Physics

James A. Perez (department head)

The student majoring in physics will gain a solid background in our current understanding of the physical universe. Learning how that understanding evolves through the interplay between theory and experiment is equally important. The department maintains a computer-based instructional laboratory, a planetarium and an astronomical observing facility for use with classes. Research facilities include computer labs for theoretical research, modern experimental labs and astronomical observatories both on and off campus. Students are encouraged to participate in collaborative research with members of the physics faculty.

Required for a major: The program is determined for each student on an individual basis with the approval of his or her major advisor from the physics faculty. The major consists of PHYS 181, 182, 281, 282, 311, 312 and three additional full courses numbered above 300. Two of these additional courses must be chosen from PHYS 361, 364 and PHYS 411. In addition, coursework equivalent to MATH 151, 152, 240 and MATH 351 is required. Students beginning the math sequence above MATH 151 need not receive credit for the courses skipped, only to complete coursework through the MATH 351 level. Writing requirement completed with PHYS 281 and 282. Further supporting courses in mathematics, computer science, and other sciences are desirable. Each program is designed to meet the needs and special interests of the student, and interdisciplinary study is encouraged in order to obtain a broad base for the major. Programs with emphasis in applied physics, engineering, astrophysics, biophysics, energy resources and environmental sciences, geophysics, history of science, teacher preparation, business-science, and technical writing are indicative of the many broad areas that may be developed for the student. Students interested in teaching should see the education department for secondary minor requirements.

Required for a minor: Eighteen hours in courses numbered 151 or above, excluding PHYS 185.

Required for a second teaching area: See Education department for specific requirements. The second teaching area license is offered only in the state of Iowa.

Advanced Placement Credit: Students with exceptional preparation in physics (a thorough calculus-based course) may begin in PHYS 182 or PHYS 281 after consultation with a member of the physics faculty. Students earning a grade of B- or above in this higher numbered course will receive credit for PHYS 181 and (when appropriate) PHYS 182.

Physics Courses

PHYS 112 Energy and the Physical World

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Natural World—Lab

The unifying theme of energy molds the study of the physical concepts of motion, gravitation, electromagnetism, heat, radiation, and nuclear physics. Solar, wind, nuclear, tidal, hydroelectric, and thermal electric energy conversion processes are also included. This course is intended for the general student with no special background in mathematics or science. (Same as ENVS 112 and SCI 112.)

PHYS 114 Physics of Sound and Musical Acoustics

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Natural World—Lab

The course explores the physical basis for sound, its production and detection, with applications to speech, hearing, music, and acoustics of musical instruments and buildings. Intended for the student who has special interest in the acoustical phenomena associated with music and human speech. No special background in mathematics is assumed, but basic mathematics will be an important tool used throughout the semester. A basic knowledge of music theory is recommended but not required.

PHYS 151 General Physics I

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Natural World—Lab, Quantitative

An investigation of the important principles of physics, including recent developments. Designed for the arts major as well as students majoring in one of the sciences. Together, PHYS 151 and 152 meet the basic requirements in physics for preprofessional students in health related fields, including medicine. Topics include mechanics, energy, fluids, heat, and wave motion. Although this is a non-calculus course, the foundation of physics is mathematical modeling of the physical world. Thus, a basic working knowledge of algebra and trigonometry is assumed and will be further developed as the course proceeds. Graphical and statistical analysis is employed throughout the laboratory component. A student may not receive credit for both PHYS 151 and PHYS 181.

PHYS 152 General Physics II

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Natural World—Lab, Quantitative
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 151 or PHYS 181

A continuation of the study of physics that builds on the ideas discussed in PHYS 151. Topics include elecricity and magnetism, light, optics, atomic and nuclear physics. A student may not receive credit for both PHYS 152 and PHYS 182.

PHYS 181 Classical Physics I

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Natural World—Lab

An introduction to the ideas of physics. Topics include Newtonian mechanics, energy, work, oscillations, and fluid dynamics. The laboratory work focuses on measurement and observation to enhance conceptual understanding of the material. The laboratory component is integral to the curriculum and is not offered as a separate course. PHYS 181 is the first of a four-semester sequence of courses designed for physics and pre-engineering students. PHYS 181 and 182 are also appropriate for students majoring in other physical sciences.

PHYS 182 Classical Physics II

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Natural World—Lab
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 151 or PHYS 181

This course continues the discussion of physical ideas begun in PHYS 181. Topics include optics, electricity and magnetism, electromagnetic waves and electric circuits. The laboratory work focuses on measurement and observation to enhance conceptual understanding of the material.

