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Course Descriptions

PHYS 167. Science, Technology and Society - 1 cr.

This reading course can emphasize a variety of topics, including the history and applications of science and technology, and the impact of science and technology on society. Readings (one hour).  Fall, spring, and summer.

PHYS 170. Acoustics - 3 cr.

Physical principles underlying the production, propagation, and perception of sound.  Examples of the principles are drawn mostly from the world of musical sound.  No mathematical preparation beyond high school algebra is necessary. Lecture (three hours).  Spring.

PHYS 200. Essential Physics - 4 cr.

A one-semester algebra-based physics course especially designed to provide the elements necessary for a basic understanding of physics.  Meets requirements of the Mylan School of Pharmacy program. Topics covered may include: kinematics in one dimension, forces and Newton’s Laws of Motion, work and energy, torques, impulse and momentum, fluid flow, electric forces and electric fields, electric potential energy and the electric potential, electric circuits, magnetic forces and magnetic fields, and some aspects of modern physics.  In addition to being introduced to the physical concepts, the student will also be instructed in the analytical approach to problem solving that is useful in all disciplines.  The content of the course may be varied according to the needs of the students taking the course.  Prerequisite: A good knowledge of high-school algebra and trigonometry is required. Does not meet requirements of the Pre-Health Professions program.  Lecture (four hours), laboratory (two hours) and recitation (one hour).  Fall and summer.

PHYS 201. Physics for the Life Sciences I - 4 cr.

First of a two-semester algebra-based and problem-oriented introductory physics sequence. Topics normally covered are drawn from Newtonian mechanics in two dimensions and include velocity and acceleration, Newton’s laws and energy for linear and rotational motion, simple harmonic motion and fluids.  Time permitting, heat and thermodynamics may be included.  A good base of high-school algebra and trigonometry is assumed, and completion of homework and lab are requirements for a passing grade. Meets requirements of physical therapy and the Pre-Health Professions programs.  Does not meet requirements of physics or engineering programs.  Lecture (four hours) and laboratory (two hours).  Fall and summer.

PHYS 202.  Physics for the Life Sciences II - 4 cr.

Second of a two-semester algebra-based and problem-oriented introductory physics sequence. Topics normally covered include waves and sound, electricity, magnetism and optics.  Time permitting, relativity, atomic and nuclear physics may be included.  Completion of homework and lab are requirements for a passing grade. Meets requirements of physical therapy and the Pre-Health Professions programs.  Does not meet requirements of physics or engineering programs.  Lecture (four hours) and laboratory (two hours). Prerequisite: PHYS 201. Spring and summer.

PHYS 211.  General Analytical Physics I - 4 cr.

First of a two-semester calculus-based and problem-oriented introductory physics sequence. A good algebra and trigonometry background is presumed and methods of using the calculus are presented.  The approach is strongly quantitative and emphasizes the solving of problems.  Topics normally covered are drawn from Newtonian mechanics in two dimensions and include velocity and acceleration, Newton’s laws and energy for linear and rotational motion, simple harmonic motion and fluids.  Time permitting, heat and thermodynamics may be included. Completion of homework and lab are requirements for a passing grade. Meets requirements of physics, engineering, chemistry, mathematics, forensic science and the Pre-health Professions program. Lecture (three hours), laboratory (two hours) and recitation (one hour).  Co-requisite: MATH 115. Fall and summer.

 PHYS 212.  General Analytical Physics II - 4 cr.

Second of a two-semester calculus-based and problem-oriented introductory physics sequence. A good algebra and trigonometry background is presumed and methods of using the calculus are presented.  The approach is strongly quantitative and emphasizes the solving of problems.  Topics normally covered are drawn from electromagnetism and include electrostatic field, potential and energy, electric circuits, magnetostatics, and electromagnetic induction. Time permitting, wave motion, electromagnetic waves and optics may be included.  Completion of homework and lab are requirements for a passing grade. Meets requirements of physics, engineering, chemistry, mathematics, forensic science and the Pre-health Professions program. Lecture (three hours), laboratory (two hours) and recitation (one hour).  Prerequisite: PHYS 211. Co-requisite: MATH 116. Spring and summer.

PHYS 302. Optics - 3 cr.

