Physics

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Physics is the most fundamental of all of the sciences; its goal is nothing less than to figure out the most basic laws which govern the universe. Because of this, the study of physics offers deep insights into many disciplines: a knowledge of physics is a foundation for understanding the fundamentals of chemistry, biology and geology. It also offers insight into other aspects of our modern world. For example, two allied problems of today are the energy crisis and the issue of global climate change. It is impossible to understand either of these issues without some knowledge of physics.

The goals of the department are to a) teach our students a basic understanding of the laws of physics and their applications; b) teach them to understand the structure of the Universe around us as generated by those laws; and c) provide our majors with an introduction to research methods in physics (both experimental and theoretical.)

To this end, we offer a rigorous major program in physics, a physics minor designed for students majoring in mathematics, chemistry or biology, and several undergraduate courses designed for the general student, including two courses in astronomy. Undergraduates can also take part in research with faculty members, both as part of the St. Mary’s Project and also in a summer research program at the nearby Patuxent River Naval Air Station. Our students have also participated in research programs at NIST, the NASA-Goddard Spaceflight Center and the Super Kamiokande Neutrino detector in Japan.

For those students interested in a career in engineering, the College has established an agreement with the University of Maryland to offer a dual-degree program. This program is described below.

After completing a course of study in the Physics Department:

DEGREE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MAJOR

To earn a bachelor of arts degree with a major in physics, a student must satisfy the following minimum requirements:

  1. General College Requirements (see “Curriculum” section), including the following requirements to satisfy the major:
  2. Required Courses:
    1. Physics Core Courses (32 credit hours)
      • PHYS 151: Fundamentals of Physics I (recommended) or PHYS 141 General Physics I
      • PHYS 152: Fundamentals of Physics II (recommended) or PHYS 142 General Physics II
      • PHYS 251: Fundamentals of Physics III
      • PHYS 312: Advanced Physics Laboratory
      • PHYS 342: Mechanics
      • PHYS 351: Electricity & Magnetism
      • PHYS 462: Quantum Mechanics
      • PHYS 473: Statistical Mechanics
    2. Cognate Courses (16 credit hours)
      • MATH 151: Calculus I
      • MATH 152: Calculus II
      • MATH 255: Vector Calculus
      • MATH 256: Linear Algebra
    3. Elective Courses (four credit hours selected from the following list of courses)
      • PHYS 281: Mathematical Methods of Physics
      • PHYS 382: Optics
      • PHYS 490: Senior Seminar
      • MATH 312: Differential Equations
      • CHEM 451: Physical Chemistry
      • PHYS 399: Independent Study (as approved by the physics faculty) or PHYS 499
  3. Every physics major must complete a St. Mary’s Project. This project may be in physics or in another major discipline or a study area. The guidelines established in the selected area apply. The project must be proposed to a mentor and to the chair of the Department of Physics at least three weeks before the last day of classes of the second semester of the student’s junior year, and it must be approved by the mentor and the department chair.
  4. Students must earn a grade of C- or better in all courses listed in items 2-3 above, and maintain an overall GPA of 2.0 or better in these required courses.

The following model is suggested as a sequence of study that satisfies the above requirements:

DEGREE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MINOR IN PHYSICS

Students must take 20 credits in physics consisting of the following courses:

  1. Required courses: All students in the minor must take the 12-credit introductory General Physics sequence:
    • PHYS 151: Fundamentals of Physics I (recommended) or PHYS 141 General Physics I
    • PHYS 152: Fundamentals of Physics II (recommended) or PHYS 142 General Physics II
    • PHYS 251: Fundamentals of Physics III
  2. Elective Courses: Students must take eight credits (two courses) from among any of the courses listed below:
    • PHYS 281: Mathematical Methods in Physics
    • PHYS 312: Advanced Laboratory
    • PHYS 342: Mechanics
    • PHYS 351: Electricity and Magnetism
    • PHYS 382: Optics
    • PHYS 390: Astrophysics and Cosmology
    • PHYS 462: Quantum Mechanics
    • PHYS 473: Statistical Mechanics
    • Students should note that most upper-level physics courses have prerequisite or corequisite mathematics courses which also must be taken. Students should also note that not all of the upper-level courses listed here will be offered every year. Chemistry majors who pursue a physics minor are strongly encouraged to take PHYS 462 (Quantum Mechanics) or PHYS 473 (Statistical Mechanics) as elective courses.
  3. GPA requirements: Students must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA within the minor.
  4. Physics majors may not enroll in the physics minor program.