PHYS 238 Statics

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 151 or 181 and MATH 151

Analysis of static equilibrium problems for engineering structures. Involves vectors and scalar treatment of coplanar and noncoplanar force systems. Particle and rigid body equilibrium, area and mass movements of inertia, equivalent force systems, distributed forces, friction, internal forces. Offered alternate years.

PHYS 281 Modern Physics I

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Natural World—Lab
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 152 or PHYS 182 and MATH 152

An introduction to the thermodynamics and statistical physics, special relativity as well as elementary topics in quantum physics. The history and development of experimental and theoretical work in the physics of the 20th century will be strongly emphasized. The laboratory work emphasizes experimental technique, problem solving and data analysis, and is integral to the curriculum. Topics of investigation in the laboratory will include a number of important experiments drawn from the history and development of modern physics. Students are encouraged to alter or extend many of the experiments and engage in projects.

PHYS 282 Modern Physics II

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 281

A continuation of PHYS 281 with applications of quantum physics to nuclear, atomic, solid state, elementary particle physics and astrophysics. Topics of investigation in the laboratory will include a number of classic experiments drawn from the history and development of modern physics. Students are expected to alter or extend many of the experiments and engage in projects. The course includes instruction in scientific writing.

PHYS 311 Advanced Laboratory I

  • 2 hours
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 282

An introduction to linear circuits, including transistors and other solid state devices, techniques of electrical measurement, and application of electrical measurement techniques in experiments in modern physics.

PHYS 312 Advanced Laboratory II

  • 2 hours
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 311

The emphasis of this course is the laboratory study of the principles of experimental design, procedures and analysis. Students design and perform a number of experiments from several branches of physics. The course includes instruction in scientific writing. Students write experimental reports and deliver oral presentations of their results.

PHYS 352 Mechanics of Materials

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 281

Application of Newtonian mechanics to deformable solids, development of equations of elasticity in rectangular and curvilinear coordinates. Stress and strain, torsion, determinate and indeterminate problems, bending and deflection of beams, two-dimensional problems, variational methods and energy principles, fracture, fatigue. Recommended for students considering future study in mechanical engineering, civil engineering, engineering mechanics, or materials science. Offered every three years.

PHYS 354 Astrophysics

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 281

A general, intermediate course on the physics of astronomical objects. Includes introduction to descriptive astronomy. Topics include celestial mechanics, structure of and evolution of stars and topics taken from galactic astronomy and cosmology. Offered every three years.

PHYS 359 Thermal Physics

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 282

Concepts of entropy, temperature and thermodynamics. An emphasis on classical and quantum statistics with applications to a wide variety of physical systems. Offered every three years.

PHYS 361 Classical Mechanics

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 281

This course present kinematics and dynamics of particles using Newtonian, Lagrangian and Hamiltonian techniques. Topics include conservation laws, central force motion, oscillations and normal mode analysis, small oscillations, rotating rigid bodies and motion in noninertial reference frames. Offered alternate years.

PHYS 364 Electricity and Magnetism

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 281

A study of electic and magnetic fields leading up to Maxwell's equations and their applications. The topics include the electrostatic and magnetostatic fields in vacuum and in matter, scaler potentials, vector potentials, electrodynamics and electromagnetic waves. Offered alternate years in the spring.

PHYS 369 Numerical Physics

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 281

This course focuses on approaches to complex physical situations that are not practically solvable using analytical methods. The numerical methods and physical problems studied are applicable to several branches of physics including astrophysics, atomic physics, thermal physics, fluid mechanics, and condensed matter physics.

PHYS 401 Particle and Nuclear Physics

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 282

This course is intended to introduce students to the properties and interactions of nuclei and elementary particles. Attention will be paid both to the historical experimental development of these related fields as well as their theoretical aspects. Students will be introduced to nuclear properties including stability, structure and reactions, radioactivity and applications of fission and fusion. Among topics in particle physics that will be addressed are the quark model of hadrons, charged-lepton and neutrino physics, the strong and weak interactions, symmetries and conservation laws and experimental methods in particle physics. Offered every three years.

PHYS 411 Quantum Mechanics

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 282

This course provides an introduction to the theory of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics. Both the conceptual and formal structure of the theory are discussed. A brief review of the experimental basis for quantization motivates the development of the Schrodinger wave equation. The principles of wave mechanics are then applied to various one dimensional problems, including the harmonic oscillator. The properties of angular momentum are developed and applied to central potentials in three dimensions. Matrix mechanics and spin angular momentum are also discussed, allowing for a complete treatment of the physics of hydrogen-like atoms.

PHYS 490 Senior Project

  • 1 hour

Students will design and implement a project under the supervision of the faculty. Requires senior standing.

PHYS 491 Senior Project

  • 2 hours
  • Prerequisites: PHYS 490

Students will write a research paper reporting the nature, outcomes, and significance of the project undertaken in PHYS 490.