Physics Courses

101 Basic Concepts of Physics (1)
Prerequisite: High school algebra.
The basic ideas of physics in a historical and philosophical framework to give the student insight and appreciation of physics of this century and how physics relates to our contemporary society. Not intended for science majors. Lecture and laboratory. Offered in alternate years. Staff

102 The Physics of Urban and Environmental Problems (1)
Prerequisite: High school algebra.
The physics of modern urban and environmental problems with respect to their causes, effects and possible cures. Topics include transportation, energy generation and transmission, pollution and resources. Not intended for science majors. Offered in alternate years. Seely, Zellner.

105 Introductory Astronomy (1)
Prerequisite: High school algebra.
A study of the night sky, planets, stars, galaxies, cosmology, and our place in the universe, along with discussion of observational techniques and space missions. Not intended for science and mathematics majors or minors or students who have taken physics or calculus in high school. Lecture and laboratory, with additional multiple observing sessions required. Zellner.

115, 116 General Physics (1 each)
Prerequisite for 115: High school algebra. First-year students need permission of instructor.
Prerequisite for 116: Physics 115.
Various forms of energy and their interactions: mechanics, sound, heat, light, electricity, magnetism and atomic and nuclear physics. Includes analytical, historical and philosophical aspects. Lecture and laboratory. Seely.

167, 168 Analytical Physics I, II (1 each)
Corequisite for 167: Mathematics 141, or permission of instructor.
Prerequisite for 168: Physics 167.
Corequisite for 168: Mathematics 143 or permission of instructor.
A calculus-based survey of general physics. Topics include kinematics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, wave motion, sound, electricity and magnetism, light and optics, relativity, quantum mechanics, atomic physics and nuclear physics. Lecture and laboratory. Staff.

187, 188, 189 Selected Topics (1/4, 1/2, 1)
An examination of subjects or areas not included in other courses. Staff.

191 Physics and Astronomy Seminar (1/4)
Discussion of selected topics in physics and astronomy as determined by student and staff interest. Led by departmental faculty, visiting speakers and students. Students are required to read selected scientific papers, attend presentations and actively participate in discussions. Offered on a credit/no credit basis. Staff.

205 Planetary Astronomy (1)
Prerequisite: High school algebra or permission of instructor.
Covers our solar system's origin and evolution, including Newton's and Kepler's Laws, planetary motion, planet characteristics, and detection of extrasolar planets. Investigates planetary and other images and data returned by solar system spacecraft. Considers recent developments in biochemistry and whether or not life could exist on other worlds. Zellner.

206 Astrophysics I: Stars, Galaxies and Cosmology (1)
Prerequisites: Mathematics 141 and/or a previous physics course, or permission of instructor.
Provides an understanding of stars and how they work, and examines our galaxy. Covers topics related to cosmology, including our expanding universe. Intended for mathematics and science majors and minors and for students pursuing teacher certification in science. Zellner.

243 Introduction to Mathematical Methods in Physics I (1/2)
Prerequisite: Physics 168, or permission of instructor.
An introduction to the mathematical methods in physics using symbolic and numerical computational software. Topics include statistical interpretation of data and distribution functions, functions of a complex variable, coordinate transformations and curvilinear coordinates. Staff.

244 Introduction to Mathematical Methods in Physics II (1/2)
Prerequisites: Physics 168 and Physics 243, or permission of instructor.
A continuation of Physics 243. Topics include partial differential equations, Fourier analysis, special functions and orthogonal functions. Seely.

245 Electronics (1)
Prerequisite: Physics 168, or Physics 116 with Mathematics 143, or permission of instructor.
The use of linear and integrated circuits, discrete devices, amplifiers, power supplies, oscillators and digital logic in experimental design and data acquisition. Applications of measurement instrumentation. Lecture and laboratory. Miller.

250 Introductory Modern Physics (1)
Prerequisites: Mathematics 245 and Physics 243, or permission of instructor.
Corequisites: Physics 244 and Mathematics 247, or permission of instructor (may also be taken as prerequisites).
A survey of modern physics. Topics include special relativity, the quantum theory of light and quantum mechanics of matter with applications in atomic, nuclear and elementary particle physics. Staff.

287, 288, 289 Selected Topics (1/4, 1/2, 1)
An examination of subjects or areas not included in other courses. Staff.

291 Physics and Astronomy Seminar II (1/4)
Prerequisite: Physics 191, junior or senior standing.
Discussion of selected topics in physics and astronomy as determined by student and staff interest. Led by departmental faculty, visiting speakers and students. Students are required to read selected scientific papers, attend presentations, actively participate in discussions, and give a presentation on a scientific paper of their choice. Offered on a credit/no credit basis. Staff.

