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Undergraduate Courses in Physics and Astronomy

Astronomy Courses

All 100-level astronomy courses are designed for students who do not have technical backgrounds. They require only high school algebra for their mathematics prerequisite.

ASTRON 101 Modern Cosmology
This course covers the most current views about the structure of the universe, its past, present, and its future. The course is especially suitable for nonscience majors who seek to follow up ASTRON 120 with a more detailed course.

ASTRON 102 Milky Way Galaxy
This course covers the structure of our galaxy, star formation, interstellar clouds and dust, star clusters, neutron stars and black holes, the galactic center, and the future evolution of the sun and our solar system. The course is especially suitable for nonscience majors who seek to follow up ASTRON 120 with a more detailed course.

ASTRON 103 Solar System
This course studies our solar system, including the planets and their moons, the Sun, comets, asteroids, and the Earth and the Moon. It is especially suitable for nonscience majors who seek to follow up ASTRON 120 with a more detailed course.

ASTRON 111 Introduction to Astrobiology
This course presents the modern scientific perspective on the question of life elsewhere in the universe, including the prospects for life on Mars, the discovery of extrasolar planets, and the search for extrasolar biospheres.

ASTRON 120 Highlights of Astronomy
Acquaints students with modern ideas about the solar system, stars, galaxies, and the universe.  Emphasizes fundamental principles and underlying concepts.

ASTRON 220-1 Introduction to Astrophysics I: Life Cycle of Stars and Planets 
The course will explore the origin and evolution of star/planet systems, focusing on underlying physical processes and observational techniques. We will discuss the recent discovery of thousands of planets orbiting stars other than our Sun - a.k.a. "exoplanets". We will also discuss stellar remnant black holes. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 135-1, PHYSICS 135-2 (concurrent registration in PHYSICS 135-2 is acceptable. Students who have taken ASTRON 220-0 should not take this course and take ASTRON 220-2 instead).

ASTRON 220-2 Introduction to Astrophysics II: Galactic Evolution and Cosmology 
The course will explore modern cosmology, including dark matter, the Big Bang, curved space-time, the origin and evolution of the first stars and galaxies, cosmic acceleration, and dark energy. In all cases, the focus will be on the underlying physical processes and the observational techniques used. Prerequisites: ASTRON 220-1 or all of PHYSICS 135-1, PHYSICS 135-2, and PHYSICS 135-3. (Students who have completed the Astronomy 220-0 course, that was offered in the past, have satisfied the prerequisites for 220-2.)

 ASTRON 305 Basics of Radio Astronomy
Radio astronomy is the study of natural radio emission from the sky, providing important clues about the history of the universe. Topics include how a radio telescope receives invisible signals, how dramatically the radio sky differs from the optical sky, and interferometry. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 135-1, 2, 3 (or equivalent) or PHYSICS 332; MATH 220-2 or equivalent.

 ASTRON 314 Planetary Astrophysics
Methods of exoplanet detection. The observed architecture of exoplanetary systems.  The formation and evolution of planetary systems.  Modeling exoplanet interiors and atmospheres.  Exoplanet habitability and the search for biosignatures.  Prerequisites: PHYSICS 330-1,2 or equivalent.

ASTRON 321 Observational Astrophysics
Geometric optics applied to the design of optical and X-ray telescopes; diffraction and the Airy disk; radio and optical interferometry and aperture synthesis; adaptive optics; recent developments in detector technology; quantum and thermal noise in astronomy. Includes independent research projects using the CCD camera and 18-inch refractor in Dearborn Observatory. Offered alternate years. Prerequisite: ASTRON 220-1 or 220-2.

ASTRON 325 Stellar Astrophysics
Physics of stellar interiors, stellar atmospheres, and star formation. Specific topics covered include: simple stellar models, nuclear energy generation, overview of evolutionary phases, white dwarfs, neutron stars, interstellar gas and dust grains, gravitational collapse. Prerequisite: ASTRON 220-1 or 220-2.

ASTRON 329 Extragalactic Astrophysics and Cosmology
Big bang cosmology, thermal history of the Universe, primordial nucleosynthesis, microwave background, dark matter, large scale structure, galaxy formation, spiral and elliptical galaxies, groups and clusters of galaxies. Prerequisite: ASTRON 220-1 or 220-2, or permission of instructor.

