laplace’s equation and Poisson’s equation, fields in matter, electrodynamics and Maxwell’s equations, the interaction of electromagnetic waves with matter and electromagnetic radiation. Lecture three hours per week; computer lab one hour per week. Prerequisite: PHY 241 and PHY 305, or permission of the department.
PHY 322 – THERMAL AND STATISTICAL PHYSICS (4)
A study of the fundamental concepts of classical thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. Topics include temperature, work, heat, entropy, heat capacity, the laws of thermodynamics and distribution functions. The kinetic theory, energy transformation and applications of simple systems are included. Lecture three hours per week; lab activities one hour per week. Prerequisite: PHY 251.
PHYSICS 343 – BIOPHYSICS (3)
An introduction to the physical principles behind a variety of important biological and biophysical phenomena. Interdisciplinary in nature, the course combines physical and biological perspectives to explore a wide range of topics and to provide a solid foundation for further study in the fields of biophysics and biotechnology. This course will offer a detailed study of significant biomolecules and their structure-function relationships. Participants will develop an understanding of the fundamental concepts of quantum mechanics in relation to spectroscopic methods, and a mastery of the structural aspects of biomolecules with and without a transition metal ion. Topics also include: the interactions of biological systems with electromagnetism, such as the eye (physics of vision) and cellular membranes (transport mechanisms and electrical signaling in neurons); biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system. Lecture three hours per week. Prerequisite: One 300 level physics course.
PHY/CHEM 356 – LASERS, OPTICS AND SPECTROSCOPY (4)
A laboratory-based, in-depth study of the applications of lasers in Physics and Chemistry with emphasis on the scientific method. Areas covered include optics, light, light-matter interaction, lasers, spectroscopy and applications of mathematics in Chemistry and Physics. Prerequisite: MATH 324; either PHY 251 and 261, or CHEM 346; or permission of the instructor(s).
PHY 362 – ADVANCED LAB (4)
A course in modern experimental physics including use of advanced techniques and instrumentation, data analysis, and electronics. Experiments will include nuclear spectroscopy, Mössbauer effect, lasers and electro-optical effects, chaotic systems, and magnetic resonance. Two three-hour lab sessions per week. Prerequisite: PHY 251 and 261.
PHY 411 – QUANTUM MECHANICS (4)
An introductory course to the basic concepts, postulates and principles of quantum mechanics, and to their experimental bases. The formalism includes a mathematical framework of linear operators, Hilbert spaces, probability interpretation and perturbation theory. The basic principles include Schroedinger’s equation and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. The theory is applied to various systems such as free particle, infinite and square wells, harmonic oscillator and hydrogen atom. Lecture four hours per week.
Prerequisite: PHY 311, and MATH 214 or PHY 305.
PHYSICS 420 – RELATIVITY (4)
This course introduces the modern theory of gravity. It surveys Newtonian gravitation and the basic concepts of special relativity, and then develops the ideas, phenomena and experimental evidence in support of the general theory of relativity. The course emphasizes the physical meaning and structure of curved spacetimes and covers the most important examples in stellar astrophysics, cosmology, and gravitational radiation. Lecture three hours per week. Prerequisite PHY 311. Corequisite PHY 312.
PHY 431 – INDEPENDENT STUDY/ UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH IN PHYSICS (3)
An in-depth study or research on a topic in physics not normally covered in the curriculum under the direction of a member of the faculty or designate. The student does independent study or research and meets weekly with her advisor. A written paper or public presentation is required. Prerequisite: Junior standing and consent of the Physics Department and prospective advisor.
PHY 462 – ADVANCED EXPERIMENTS, THEORY, AND MODELING (4)
A capstone course for physics majors that applies theories learned and the core intermediate courses to modern experiments involving sophisticated techniques, equipment and analysis. The course focuses on understanding the theoretical basis of experimental apparatus, performing complex experiments, analyzing data, and applying theoretical models of the systems studied to the experimental results. The course also includes the planning of experiments, the mechanical or electronic construction of apparatus, use of computers, and scientific communication. Experiments include x-ray crystallography, surface physics, lasers and polarization and superconductivity. Two three-hour lab sessions per week. Prerequisite: PHY 362 (Advanced Lab) and completion of three of the following: PHY 311 (Classical Mechanics), PHY 322 (Thermal and Statistical Physics), PHY 312 (Electromagnetic Theory), PHY 411 (Quantum Mechanics).