Modern and classical optics at an intermediate level.  Ray optics is introduced first, with applications of reflection and refraction ranging from spherical surfaces to optical instrumentation. Topics in wave optics include wave motion and superposition, Fresnel equations, interference and interferometry, Fraunhoffer and Fresnel diffraction. Time permitting, elements of Fourier optics or other selected advanced topics may be included. Lecture (three hours). Prerequisites: PHYS 212. Co-requisite: PHYS 312. Fall.

PHYS 312. Optics Lab - 1 cr.

Laboratory demonstrating optical principles and applications. Experiments may vary, ranging from basic single optical component set-ups to multicomponent set-ups, basic and advanced interferometry, polarization and holography.  Laboratory (three hours). Prerequisites: PHYS 212, or PHYS 202 and instructor’s permission.  Fall.

PHYS 332. Analog Electronics - 3 cr.

An introduction to the fundamental principles of analog circuit analysis and design:  direct current circuits and alternating current circuits containing passive and active discrete components (e.g. resistors, capacitors, inductors, diodes, transformers, transistors, etc.), semiconductor devices (e.g. diodes), integrated components (e.g. operational amplifiers), and non-linear circuits.  Standard testing equipment (e.g., multimeter, function generator, oscilloscope, etc.) is integrated into a practical laboratory setting.  Lecture (two hours) and laboratory (three hours).  Prerequisites:  PHYS 212, or PHYS 202 and the consent of the instructor. Fall.

PHYS 350/550. Theoretical Methods in Science - 3 cr.

A variety of theoretical methods that are useful for general problem-solving in advanced science and engineering courses: complex numbers and functions of a complex variable, Fourier series and transforms, Laplace transforms, Legendre, Laguerre and Hermite polynomials, calculus of variations, special functions and tensor analysis.  Lecture (three hours). Prerequisite: MATH 215. Co-requisites: MATH 310 and MATH 314. Spring.

PHYS 364. Modern Physics Lab - 1 cr.

Experiments demonstrating principles and applications of quantum physics. Students have the opportunity to reproduce historically crucial experiments such as the photoelectric effect, the Franck-Hertz experiment and the Millikan oil-drop experiment, and to experiment with nuclear decay, superconductivity and pulsed nuclear-magnetic-resonance spectrometry. Laboratory (three hours). Prerequisites: PHYS 212, or PHYS 202 and instructor’s permission.  Spring.

PHYS 374. Modern Physics - 3 cr.

Intermediate-level introduction to relativity, quantum physics and statistical mechanics.  Topics include: special relativity, Planck spectrum and quantization of light, wave-particle duality, quantization of atomic energy levels, wavefunctions and Schrödinger equation in one and three-dimensions, elementary quantum angular momentum theory, exclusion principle and the period table, and elements of classical and quantum statistical mechanics. Select developments in nuclear physics, condensed-matter physics, and elementary-particle physics may be included, time permitting.  Lecture (three hours). Prerequisites: PHYS 212 and MATH 215. Spring.

PHYS 401. Thermal Physics - 3 cr.

Fundamental principles of thermodynamics, kinetic theory and statistical mechanics at the advanced level.  Topics generally included are the ideal gas, equipartition of energy, work and heat, heat capacities, latent heat and enthalpy, the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, entropy, the Carnot cycle, the Helmholtz and Gibbs free energies, phase transformations, the Clausius-Clapyron equation, Boltzmann statistics, the Maxwell speed distribution, the Gibbs factor, bosons and fermions, the Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein distributions, white dwarf stars and neutron stars, blackbody radiation and the Planck spectrum, and the cosmic microwave background radiation. Lecture (three hours). Prerequisite: PHYS 374. Odd fall.

PHYS 461/561. Mechanics - 4 cr.

Advanced-level classical mechanics in three dimensions. Topics include 3-dimensional kinematics, solutions of the Newtonian equation of motion with drag, conservative forces and potential energies, work and energy theorems, central forces, inverse-square law and Kepler’s problem, damped and driven oscillations, Fourier analysis, and the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations. Lecture (four hours). Prerequisites: PHYS 212, MATH 215, MATH 310, MATH 314 and junior status. Odd fall.

PHYS 472/572. Electromagnetism - 4 cr.