ASTRON 331 Astrophysics (ISP)
Stellar structure and evolution: nucleosynthesis, supernova phenomena, white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. Limited to students enrolled in ISP or with consent of the physics department.
Prerequisites: PHYSICS 135-1, PHYSICS 135-2, & PHYSICS 135-3, or equivalent.

ASTRON 390 Current Topics in Astronomy
This course will explore in detail an area of current research interest in astrophysics. Contact the department office or instructor for specifics. May repeat for credit with change in topic.  Prerequisites vary.

ASTRON 399 Independent Study
Advanced study on a topic of interest to the student, under the direction of a faculty member. Open to all students. Consent of the instructor required. More information about research opportunities

Physics Courses

PHYSICS 103-0 Ideas of Physics
Ideas of Physics is a series of independent one-quarter courses on interesting topics in physics. Course content during any year varies with faculty and student interest; recent offerings have included relativity, the physics of music, and the progress of physics through history. Ideas of Physics requires only high school mathematics and is designed for nonscience majors.

PHYSICS 125-1,2,3 General Physics for ISP
This is a general physics course which uses calculus extensively. The course content is similar to that of PHYSICS 135-1,2,3 but is more advanced and intended for ISP students. (Physics majors may take PHYSICS 125-1,2,3 with permission of the department.) There are three lectures, one discussion, and one two-hour laboratory per week. A concurrent advanced calculus course (MATH 291-1,2,3) is offered by the mathematics department. Prerequisite: first-year standing in ISP or consent of the department and concurrent enrollment in 126-1,2,3.

PHYSICS 126-1,2,3 General Physics Laboratory for ISP (0.34 units each) 
Introductory physics laboratory for students taking 125-1,2,3.  Concurrent registration required.

PHYSICS 130-1,2,3 College Physics (see also Physics Workshops)
This is a three-quarter sequence in algebra-based physics. It is intended primarily for premedical students who need a full year of physics, but do not need to take calculus-based physics. The topics covered are similar to those of PHYSICS 135-1,2,3. There are three lectures, one discussion, and one two-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: algebra and trigonometry and concurrent enrollment in 136-1,2,3.  PHYSICS 130-1,2,3 must be taken in sequential order. 

PHYSICS 135-1,2,3 General Physics (see also Physics Workshops)
This is a three-quarter sequence in calculus-based classical physics with an introduction to modern physics in the third quarter. It is intended for science and engineering majors and premedical students. There are three lectures and one discussion per week. 1. Mechanics.  Corequisite:  Physics 136-1.  Prerequisites: MATH 220-1,2; MATH 230-1 (230-1 may be taken concurrently with 135-1). 2. Electricity and magnetism.  Corequisite:  Physics 136-2.  Prerequisite: 135-1 or equivalent.  3. Introduction to modern physics; wave phenomena.  Corequisite:  Physics 136-3.  Prerequisite: 135-2 or equivalent.  PHYSICS 135-1,2,3 must be taken in sequential order.  Students with credit for a quarter of 135 may not later receive credit for the comparable quarter of 130. The topics covered in each quarter are ...

PHYSICS 135-1: Particle kinematics, Newtonian dynamics, work and energy, collisions and momentum, torque and angular momentum, rigid-body statics and dynamics, harmonic oscillations, gravitation.

PHYSICS 135-2: Electrostatics, magnetostatics, DC and AC circuits, time-varying fields, Maxwell's equations.

PHYSICS 135-3: Mechanical waves, sound waves, electromagnetic waves, geometric optics, interference and diffraction, the quantum nature of particles and light, atomic and nuclear phenomena.

PHYSICS 136-1,2,3 General Physics Laboratory (0.34 units each)
Introductory physics laboratory for students taking 130-1, 2, 3 or 135-1, 2, 3.  Concurrent registration required.