DUAL-DEGREE PROGRAM BETWEEN ST. MARY'S COLLEGE OF MARYLAND AND THE A. JAMES CLARK SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND

A student in this program will attend St. Mary's College of Maryland (SMCM) for approximately three (3) academic years (minimum of 96 hours), completing requirements for a major in physics, and then will attend the A. James Clark School of Engineering, University of Maryland (UM) for approximately two (2) academic years (minimum of approximately 60 hours, to be determined individually).

After completing the requirements in the Clark School of Engineering in one of the programs listed below, the student will be awarded a bachelor's degree with a major in physics by St. Mary’s and a baccalaureate degree by the University of Maryland (UM). Dual-degree candidates from St. Mary’s may major in any of the following areas at the University of Maryland:

  1. Requirements for dual-degree students while at St. Mary’s:
    1. Completion of the required courses in the Dual-Degree Study Program, as approved by designated official (see 3 below).
    2. Completion of a minimum of 96 credit hours
    3. Completion of the Core Curriculum requirements as amended.
    4. Completion of the requirements for a major in physics, as approved by the department chair. Completion of the program at the University of Maryland will satisfy the requirement for the completion of a St. Mary's Project for the physics major.
    5. A minimum cumulative grade-point average of 2.0.
    6. Recommendation from designated official at St. Mary’s.
  2. Requirements for dual-degree students at University of Maryland:
    1. Admission to the Clark School of Engineering, University of Maryland is guaranteed to the St. Mary's College of Maryland dual-degree student, provided the requirements under 1.a., above, have been satisfied.
    2. Completion of 128 credit hours, including credits earned at St. Mary's College of Maryland (usually by the end of the first year at UM).
    3. Completion of 45 upper-division credits, including credits earned at St. Mary's College of Maryland.
    4. Completion of approximately 60 credit hours, to be determined individually, at the Clark School of Engineering, University of Maryland.
  3. Required St. Mary’s Courses in Dual-Degree Study Program (60 credit hours):
    • CHEM 103: General Chemistry I
    • CHEM 106: General Chemistry II
    • MATH 151: Calculus I
    • MATH 152: Calculus II
    • MATH 255: Vector Calculus
    • MATH 256: Linear Algebra
    • MATH 312: Differential Equations
    • PHYS 151: Fundamentals of Physics I (recommended) or PHYS 141 General Physics I
    • PHYS 152: Fundamentals of Physics II (recommended) or PHYS 142 General Physics II
    • PHYS 251: Fundamentals of Physics III
    • PHYS 312: Advanced Physics Lab
    • PHYS 342: Mechanics
    • PHYS 351: Electricity & Magnetism
    • PHYS 462: Quantum Mechanics
    • PHYS 473: Statistical Mechanics

*Required St. Mary’s courses that may count as technical electives, depending upon engineering discipline.

Students who wish to major in chemical engineering should also take the following:

Students who wish to major in biological engineering should also take the following:

FACULTY

Charles Adler (department chair), Erin De Pree, Joshua Grossman, Katsunori Mita

PHYSICS COURSES (PHYS)

PHYS 103. Basic Physics (4E)

An elementary presentation of concepts and principles of physics. Topics include mechanics, heat, sound, electricity and magnetism, light, relativity, and astronomy. Intended for the non-science major.