308 Optics (1)
Prerequisite: Physics 250, or permission of instructor.
An introduction to geometrical and physical optics which includes paraxial theory, polarization, interference and diffraction phenomena, and optical instruments. Topics in contemporary optics, including lasers, holography and Fourier optics will also be discussed. Lecture and laboratory. Offered in alternate years. Seely.

322 Solid State and Nuclear Physics (1)
Prerequisite: Physics 250.
An introduction to the modern quantum mechanical description of solids and the atomic nucleus. Lecture. Offered in alternate years. Moreau.

325 Theoretical Mechanics (1)
Prerequisites: Physics 244, Mathematics 247.
Review of elementary mechanics, one-dimensional motion, harmonic oscillator, motion in two and three dimensions, central force motion and orbital mechanics, many-particle systems, rotational motion, gravitation, moving coordinate systems and Lagrangian mechanics. Zellner.

336 Electricity and Magnetism (1)
Prerequisites: Physics 244, Mathematics 247.
A thorough discussion of Maxwell's electromagnetic field equations in differential form. Major topics are electrostatics, magnetostatics, electromagnetic induction and electromagnetic waves. Moreau.

350 Advanced Laboratory (1)
Prerequisites: Physics 245 and 250, or permission of instructor.
A junior-level laboratory designed to give students experience in independent research in experimental physics. Experiments include topics in optics, electricity and magnetism, atomic physics, and quantum physics. Strong emphasis is given to statistical analysis of data, error analysis, interpretation of measurements, techniques of measurement, and experimental design. Computer control of apparatus and computational analysis is also emphasized. Seely.

380 Mathematical Physics (1)
Prerequisites: Mathematics 247, or permission of instructor.
Mathematical methods in physics including vector calculus, transform calculus, tensor analysis and special functions (viz. Fourier series, Gamma functions, Hermite polynomials, Bessel functions, spherical harmonics and Laguerre polynomials). Same as Mathematics 380. Miller.

384 Thermodynamics (1)
Prerequisites: Physics 250, Mathematics 247.
Classical thermodynamics, including kinetic theory and an introduction to statistical mechanics.
Moreau.

387 Quantum Mechanics (1)
Prerequisite: Physics 250, or permission of instructor.
Non-relativistic quantum interpretation of matter and energy, employing both the wave mechanics of Schroedinger and the matrix mechanics of Heisenberg. Miller.

388, 389 Selected Topics (1/4, 1/2, 1)
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.
An examination of subjects or areas not included in other courses. Staff.

391, 392 Internship (1/2, 1)
Offered on a credit/no credit basis. Staff.

401, 402 Seminar (1/2, 1)
Staff.

411, 412 Directed Study (1/2, 1)
Staff.

Majors and Minors

The physics major and the physics major with astronomy emphasis are designed for students who plan to pursue graduate studies in physics, astrophysics, astronomy, or a related area; students who enter the workforce; or students who wish to have physics as a second major.

Requirements for Major

  • Nine and one-half units in physics, including:
    167: Analytical Physics I
    168: Analytical Physics II
    191: Physics and Astronomy Seminar I
    243: Introduction to Mathematical Methods in Physics I
    244: Introduction to Mathematical Methods in Physics II
    245: Electronics
    250: Introductory Modern Physics
    291: Physics and Astronomy Seminar II
    325: Theoretical Mechanics
    336: Electricity and Magnetism
    350: Advanced Laboratory
    and one of the following courses:
    308: Optics
    322: Solid State and Nuclear Physics
    380: Mathematical Physics
    384: Thermodynamics
    387: Quantum Mechanics

A student contemplating study at the graduate level should include as many upper-level courses as are offered.

  • Four cognate courses: Mathematics 141, 143, 245, 247.
  • Students majoring in physics are required to attend all departmental colloquia.
  • All courses for the major must be taken for a numerical grade, except those offered only on a credit/no credit basis.

Note: Students whose major requires a physics cognate generally cannot satisfy this requirement with Physics 101, 102 or 105.

Requirements for Major with Astronomy Emphasis

  • Nine and one-half units in physics, including:
    167: Analytical Physics I
    168: Analytical Physics II
    191: Physics and Astronomy Seminar I
    205: Planetary Astronomy
    206: Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe
    243: Introduction to Mathematical Methods in Physics I
    244: Introduction to Mathematical Methods in Physics II
    245: Electronics
    250: Introductory Modern Physics
    291: Physics and Astronomy Seminar II
    325: Theoretical Mechanics
    336: Electricity and Magnetism
    350: Advanced Laboratory
    and one of the following courses:
    308: Optics
    322: Solid State and Nuclear Physics
    350: Advanced Laboratory
    380: Mathematical Physics
    384: Thermodynamics
    387: Quantum Mechanics

A student contemplating study at the graduate level should include as many upper-level courses as are offered.