PHYSICS 140-1, 2, 3 Fundamentals of Physics    
Broad introduction to central concepts in physics intended primarily for prospective physics majors and minors and other students with a strong interest in physics. Physics 140 covers the same subject matter as Physics 135 but in greater depth. It is equivalent to 135 as a prerequisite for other courses. One cannot receive credit for the corresponding quarter of both 135 and 140. Prerequisites: Math 220-1,2; concurrent enrollment in Physics 136-1 and Math 230-1.

PHYSICS 239-0 Foundations of Modern Physics
Introduction to modern foundations of physics, including principles of waves, probability, quantum theory, and selected topics from special relativity, statistical mechanics, optics, and atomic structure.  Prerequisites: Physics 135-1, 2, 3 and Physics 136-1, 2, 3 and Math 250 or equivalent, or concurrent enrollment.

PHYSICS 311-1, 2 Mathematical Tools for Physical Sciences
Introduction to the tools necessary to solve physics problems, including integral calculus, complex numbers and complex algebra, matrices and vector spaces, probability distributionsdifferential equations, and Fourier analysis. Prerequisites: Physics 135-1 or equivalent, Math 230-1 or equivalent; concurrent registration in Phys 135-2. For Phys 311-2: Phys 311-1, Phys 135-2 or equivalent; concurrent registration in Phys 135-3.

PHYSICS 312-0 Scalar and Vector Field Methods in Physics   
Physically contextualized introduction to the field concept, the associated methods of calculus, and the solution of key physical partial differential equations. Three lectures and one discussion per week.Prerequisites: Physics 311-1,2; or Math 230-1,2, 240, and 250, or equivalents.

PHYSICS 330-1,2 Classical Mechanics
Introduction to classical mechanics and mathematical methods of physics. The subject matter is treated so as to lead naturally to more advanced physics courses such as quantum mechanics. There are typically three lectures and one discussion section per week. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 135-1 or equivalent; MATH 230-2 and Physics 311-1, 2; or MATH 240-0, 250-0, or the equivalent.
PHYSICS 330-1: Kinematics, Newton's Laws, one-dimensional oscillator, solutions of ordinary differential equations, phase space, linear systems, Laplace transforms, Fourier series, matrices.
PHYSICS 330-2: Conservation laws, collisions, torque and angular momentum, moment of inertia, multidimensional integrals, the gyroscope, gravitation, line integrals, central forces.

PHYSICS 332-0 Statistical Mechanics
This course covers the basics of statistical physics, including the ideal gas, Boltzmann distributions, transport phenomena, fluctuation theory, Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac statistics, and other applications. There are typically three lectures and one discussion per week. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 135-1, 2, 3, MATH 230-2 or the equivalent.

PHYSICS 333-1,2 Advanced Electricity and Magnetism
There are typically three lectures and one discussion per week. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 135-1,2,3; MATH 230-2 and 311-1, 2; or MATH 240-0, 250-0 or equivalent.
PHYSICS 333-1: Review of vector calculus and basic electromagnetic phenomena. Electrostatics and magnetostatics, multipole expansion, solutions of Laplace's equation by orthogonal function expansion, images, analytic functions. Magnetic scalar and vector potentials.
PHYSICS 333-2: Maxwell's equations, electrodynamics, electromagnetic wave propagation and radiation. Conservation laws, electromagnetic fields in special relativity.

PHYSICS 335-0 Physics of Magic
This course will use magic tricks, illusion, and deception to discuss the rarely explored but often surprisingly flexible boundaries of what is physically possible. Does not fulfill 300-level requirement for majors.  Prerequisites: 135-1; MATH 220-1, 2 or equivalent.

PHYSICS 337-0 Physics of Condensed Matter
This course introduces the emergent properties and collective descriptions that arise when simple components of matter (e.g. atoms and molecules) are combined into larger systems with varying degrees of order. Topics from condensed matter physics will be selected with an eye toward relevance in modern technology, which typically may include electrons in solids, semiconductor and device physics, optics, magnetism, superconductivity, and nanostructures. There are typically three lectures and one discussion per week. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 339-1 or equivalent. PHYSICS 332 or equivalent recommended

PHYSICS 339-1,2 Quantum Mechanics
This is a two-quarter introduction to quantum theory. Emphasis is placed on applications to atomic and molecular systems, with some discussion of the experimental foundations of quantum theory. Mathematical solutions for several simple systems (the harmonic oscillator, the one-electron atom, the hydrogen molecule, barrier penetration) are studied in detail. There are three lectures and one discussion per week. Prerequisites for 339-1: second-year standing in ISP or 135-1, 2, 3 or equivalent; Physics 239; 330-1; 311-1 or MATH 240.  Prerequisites for 339-2: 339-1, second-year standing in ISP or 311-2 or MATH 250, 351.