PHYS 104. Basic Physics with Laboratory (4S)

An elementary presentation of concepts and principles of physics. Topics include mechanics, heat, sound, electricity and magnetism, light, relativity, and astronomy. Intended for the non-science major. Lecture and laboratory. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Natural Sciences with Laboratory.

PHYS 105. Topics in Physics (4F)

An elementary presentation of a topic in physics. Possible topics include light and color, sound, quantum world (molecules, atoms, atomic nuclei, and elementary particles), relativity, and cosmology.

PHYS 121. College Physics I (4F)

Introduction to the principles of physics not requiring calculus. Particle motion, Newton’s laws, momentum, work and energy, gases and liquids, harmonic motion, and waves. Lecture and laboratory. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum Natural Sciences with Laboratory requirement, but it does not satisfy the degree requirements for majors in physics, natural science, and chemistry.

PHYS 122. College Physics II (4S)

Harmonic motion, traveling wave, standing waves and sound, light and optics, electricity and magnetism. Lecture and laboratory. This course does not satisfy the degree requirements for majors in physics, natural science, and chemistry. Prerequisite: PHYS 121.

PHYS 141. General Physics I (4F)

Mechanics of particle motion, rotational motion of a rigid body, kinematics and dynamics. Lecture and laboratory. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Natural Sciences with Laboratory. Formerly PHYS131. Not open to students who have received credit for PHYS131. Co-requisite: MATH 151.  Recommended for Chemistry, Biochemistry and Biology majors.

PHYS 142. General Physics II (4S)

Waves, optics, quantum mechanics and relativity.  Topics include transverse/longitudinal waves, interference, wave/particle duality, the Bohr atom, the Schrodinger equation, time dilation/length contraction, and relativistic energy/momentum. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Natural Science with Laboratory.  Lecture and laboratory.  Recommended for Chemistry, Biochemistry and Biology majors. Formerly PHYS231. Not open to students who have taken PHYS231. Prerequisite: PHYS141 or PHYS151.  Co-requisite: MATH152

PHYS 151. Fundamentals of Physics I (4F)

In-depth introduction to Newton's laws of motion, including 1-D kinematics, vectors, dynamics of motion, rotational motion and the universal law of gravitation.  This course represents a more in-depth analysis of introductory Physics than PHYS141. Recommended for Physics majors and minors. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Natural Science with Laboratory.    Formerly PHYS131. Not open to students who have received credit for PHYS131. Corequisite: MATH151

PHYS 152. Fundamentals of Physics II (4F)

In-depth introduction to waves, optics, quantum mechanics and relativity.  Topics include transverse/longitudinal waves, interference, wave/particle duality, the Bohr atom, the Schrodinger equation, time dilation/length contraction, and relativistic energy/momentum. Recommended for Physics majors and minors.  This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Natural Science with Laboratory.  Lecture and laboratory. Formerly PHYS231. Not open to students who have taken PHYS231.  Prerequisite: PHYS141 or PHYS151.  Corequisite: MATH152.

PHYS 251. Fundamentals of Physics III (4F)

Electrostatics, magnetostatics,  electromagnetism, and DC circuits. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Natural Science with Laboratory. Lecture and laboratory.  Formerly PHYS132.  Not open to students who have completed PHYS132. Prerequisite: PHYS142 or PHYS152. Corequisite: MATH255

PHYS 281. Mathematical Methods of Physics (4F)

Presentation of mathematical fundamentals necessary for theoretical physics. Topics include tensor analysis, matrices and determinants, infinite series, complex analysis, partial differential equations, special functions, Fourier series, and Fourier transforms. Formerly PHYS 371. Not open to students who have received credit for PHYS 371. Prerequisite: MATH 152.