Electricity and magnetism at the advanced level. Topics include vector calculus, electrostatic fields from point charges and continuous charge distributions, Gauss’ law, electrostatic potential, conductors, methods for Laplace’s equation including images, separation of variables and multipole expansions, magnetostatic fields, Ampere’s law, electromagnetic induction, Maxwell’s equations. Lecture (four hours). Prerequisites: PHYS 212, MATH 215, MATH 310, MATH 314 and junior status. Even spring.

PHYS 474. Quantum Mechanics - 3 cr.

Undergraduate introduction to the formalism of modern quantum theory.  The course usually begins with a review of Schrodinger theory.  The main course content includes one-dimensional potentials, the harmonic oscillator, angular momentum, spin, and perturbation theory.  Throughout the course, emphasis is placed on the Hilbert space formulation, the Dirac notation and the matrix representation.  Lecture (three hours). Prerequisites: PHYS 374, MATH 310 and MATH 314. Even fall.

PHYS 480/580. Chaos - 3 cr.

This course provides an introduction to the theory and applications of chaos.  The topics presented may include: characterizations of dynamical systems and of maps and flows; sensitivity to initial conditions; studies of one-dimensional maps including fixed points, periodic orbits, bifurcation theory, the period-doubling cascade to chaos, universal scaling laws and the Feigenbaum constants; the  Schwarzian derivative and the critical orbit; and the Newton Fixed Point Theorem.  Then, the last part of the course is devoted to fractals, Julia Sets, and the Mandelbrot Set. If time permits we may study the Lyapunov exponents and the Lorenz attractor.  Students taking this course are strongly urged to take 480L.  However, all majors enrolled are required to take 480L.  Lecture (three hours). Prerequisite: MATH 115. Spring.

PHYS 480/580L. Chaos Computer Laboratory - 1 cr.

Computer studies of the concepts introduced in 480.  An important topic is the period-doubling cascade to chaos for the one-dimensional logistic map.  We may also study the Hénon Map, the Lorenz attractor, Julia Sets, and the Mandelbrot Set.  Laboratory (two hours).  Prerequisite: MATH 115. Spring.

PHYS 481. Descriptive Cosmology - 3 cr.

Modern scientific understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe at a straightforward descriptive level. Topics include: redshift of distant galaxies, cosmic background radiation, cosmic abundance of hydrogen and helium, inflation, dark matter, dark energy and big-bang models of the universe, with discussion of relevant astrophysics including stellar evolution and black-hole science. Emphasis is on the current status of the field as per public media sources. Delivery is based on a variety of visual aids, including acclaimed public television programs. Internet-based searches, readings from public sources and fieldtrips to local observatories are some of the activities included for credit. No science or mathematics background presumed. Does not meet requirements of astronomy programs. Lecture (three hours). Prerequisite: junior status or instructor’s permission.  Odd spring. 

PHYS 482W. Elementary Particle Physics - 3 cr.

This course will include elements of nuclear structure, as well as the discoveries and ideas of modern elementary particle physics. The material covered will be, in part, cultural and historical.  The topics presented may include: the Special and General Theories of Relativity; an introduction to quantum mechanics; the charge-independent, nuclear interaction; the four fundamental forces in nature; the properties of baryons, mesons, and leptons; the quark structure of the hadrons, including the "flavor" and "color" labels; "asymptotic freedom" and "infrared slavery"; parity violation in the weak interactions and other symmetries obeyed or violated in the various interactions; the electroweak theory; the unification of the various forces; and GUTS, supersymmetry, and string theories.  Connections between particle physics and cosmology may be discussed.  Lecture (three hours). Prerequisites: PHYS 374 and MATH 310.  Even fall.

PHYS 485.  Relativity - 3 cr.

Introduction to the Special and General Theories of Relativity.  Topics that may be discussed are: space-time coordinates and four vectors, the metric tensor, the Lorentz transformation, simultaneity, the Lorentz contraction, time dilation, relativistic dynamics, relativistic threshold problems, the principle of equivalence, space-time curvature, the Schwarzschild metric, the gravitational redshift, the bending of light, the Einstein equations, and applications to astrophysics and cosmology. Lecture (three hours). Prerequisites: PHYS 461 with C or better, or MATH 215 and instructor’s permission. Odd spring.

PHYS 487/587. Problems in Physics - 1-4 cr.

Special topics and problems in physics and related subjects suitable for an independent study. Fall, spring and summer.

