The academic catalog is currently being updated for the 2020-21 year. View the Catalog Archive to access the 2019-20 catalog as well as catalogs from previous years.
Todd Pedlar (department head)
The student majoring in physics will gain a solid background in our current understanding of the physical universe. Students will learn and experience first hand how that understanding evolves through the interplay between theory and experiment. The department maintains an instructional laboratory, a planetarium and an astronomical observing facility for use with classes. Research facilities include computer labs for theoretical research and analysis of experimental data, modern experimental labs, and an astronomical observatory. Students are encouraged to participate in collaborative research with members of the physics faculty.
Required for a major: 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 351 is required. Students beginning the math sequence above MATH 151 need not receive credit for the courses skipped, but only complete coursework through the MATH 351 level. The writing requirement is completed with PHYS 281 and 282. Further supporting courses in mathematics, computer science, and other sciences are desirable. Students majoring in physics are encouraged to design their major to meet their particular needs and special interests. Interdisciplinary study is encouraged in order to obtain a broad base for the major. Students can develop their program of study with emphasis in applied physics, engineering, astrophysics, biophysics, energy resources and environmental sciences, geophysics, history and philosophy of science, teacher preparation, and technical writing. Students interested in teaching should see the education department for secondary education minor requirements.
Required for a minor: Eighteen credits 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 introductory physics course including weekly laboratory work) 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.
View program learning goals for an explanation of learning outcomes in Physics.
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.)
In this course, students will explore the physical basis for sound, and its production and detection, with application to speech, hearing, music, and acoustics of musical instruments and buildings. This course is intended for students interested in the acoustical phenomena associated with music and human speech. There are no formal prerequisites for this course, but basic algebra and other mathematical tools will be used throughout the semester. A basic knowledge of music theory is recommended but not required.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This class focuses on the analysis of static equilibrium problems related to engineering structures. Involves vectors and scalar treatment of 2D and 3D force systems. Covers particle and rigid body equilibrium, equivalent force systems, truss and frame analysis, distributed forces, and internal forces.
An introduction to special relativity and elementary topics in quantum physics. The history and development of experimental and theoretical work in the physics of the 20th century are strongly emphasized. The laboratory work emphasizes experimental technique, problem solving and data analysis, and is integral to the course. Topics of investigation in the laboratory will include a number of important experiments drawn from the history and development of modern physics. Students may alter or extend the laboratory experiments and engage in projects.
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.
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.
The emphasis of this course is the laboratory study of the principles of experimental design, procedures and analysis. Students design and perform experiments from various branches of physics. Student may develop their own experiments. The course includes instruction in oral presentation, and the students deliver oral presentations of their results.
This course takes the ideas from PHYS 238: Statics and extends them by considering how engineering structures like bridges and simple machines deform under load. Topics include stress and strain, torsion, determinate and indeterminate problems, bending and deflection of beams, two-dimensional problems, variational methods and energy principles, fracture, and fatigue. The course also includes the development of the theoretical equations of elasticity in rectangular and curvilinear coordinates. Recommended for students considering future study in mechanical engineering, civil engineering, engineering mechanics, or materials science.
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.
Concepts of entropy, temperature, thermodynamics, and statistical mechanics. An emphasis is placed on classical and quantum statistics and on the connection between microscopic and macroscopic thermal phenomena, with applications to a wide variety of physical systems.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Students will design and implement a project under the supervision of the faculty. Requires senior standing.
Students will write a research paper reporting the nature, outcomes, and significance of the project undertaken in PHYS 490.