PHYS 312. Advanced Physics Laboratory (4S)

Set-piece experiments as well as directed experimental projects to study selected phenomena in modern physics. These experiments and projects serve as an introduction to the contemporary instrumentation and the precise measurement techniques used in physics research laboratories. One lecture and four hours of laboratory a week. Formerly PHYS 451. Not open to students who have received credit for PHYS 451. Prerequisite: PHYS 231.

PHYS 342. Mechanics (4S)

Fundamental concepts of mechanics, kinematics, dynamics of a particle, oscillators, planetary motion, systems of many particles, statics, rotation of rigid bodies. Formerly PHYS 301. Not open to students who have received credit for PHYS 301. Prerequisite: PHYS 231.

PHYS 351. Electricity and Magnetism (4F)

Electrostatics, magnetism, direct currents and associated networks, oscillations, alternating current theory, Maxwell’s equations. Formerly PHYS 302. Not open to students who have received credit for PHYS 302. Prerequisite: PHYS 231.

PHYS 382. Optics (4AS)

Analytical treatment of geometrical and physical optics. Topics include light wave propagation, reflection, refraction, mirrors, thin lenses, interference, coherence, diffraction, and polarization. Formerly PHYS 321. Not open to students who have received credit for PHYS 321. Prerequisite: PHYS 231.

PHYS 390. Introduction to Astrophysics and Cosmology (4)

An introduction to the physics of the stars, including stellar structure, the theory of the main sequence and the Hertzprung-Russell diagram, stellar birth, and the endstages of stellar life (white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes.) We will also examine galaxy formation, the inflationary Big Bang theory, and the influence of dark matter and dark energy on the structure and ultimate fate of the universe. Prerequisites: PHYS131, PHYS132

PHYS 462. Quantum Mechanics (4S)

Postulates of quantum mechanics and operator formalism, Fourier techniques, correspondence principle, angular momentum theory, matrix representations, central force problems. Formerly PHYS 471. Not open to students who have received credit for PHYS 471. Prerequisites: PHYS 231, MATH 256, and consent of the instructor.

PHYS 473. Statistical Mechanics (4F)

Statistical and microscopic treatment of thermodynamical systems. Topics include probability concepts, heat and temperature, thermal interaction, work, internal energy, entropy, and canonical distribution. Formerly PHYS 421. Not open to students who have received credit for PHYS 421. Prerequisite: PHYS 231.

PHYS 490. Senior Seminar in Physics (4AS)

An in-depth exploration of a topic in physics. The topic is broad enough to integrate several areas of physics. Lectures, discussion, readings of appropriate papers and texts. Student presentations and papers will be required. Prerequisites: 20 credit hours in physics and consent of the instructor.

PHYS 494. St. Mary’s Project (1-8E)

The project, which may take many forms, draws on and extends knowledge, analytical skills, and creative achievement developed through previous academic work in physics. The student initiates the project, identifies an area of physics to be explored, and proposes a method of inquiry appropriate to the topic. It must be shared with the College community through posters, presentations, or other means. The project may be within physics, across disciplines, or in a cross-disciplinary studies area. The project is supervised by a physics faculty mentor. PHYS 494 may be repeated for up to a total of eight credit hours. Prerequisite: Approval of faculty mentor and department chair of the student’s major(s). Consult faculty mentor for project guidelines.

PHYS 398, 498. Off-Campus Internship (4-16E)

A variety of off-campus learning opportunities can be arranged through the Career Development Center. The off-campus internship is an individually designed experience that allows the student to explore the relationship between learning in the classroom and the practical application of knowledge in everyday work situations. Prerequisites: Admission to the Internship Program and approval of the academic adviser and department chair. (See “Internships” under “Academic Policies” section.) Credit/no credit grading.

PHYS 199, 299, 399, 499. Independent Study (1-4E)

This course consists of an independent creative or research project designed by the student and supervised by a physics faculty member. The nature of the project, the schedule for accomplishment, and the means of evaluation must be formalized in a learning contract prior to registration. (See “Independent Study” under “Academic Policies” section.)