Physics

  • Department Information

    Physics

    Matthew L. Trawick, Chair
    Professors Bunn, Gilfoyle
    Associate Professors Helms, Lipan, Singal, Trawick
    Assistant Professor de Sousa Dias
    Manager of Laboratories Belk
    Visiting Lecturer Cheng

  • Major

    The Physics Major

    For the Bachelor of Arts degree

    11 units, including:

    PHYS 127 Algebra-Based General Physics 1 with Lab or PHYS 131 Calculus-Based General Physics 1 with Lab

    One unit, chosen from:

    PHYS 128 Algebra-Based General Physics 2 with Lab

    PHYS 132 Calculus-Based General Physics 2 with Lab

    One unit, chosen from:

    PHYS 201 Einstein's Relativity

    PHYS 202 Particle/Wave Duality and the Quantum Revolution

    PHYS 205 Introduction to Modern Physics

    One unit, chosen from:

    PHYS 221 Intermediate Laboratory

    PHYS 231 Experimental Physics

    PHYS 397-PHYS 398 Junior Seminar

    PHYS 497-PHYS 498 Senior Seminar

    Three additional units in PHYS

    MATH 212 Calculus II

    Two additional units in courses approved by the department

    This degree is offered primarily for students who wish to pursue a career in education or business or wishing to earn a cultural degree.

    For the Bachelor of Science degree

    13-14 units, including:

    PHYS 127 Algebra-Based General Physics 1 with Lab or PHYS 131 Calculus-Based General Physics 1 with Lab

    One unit, chosen from:

    PHYS 128 Algebra-Based General Physics 2 with Lab

    PHYS 132 Calculus-Based General Physics 2 with Lab

    PHYS 301 Mathematical Methods in Physics

    PHYS 303 Classical Mechanics

    PHYS 305 Electromagnetism

    PHYS 308 Statistical Mechanics

    PHYS 309 Quantum Mechanics I

    PHYS 397-PHYS 398 Junior Seminar

    PHYS 497-PHYS 498 Senior Seminar

    Experimental work, two units chosen from:

    PHYS 216 Electronics

    PHYS 221 Intermediate Laboratory

    PHYS 231 Experimental Physics

    One unit, chosen from:

    CHEM 141 Chemistry: Structure, Thermodynamics, and Kinetics

    CMSC 150 Introduction to Computing

    MATH 235 Multivariate Calculus

    MATH 245 Linear Algebra

    Two additional units in PHYS numbered above 200, excluding PHYS 381

    Students are expected to fulfill all prerequisites necessary for courses within the major. Prerequisites do not count toward the major unless otherwise noted.

  • Interdisciplinary Major

    The Interdisciplinary Physics Major for the Bachelor of Science Degree

    Note: Students cannot major in both physics and interdisciplinary physics.

    This degree is intended for students with a broad interest in several sciences or interdisciplinary science or who wish to pursue one of the engineering options.

    15 units, including:

    PHYS 127 Algebra-Based General Physics 1 with Lab or PHYS 131 Calculus-Based General Physics 1 with Lab

    One unit, chosen from

    PHYS 128 Algebra-Based General Physics 2 with Lab

    PHYS 132 Calculus-Based General Physics 2 with Lab

    One unit, chosen from:

    PHYS 201 Einstein's Relativity

    PHYS 202 Particle/Wave Duality and the Quantum Revolution

    PHYS 205 Introduction to Modern Physics

    One unit, chosen from:

    PHYS 221 Intermediate Laboratory

    PHYS 231 Experimental Physics

    PHYS 301 Mathematical Methods in Physics

    PHYS 397-PHYS 398 Junior Seminar

    PHYS 497-PHYS 498 Senior Seminar

    MATH 211-MATH 212 Calculus I-II

    Three additional units in physics at the 200 level or above

    One of the concentrations described below. All concentrations require 4-5 additional units beyond those listed above.