PHYSICS 339-3 Particle and Nuclear Physics
Topics covered in this course include nuclei and their constituents, nuclear models, alpha and beta decay, nuclear reactions, nuclear fission and fusion, the strong, electromagnetic and weak interactions, and the fundamental particles and particle schemes. There are three lectures and one discussion per week. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 339-1,2.

PHYSICS 345-0 Introduction to General Relativity
Review of special relativity and Newtonian gravity; Gravity as geometry of curved spacetime; Geodesics and conservation laws; Schwarzschild geometry; Post-Newtonian expansions and tests of general relativity; Gravitational collapse and black holes; Linearized gravity and gravitational waves; Cosmological models for the expanding Universe.  Prerequisites: PHYSICS 330-1, 2 or consent of instructor.

PHYSICS 352-0 Introduction to Computational Physics
Introduction to computing and its application to physics. Topics covered include Monte Carlo simulation of physical systems and numerical integration of equations of motion, discrete element methods in electromagnetism, simulation of simply nonlinear systems, neural networks, statistical and graphical representation of data. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 135-1,2,3 or equivalent; MATH 250 or equivalent (concurrent enrollment is sufficient); EECS 110 or equivalent prior programming experience.

PHYSICS 357-0 Optics Laboratory
Students in this laboratory course obtain hands-on experience with many optical techniques, including optical microscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, and optical scattering. Prerequisites: consent of instructor.

PHYSICS 359-0 Electronics Laboratory
Introduction to modern electronics, construction of elementary analog and digital circuits. This laboratory emphasizes independent work. There are two one-hour lectures and two three-hour laboratories per week. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 333-1,2 or consent of instructor.

PHYSICS 360-0 Physics Laboratory
Modern experimental techniques and data analysis methods. Both classic and modern experiments in atomic/nuclear physics, electricity and magnetism, optics, condensed matter physics, and nonlinear dynamics. This laboratory emphasizes independent work. This course consists primarily of two four-hour sessions per week, which may have lecture and laboratory periods.
Prerequisites: PHYSICS 239-0 or PHYSICS 339-1, and PHYSICS 333-1, or permission of instructor.

PHYSICS 361-0 Classical Optics and Special Relativity
This course covers advanced topics following from electrodynamics, including advanced classical optics, Fraunhofer and Fresnel diffraction, radiation from accelerated charges, wave guides and/or antennae, and special relativity, including dynamics. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 333-1, 2.

PHYSICS 371-0 Nonlinear Dynamics And Chaos
This course covers the mathematics of nonlinear oscillations, fractal geometry, chaotic dynamics, the dynamics of complex systems, and physics applications of these ideas. Projects involving applications of nonlinear dynamics and chaos are integral to this course. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 330-1,2 and some familiarity with computer programming.

PHYSICS 390-0 Topics in Physics
This course will explore a specialized or current topic of research in a field of physics. Contact the department office or instructor for specifics. May repeat for credit with change in topic.  Prerequisites vary.

PHYSICS 390 Principles of Symmetry in Fundamental Physics
Symmetry plays a primary role in our current understanding of physical law. This course will synthesize the unifying role of symmetry principles in effective physics at all scales, a gentle introduction to the mathematics of symmetry (group theory), and specific physical examples including quantum gravity, the standard model, non-relativistic quantum mechanics, crystals (and quasicrystals), and cosmology. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 339-1 or permission of instructor.

PHYSICS 398 Honors Independent Study
Individual study under the direction of a faculty member. Open only to advanced students pursuing departmental honors. More information about research opportunities.

PHYSICS 399 Independent Study
Opportunity to study an advanced subject of interest under the individual direction of a faculty member. Open to all students; consent of instructor required. More information about research opportunities.