PHYS 488. Advanced Problems in Physics - 1-4 cr.

Problems usually of a more sophisticated nature than those in PHYS 487. Fall, spring, and summer.

PHYS 491. Introductory Materials Science I - 3 cr.

The main topics covered are atomic bonding, crystalline structure, diffusion, mechanical behavior, thermal behavior, failure analysis and prevention, phase diagrams and kinetics.  The course is an accurate description of the balance between scientific principles and practical engineering that is required in selecting the proper materials for modern technology.  Lecture (three hours). Prerequisite: PHYS 374 with C or better. Odd fall.

PHYS 492. Introductory Materials Science II - 3 cr.

The course will address the properties of structural materials (metals, ceramics and glasses, polymers and composites), electronic, optical and magnetic materials (electrical behavior, optical behavior, semiconductor materials and magnetic materials) and materials in engineering design (environmental degradation and materials selection).  Lecture (three hours).  Prerequisite: PHYS 491. Even spring.

PHYS 493. Solid State Physics I - 3 cr.

Bulk properties of materials are discussed with both the phenomenological and microscopic approaches. Topics include a review of quantum theory, crystal structure, crystal diffraction and binding, lattice vibrations, thermal and electronic properties. Lecture (three hours). Prerequisites: PHYS 374 with C or better. Even fall.

PHYS 494. Solid State Physics II - 3 cr.

Bulk properties of materials are discussed with both the phenomenological and microscopic approaches. Topics will include band theory of solids, Fermi surfaces, electrical conductors, semiconductors, magnetism, optical properties of solids, and superconductivity. Lecture (three hours). Prerequisite: PHYS 493. Odd spring. 

PHYS 499W. Senior Research - 2 cr.

Research experience under the guidance of a faculty mentor, culminating in a senior thesis.  A public oral presentation or poster is a requirement for a passing grade. Prerequisite: senior status. Spring.

Physics courses in the University Core Program

UCOR 123.  Core Science – Physics - 3 cr.

Through lecture and classroom demonstration, students investigate the fundamental notions of mechanics: motion, inertia, force, momentum and energy.  Emphasis is placed on the great Newtonian synthesis of the 17th century.  With this foundation, students are prepared to move on to topics chosen from among the following: properties of matter, heat and thermodynamic, electricity and magnetism, light and modern physics.  This course introduces students to the analytical processes of the scientific method and also helps them recognize applications to the physics involved in everyday life. Lecture (three hours).  Fall, spring, and summer.

UCOR 124.  Earth Science - 3 cr.

Introduction to Earth science for non-science majors.  Survey of the Earth in relation to its physical composition, structure, history, atmosphere and oceans.  Also included is how each of this impacts humans and how humans have an influence on the processes of the Earth, its oceans, and its atmosphere. Lecture (three hours). Fall, spring, and summer.

UCOR 125.  Astronomy - 3 cr.

Introduction to methods of astronomical observation, history of astronomy,  the solar system and the question of life in the universe, with limited context-building discussion of stars and galaxies.  Focus may alternate between planetary geology and astrophysics.  Delivery is straightforwardly descriptive without complex mathematics. No science or mathematics background presumed. Does not meet requirements of physics of astronomy programs. Fall.

UCOR 127.  Cosmology - 3 cr.

Modern scientific understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe at a straightforward descriptive level. Topics include: redshift of distant galaxies, cosmic background radiation, cosmic abundance of hydrogen and helium, inflation, dark matter, dark energy and big-bang models of the universe, with discussion of relevant astrophysics including stellar evolution and black-hole science. Emphasis is on the current status of the field as per public media sources. Delivery is based on a variety of visual aids, including acclaimed public television programs. Internet-based searches, readings from public sources and fieldtrips to local observatories are some of the activities included for credit. No science or mathematics background presumed. Does not meet requirements of astronomy programs. Lecture (three hours). Odd spring.

UCOR 170.  Roller Coaster Science - 3 cr.

Concepts relevant to a roller coaster ride are developed through an approach that integrates hands-on activities into lecture time. Energy, force, acceleration and speed acquire meaning through experience and observation. This course builds up, in the context of amusement park rides, the skills in math and physics that are traditionally acquired through a first standard course in introductory physics. A field trip to Kennywood Park is among the requirements.  Integrated lecture and lab (three hours). Summer.