    Biology Concentration

    BIOL 200 Integrated Biological Principles I

    CHEM 141 Chemistry: Structure, Thermodynamics, and Kinetics

    Three additional units in biology

    Biochemistry Concentration

    CHEM 141 Chemistry: Structure, Thermodynamics, and Kinetics

    CHEM 205-CHEM 206 Organic Chemistry

    CHEM 326 Biochemistry

    Chemistry Concentration

    CHEM 141 Chemistry: Structure, Thermodynamics, and Kinetics

    CHEM 309-CHEM 310 Physical Chemistry and CHEM 314-CHEM 315 Physical Chemistry Laboratory

    One additional unit in chemistry

    Computer Science Concentration

    CMSC 150 Introduction to Computing

    CMSC 221 Data Structures with Lab

    Three additional units in computer science

    Mathematics Concentration

    MATH 235 Multivariate Calculus

    MATH 245 Linear Algebra

    MATH 312 Differential Equations

    Two additional units in mathematics at the 300 level or above

    Engineering Concentration: Five units of engineering courses

    This concentration is intended for students participating in the 3-2 engineering program.

    The required units will be earned at another institution.

    At most two units of PHYS 381 may be used as elective credit for the major.

  • Minor

    The Physics Minor

    Five units, including:

    Three units numbered above 200, excluding 397-398 and 497-498

    Two additional units in PHYS

  • Engineering Program

    Dual-Degree (3-2) Engineering Program

    Building on the strengths of majors in physics, mathematics, computer science, chemistry, and biology, the School of Arts and Sciences offers students with special career goals the ability to pursue dual degrees in a five-year period. Some opportunities allow a student to earn a Bachelor of Science from Richmond and also a Bachelor of Science from a cooperating engineering school, while others enable a student to complete an undergraduate degree from Richmond and an accelerated master's degree in engineering from a partner institution--all within a five-year period. The physics department's pre-engineering advisor can provide information about participating programs and requirements.

  • Honors

    Honors Program

    Specific requirements for honors in physics:
    1. A cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 in their physics courses, in addition to the 3.3 GPA required overall.
    2. At least 3.5 units of courses designated as honors courses. These courses will bedivided as follows:

    (a) One unit must be independent research, typically done as research with an individual physics faculty member. These will typically be fulfilled by two semesters PHYS 381 for 0.5 credit units each.

    (b) 0.5 units must be from taking both semesters of senior seminar, PHYS 497 and PHYS 498. As a part of this course, physics honors students will be required to present at least one oral presentation on the topic of their independent research undertaken for part (a). Physics honors students will also be required to present a final written thesis describing their research. The thesis and oral presentation must be approved at an honors level by the research supervisor and at least two additional readers within the physics department, or their designees.

    (c) The remaining courses (2.0 units) may be any courses in physics numbered 200 or higher, including approved transfer courses, that are specifically above the current requirements for a B.S. in physics.

Courses

Expand All
  • PHYS 121 Astronomy with Lab

    Units: 1

    Fulfills General Education Requirement (FSNP)

    Description

    Celestial motions, stellar structure, cosmology, and related problems including appropriate concepts of elementary physics. Not among the recommended options for science or math majors. Includes laboratory.

  • PHYS 123 Physics of Renewable Energy with Lab

    Units: 1

    Fulfills General Education Requirement (FSNP)

    Description

    Principles of physics applied to renewable energy technologies. Topics selected from climate, geothermal energy, solar thermal energy, solar photovoltaics, hydroelectricity, wind energy, tidal power and wave energy, and bioenergy. Includes laboratory.

  • PHYS 125 Elements of Physics with Lab

    Units: 1

    Fulfills General Education Requirement (FSNP)

    Description

    Principles and applications of physics. Topics selected from mechanics, sound, light, electricity, magnetism, heat, and modern physics. Not among the recommended options for science or math majors. Includes laboratory.

  • PHYS 127 Algebra-Based General Physics 1 with Lab

    Units: 1

    Fulfills General Education Requirement (FSNP)

    Description

    First of a two semester sequence in general physics. Topics for Physics 127 include kinematics, forces, conservation of momentum, work and energy, rotational motion, and oscillations. Includes laboratory. NOTE: Physics 127 is not a prerequisite to 128. A student may not receive credit for both Physics 131 and 127. Physics 127 and 128 are offered very rarely; students should generally plan to take 131 and 132 instead.

    Prerequisites

    Knowledge of algebra and trigonometry.

  • PHYS 128 Algebra-Based General Physics 2 with Lab

    Units: 1

    Fulfills General Education Requirement (FSNP)

    Description

    Second semester of a two semester sequence in general physics. Topics for Physics 128 include electricity and magnetism, heat and thermodynamics, and wave optics. Includes laboratory. NOTE: A student may receive credit for only one of the following courses: 128, 132, 133, 134. Physics 127 and 128 are offered very rarely; students should generally plan to take 131 and 132 instead.