  • Four cognate courses: Mathematics 141, 143, 245, 247.
  • Students pursuing the astronomy emphasis are required to attend all departmental colloquia.
  • All courses for the major must be taken for a numerical grade, except those offered only on a credit/no credit basis.

Requirements for Minor

  • Five and one-quarter units in physics, including: 167, 168, 191, 243, 244, 250, and one of the following: 206, 245, 308, 322, 325, 336, 350, 380, 384, 387.
  • Four cognate courses: Mathematics 141, 143, 245, 247.
  • Students pursuing the mathematics/physics interdepartmental major may not count those courses toward the physics minor.

Requirements for Dual-Degree Program in Engineering

Students in the dual-degree program in engineering have a strong background in mathematics and science, very good academic performance, and a desire to pursue the engineering profession. To be eligible for program admission, students must declare the dual-degree engineering major in either mathematics or physics, write a personal essay, complete a personal interview with the program director, and have at least a 2.5 overall GPA, as well as at least a 2.5 GPA in completed courses in the science division. Although these program admission requirements should normally be completed by the end of a student’s first year at Albion, late admission requests are considered by the Engineering Advisory Committee as needed.

Please, see the section of the catalog for the dual-degree program in engineering for detailed requirements.

Requirements for Interdisciplinary Major in Integrated Science with Elementary Education Certification

Students interested in pursuing elementary education certification may wish to consider an interdisciplinary major in integrated science. The integrated science major is primarily intended for students seeking a broad, cross-disciplinary understanding of the natural sciences. Students completing a major in integrated science are required to take courses in all the natural sciences and also to choose a minor in biology, chemistry, geology or physics. The detailed requirements for the major are provided in this catalog or are available from the Education Department.

Requirements for Major with Secondary Education Certification

  • A minimum of eight units in physics, including: 167, 168, 243, 244, 250, 325, 336, plus two units selected from 105, 206, 245, 308, 322, 350, 380, 384, or 387.
  • In addition to the mathematics courses that are prerequisites for the required physics courses, one cognate course chosen from: Biology 195; Chemistry 121; Geology 101, 103, 104.
  • Completion of all other requirements for teacher certification.

Requirements for Minor with Secondary Education Certification

  • A minimum of five units in physics, including: 167, 168, 243, 244, 250, and one of the following: 105, 245, 308, 322, 325, 336, 350, 380, 384, 387.
  • In addition to the mathematics courses that are prerequisites for the required physics courses, one cognate course chosen from: Biology 195; Chemistry 121; Geology 101, 103, 104.
  • Completion of all other requirements for teacher certification.

Career Opportunities

Majors in physics are prepared to do graduate work in physics and related areas, which can lead to careers in teaching and research or research in industrial or government laboratories. Physics majors are also well equipped to pursue additional studies in engineering and typically are strong candidates for medical school, dental school, and law school. Employment opportunities are also available in industry, government and secondary school teaching.

Special Features

Opportunities are available for off-campus study during the school year, particularly participation in the Great Lakes Colleges Association's Oak Ridge Science Semester conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The curriculum in physics can be adjusted to accommodate participation in other off-campus study programs as well. An active Society of Physics Students chapter sponsors seminars, field trips, tutoring and social events from a clubroom, and the Astronomy Club members have regular access to the campus telescopes. A prize established by Nobel Laureate E.T.S. Walton is given annually to the outstanding senior physics major, and the Physics Faculty and Alumni Scholarship has been given to an entering student.

Departmental Policy on Advanced Placement Credit

Students desiring course credit for AP Physics should contact the department or the Registrar’s Office for information.

Introduction

Physics involves the determination of the basic laws which allow one to predict natural behavior; indeed, physics originates from the Greek word for nature. These basic laws form the foundation for all the natural sciences. The department offers a program for physics majors, physics majors who seek an emphasis in astronomy, physics minors, pre-engineering students, students who require a physics cognate, and non-science students. The faculty have backgrounds in atomic, solid state, low-temperature, and quantum physics, electronics, and in astronomy and planetary science. Students have the opportunity to participate in faculty research projects in mesoscopic patterned magnetic thin films, quantum computing, low-temperature physics, photonics, origins of the solar system, extraterrestrial sample analysis, and low-energy ion-atom scattering. Facilities include a cryogenic photon counting lab, a thin film deposition chamber, a 5 kV ion-atom accelerator, a low-level nuclear gamma ray counting system, a 14-inch Celestron telescope with a CCD camera, and a historically significant Alvan Clark telescope.

The department sponsors the dual-degree program in engineering.

Physics Department Website

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