Physics Blackboard

Undergraduate Course Descriptions +

For information about current physics courses or other LS&A courses, please visit the: LSA Undergraduate Course Guide or check out the LSA Course Syllabi .

 

Physics 106- Everyday Physics
This course provides a laboratory-based exploration of the physical concepts and phenomena that govern everyday life. While not a mathematically intensive course, simple formulas and calculations are used to interpret and understand the results obtained from direct hands-on experiments performed in class, always with the goal of understanding the underlying physical principles governing the behavior of the everyday world. 

Physics 107- 20th Century Concepts of Space, Time and Matter
This course is intended to acquaint students with some of the most important conceptual developments in physics in the 20th century, including relativity, quantum mechanics, the fundamental forces and particles, cosmology, Higgs bosons, and extra dimensions. To fully appreciate the significance of these developments some historical and conceptual perspective is needed, so a substantial portion of the course will trace the historical development of ideas in physics, and how physics results become established.


Physics 112- Cosmology: The Science of the Universe
Have you ever wondered about the origin of everything? This course examines the conceptual foundations underlying our current understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe. We explore how the universe as a whole, galaxies, stars and planets provide the essential ingredients for the genesis of life. Finally we examine the evolution of scientific thought that enabled humans to develop an understanding of the universe around them.
Little or no math is needed but be prepared to learn some basic principles of physics and think critically about deep and challenging concepts.


Physics 114– Physics First-Year Seminar in the Natural Sciences
This course will examine current events through a physicist's lens. The aim is to provide students with the background to be a well-informed citizen and leader in the 21st century. When faced with technical articles in the popular press, you should be well equipped to understand both why they are important and what follow-up questions you should ask. 


Physics 115– Principles of Physics
This is an introductory course on the foundations of physics tailored for students seeking to be better prepared for success in the core introductory courses (PHYSICS 135, for life/health sciences and Kinesiology, or PHYSICS 140, for science and engineering fields). The course aims to develop skills and abilities needed for problem-solving within the conceptual framework of introductory physics. 


Physics 116- From Quarks to Cosmos
This course introduces the modern understanding of the physical universe. We discuss the elementary particles that constitute the building blocks for all matter, and we discuss the hot dense beginnings of the universe known as the big bang. We convey the deep connection between the physics of the subatomic domain, and the physics of the cosmos.


Physics 119- The Physical World
The physics, chemistry, and pre-calculus (algebraic) concepts of comprehensive Earth and planetary science will be covered for those students who feel less than fully prepared for existing college-level science classes. The course is aimed at students in need of a science course, particularly those who will not readily select more than one physical science course as undergraduates at UM. Weekly discussions by a GSI will complement and amplify the lectures. Extensive weekly homework (quantitative exercises) will form 40% of the grade, with the remaining 60% based on two in-class exams and one final exam.


Physics 120- Foundations of Physics
This is an introductory course on the foundations of physics tailored for students seeking to be better prepared for success in the core introductory courses (PHYSICS 135, for life/health sciences and kinesiology, or PHYSICS 140, for science and engineering fields). It aims to develop skills and abilities needed for problem-solving within the conceptual framework of introductory physics. The course will concentrate on consolidating mathematical skills within the practical context of problems and concepts from entry-level physics (mostly mechanics) which will include vectors, linear motion, projectiles, relative motion, circular motion, dynamics, work, energy, momentum, torque, gravitation, oscillators, fluids, waves and sound.


Physics 121- Physics for Architects
This course introduces students to physical principles and methods relevant to architectural studies. Among the topics covered are: motion, forces, statics, energy, fluid behavior, heat and heat transfer, electricity and circuits.


Physics 135- Physics for the Life Sciences I
Life is a physical process, limited and enabled by the same laws of nature that govern the inanimate world. This course is the first of a two-course introduction to the physics of life.
Physics 135 is divided into three main topics. The course begins with the mechanics of life; how organisms support themselves against the pull of gravity, and how they apply forces to move themselves around. After this, you will learn about energy and how its flow enables the assembly and activity of life. The final third of the course examines life’s media, air and water, and explores how the behaviors of fluids influence life. Physics 135 students should elect Physics 136(lab).


Physics 136- Life Sciences Lab I
Laboratory course to be elected concurrently with PHYSICS 135


Physics 140- General Physics I
The traditional course offers an introduction to classical mechanics, the physics of motion. Topics include: vectors, linear motion, projectiles, relative velocity and acceleration, circular motion, Newton's laws, particle dynamics, work and energy, linear momentum, torque, angular momentum, gravitation, planetary motion, fluid statics and dynamics, simple harmonic motion, waves and sound.


Physics 141- Elementary Laboratory I
Laboratory course to be elected concurrently with PHYSICS 140


Physics 160- Honors Physics I
This course covers the fundamental principles of mechanics using a modern perspective. It emphasizes the applicability of these laws in systems ranging from binary stars to nuclear collisions. This class will be different, and more interesting, than any physics course you have taken yet.
The goals of the course are:
-Application of fundamental principles to a wide range of systems, i.e., from nuclei to stars (unify mechanics)
-Integrate contemporary physics (atomic models of matter, relativistic dynamics)
-Engage students in physical modeling (idealization, approximation, assumptions, estimation)
-Integrate computational physics (now a partner of theory and experiment) into problem solving


Physics 161- Honors Introductory Mechanics Lab
Laboratory course to be elected concurrently with PHYSICS 160


Physics 169- The Physical Universe: An Introduction to Modern Physics, Astrophysics, and Cosmology 
This course divides the cosmos into four scales of astrophysical inquiry - the whole universe, galaxies, stars, and planets. Providing windows to view the operations of nature, these astronomical entities experience life cycles from birth to death. Cosmic evolution is driven by the basic laws of physics 


Physics 210– Energy for our Future
We explore the physics, politics, economics and environmental impact of the production and use of known sources of energy including fossil fuels, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric. Students develop a viable energy plan for the future that weighs cost, environmental and human risk, and larger geopolitical impacts.  