    Prerequisites

    Knowledge of algebra and trigonometry.

  • PHYS 131 Calculus-Based General Physics 1 with Lab

    Units: 1

    Fulfills General Education Requirement (FSNP)

    Description

    First semester of a calculus-based introductory sequence. Topics for Physics 131 include kinematics, forces, conservation of momentum, work and energy, rotational motion, and oscillations. Includes laboratory. NOTE: A student may not receive credit for both Physics 127 and 131.

    Prerequisites

    MATH 211 (may be taken concurrently).

  • PHYS 132 Calculus-Based General Physics 2 with Lab

    Units: 1

    Fulfills General Education Requirement (FSNP)

    Description

    Second semester of a calculus-based introductory sequence. Topics for Physics 132 include electricity and magnetism, heat and thermodynamics, and wave optics. Includes laboratory. NOTE: A student may receive credit for only one of the following courses: 128, 132, 133, 134. Although Physics 127 is an acceptable prerequisite for Physics 132, a calculus-based course such as Physics 131 is recommended.

    Prerequisites

    MATH 212 (may be taken concurrently) and PHYS 127 or 131 or permission of instructor.

  • PHYS 201 Einstein's Relativity

    Units: .5

    Description

    Focuses primarily on special relativity as it relates to time, space, velocity, momentum, and energy. This course is identical to the first half of PHYS 205, and meets concurrently with it for the first 7 weeks of the semester. Students may not earn credit for both PHYS 201 and PHYS 205.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 132, PHYS 133, or PHYS 134.

  • PHYS 202 Particle/Wave Duality and the Quantum Revolution

    Units: .5

    Description

    Introduces ideas of particle/wave duality that are central to understanding quantum mechanics, a major revolution in early 20th century physics. This course is identical to the second half of PHYS 205, and meets concurrently with it for the second 7 weeks of the semester. Students may not earn credit for both PHYS 202 and PHYS 205. Students are strongly encouraged to take either PHYS 202 or PHYS 205 before taking PHYS 309.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 132, PHYS 133, or PHYS 134.

  • PHYS 203 Systems Biology

    Units: 1

    Description

    Introduction to the fundamentals of systems biology, an emerging field that focuses on complex interactions in biological systems. Topics chosen come from the perspective of the design of biological circuits. For students in the biological sciences, physics, chemistry, and mathematics interested in quantitative biology and the interface between the biological and physical sciences. No laboratory.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 131 and BIOL 199 and MATH 211, and CMSC 150.

  • PHYS 204 Biophysics

    Units: 1

    Description

    Application of physical law to the biological sciences. Introduces selected concepts and experiments in the field of biophysics. Topics may include but are not limited to diffusion, cell signaling, molecular binding, and computational biophysics.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 131.

  • PHYS 205 Introduction to Modern Physics

    Units: 1

    Description

    Introduction to topics in 20th-century physics including special relativity, quantum mechanics, and statistical physics. The first half of this course is identical to, and meets concurrently with, PHYS 201. The second half of this course is exactly identical to, and meets concurrently with, PHYS 202. Students may not earn credit for both PHYS 205 and either PHYS 201 or PHYS 202. Students are strongly encouraged to take either PHYS 202 or PHYS 205 before taking PHYS 309.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 132 or 133 or 134.

  • PHYS 215 Computational Methods in Physics

    Units: 1

    Description

    Project-oriented: applying computers to solution of problems in physical sciences.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 132 or 133 or 134 and some familiarity with at least one higher-level computer language.

  • PHYS 216 Electronics

    Units: 1

    Description

    Laboratory course in basic electronics and instrumentation for science majors. Study of dc and ac circuits, diodes, rectifiers, transistors, operational amplifiers, binary logic, Boolean algebra, digital circuits, analog-digital conversion, transducers, and computer interfacing.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 127-128 or 132.

  • PHYS 221 Intermediate Laboratory

    Units: 1

    Description

    Experiments in classical and modern physics emphasizing independent work. Six laboratory hours per week.

    Prerequisites

    (PHYS 127 and 128) or PHYS 132.

  • PHYS 231 Experimental Physics

    Units: 1

    Description

    Focuses on optics. Includes the study of (1) ray optics: lenses, system of lenses, lens aberrations (2) scalar wave optics: diffraction, interference (3) polarization of light: states of polarization, polarizers, wave retarders. Emphasizes the relation between experiment and theory through hands-on experience. Data analysis and its theoretical interpretation is a central part of the course. Upper level laboratory course for science majors, emphasizing independent work. Consists of six laboratory hours per week. Students, working in pairs, will spend approximatley 2 weeks on each of 6-7 experimental projects.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 132.

  • PHYS 250 Cosmology

    Units: 1

    Description

    Application of physics to contemporary understanding of the structure, evolution, and origin of the Universe as a whole. Topics include observational evidence for the Hot Big Bang cosmological model, dark matter, dark energy, and the physics of the early Universe, including cosmological inflation. Introduces the fundamentals of general relativity to develop models of the Universe with spacetime curvature.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 201 or PHYS 205.

  • PHYS 301 Mathematical Methods in Physics

    Units: 1

    Description

    Selected mathematical topics needed for upper-level work in physics. Topics taken from vector calculus, matrices, calculus of variations, orthogonal functions, and complex analysis. Note: PHYS 301 is typically offered only in the fall semester. Prospective physics majors are strongly encouraged to take PHYS 301 in the fall semester of the sophomore year. PHYS 301 is a prerequisite for PHYS 303, 305, 308, 309, and some special topics courses.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 132 or 133 or 134.

  • PHYS 303 Mechanics

    Units: 1

    Description

    Mathematical analysis of physical laws pertaining to dynamics of particles and rigid bodies. Introduction to moving coordinate systems and Lagrange's and Hamilton's methods.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 301 or permission of department.

  • PHYS 305 Electricity and Magnetism I

    Units: 1

    Description

    Electrostatic fields and potentials, dielectrics, magnetic fields, and potentials. Maxwell's equations, electromagnetic waves.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 301 or permission of department.

  • PHYS 306 Electricity and Magnetism II

    Units: 1

    Description

    Electrostatic fields and potentials, dielectrics, magnetic fields, and potentials. Maxwell's equations, electromagnetic waves.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 305.

  • PHYS 308 Statistical Mechanics

    Units: 1

    Description

    Statistical methods applied to description of physical systems. Statistical calculation of thermodynamic quantities, laws of thermodynamics, statistical distributions, and classical and quantum statistics of ideal gases. (Same as Chemistry 308.)

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 301 or permission of department.

  • PHYS 309 Quantum Mechanics I

    Units: 1

    Description

    Wave mechanics and quantization; Schroedinger equation for variety of potentials; hydrogen atom in detail; perturbation methods. (Same as Chemistry 401.)

    Prerequisites

    CHEM 310 or PHYS 301 or permission of department.

  • PHYS 310 Quantum Mechanics II

    Units: 1

    Description

    Wave mechanics and quantization; Schroedinger equation for variety of potentials; hydrogen atom in detail; perturbation methods.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 309.

  • PHYS 381 Research

    Units: 0, .25, or .5

    Description

    Laboratory or independent study.0.5 units requires six hours per week. May be taken multiple times, up to a maximum total of 2 units of credit.

    Prerequisites

    Permission of department.

  • PHYS 397 Junior Seminar

    Units: 0

    Description

    Required of all third-year physics majors. Does not count in units required for minor.

  • PHYS 398 Junior Seminar

    Units: .5

    Description

    Required of all third-year physics majors. Does not count in units required for minor.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 397

  • PHYS 406 Summer Undergraduate Research

    Units: 0

    Description

    Documentation of the work of students who receive summer fellowships to conduct research [or produce a creative arts project] in the summer. The work must take place over a minimum of 8 weeks, the student must engage in the project full-time (at least 40 hours per week) during this period, and the student must be the recipient of a fellowship through the university. Graded S/U.

    Prerequisites

    Approval for summer Arts and Sciences fellowship by faculty mentor

  • PHYS 479 Special Topics

    Units: .5-1

    Description

    Topics include particle and nuclear physics, solid state, modern optics, relativity, field theory.

    Prerequisites

    Permission of department.

  • PHYS 497 Senior Seminar

    Units: 0

    Description

    Required of all senior physics majors. Does not count in units required for minor.

  • PHYS 498 Senior Seminar

    Units: .5

    Description

    Required of all senior physics majors. Does not count in units required for minor.

    Prerequisites

    PHYS 497