Physics 235- Physics for the Life Sciences II
Life is a physical process, limited and enabled by the same laws of nature that govern the inanimate world. This course is the second of a two-course introduction to the physics of life. PHYSICS 135 and 235 is the best introductory physics sequence for students planning concentrations in any of the life sciences, as well as students planning to pursue medicine, kinesiology, or the health sciences as a profession.
PHYSICS 235 is divided into three main topics. You will first learn about electricity and magnetism, the forces responsible for all the chemistry of life. You will learn how electromagnetic interactions enable both a fantastic array of technologies as well as your own nervous system. The second part of the course explores waves and imaging. In it, you will learn how waves transmit energy and information around the universe, and explore how organisms use hearing, vision, and other senses to form images of the world beyond their skin. The course concludes with a discussion of nuclear physics and astrophysics, including the origin of the elements, the conditions that allow life, and the prospects for life existing elsewhere. PHYSICS 235 students should elect PHYSICS 236 (lab).
Students who have completed PHYSICS 135 have met the requirements to continue on with PHYSICS 235.


Physics 236- Life Sciences Lab II
Laboratory course to be elected concurrently with PHYSICS 235


Physics 240- General Physics II
PHYSICS 240 is a continuation of PHYSICS 140, and covers topics in electricity and magnetism: charge, Coulomb's law, electric fields, Gauss' law, electric potential, capacitors and dielectrics, current and resistance, EMF and circuits, magnetic fields, Biot-Savart law, Amperes law, Faraday's Law of Induction, and simple AC circuits. PHYSICS 240 students should elect PHYSICS 241 (lab). 


Physics 241- Elementary Laboratory II
Laboratory course to be elected concurrently with PHYSICS 240


Physics 260- Honors Physics II
This course is a continuation of PHYSICS 160 and introduces the theory of electromagnetic phenomena. This course will introduce you to, the deeper physical meaning of the concepts, a rigorous mathematical approach, using vector calculus when applicable, problem solving including computer use and contemporary applications.


Physics 261- Honors Electricity and Magnetism Lab
Laboratory course to be elected concurrently with PHYSICS 240


Physics 290- Physics of the Body and Mind
This course, which employs extensive A/V and CAI material, is intended for students interested in the application of physics to biology, biochemistry, physiology, psychology, genetics, medicine, bioengineering and related life sciences. It provides an introduction to topics in biomechanics, biophysics, and medical physics including biosensors.


Physics 333- Physics 140 Tutor
Students enrolled in this experiential course serve as peer leaders in PHYSICS 140.  Peer leaders conduct study group sessions under the direction of the course lecturer after receiving training from the staff at the Science Learning Center. 


Physics 334- Physics 240 Tutor
Students enrolled in this experiential course serve as peer leaders in PHYSICS 240.  Peer leaders conduct study group sessions under the direction of the course lecturer after receiving training from the staff at the Science Learning Center. 


Physics 340- Waves, Heat and Light
This is the third term of the introductory physics sequence.  The topics covered in the course include thermodynamics, light and optics, the wave equation, and special relativity.  Students should take the lab PHYSICS 341 concurrently.


Physics 341- Waves, Heat and Light Lab
Laboratory course to be elected concurrently with PHYSICS 240


Physics 351- Methods of Theoretical Physics I
The course will cover vector analysis and coordinate systems, a brief discussion of tensors, linear algebra, an introduction to complex variables and complex analysis, infinite series, differential equations, Fourier analysis, and a brief introduction to probability. The aim of the course is to prepare students of physics and related disciplines with the mathematical background needed for many of the 400-level courses.


Physics 360- Honors Physics III
Physics 360 covers the same physics as Physics 340 (thermodynamics, light and optics, the wave equation, and special relativity) but it differs from Physics 340 in two main ways:
Physics 360 will be taught at a higher math-level.
In Physics 360, there will be a strong focus on developing your scientific communication skills. Good communication skills are highly valuable for future scientists and teachers, and I think it is an important component of your physics education. Practically, the development of communication skills will be incorporated into PHYSICS 360 through homework (including how to write great homework solutions) as well as written and oral exercises on explaining key physics concepts. Your active participation in lectures and other class activities is expected and will be part of the evaluation. (See also further description at the end of this message.)


Physics 390- Introduction to Modern Physics
This course provides an introduction to the principles of quantum mechanics, followed by a survey of several of the sub-fields of physics, usually including atomic, solid state, nuclear and particle physics.


Physics 401- Intermediate Mechanics
Newtonian and Lagrangian mechanics: Kinematics and dynamics in one, two and three dimensions, vector analysis; motion under gravity, planetary motion; free and forced, damped and undamped harmonic oscillators; the conservation laws of mechanics; inertial and accelerated frames of reference, fictitious forces; rigid body mechanics; coupled oscillators.


Physics 402- Optics
Topics studied cover the phenomena of physical optics, reflection, refraction, interference, diffraction, and polarization interpreted in terms of the wave theory of light. Selected topics in contemporary optics, such as fiber optics, lasers and nonlinear optics will be covered. 


Physics 405- Intermediate Electricity and Magnetism
This course provides a rigorous introduction to electricity and magnetism, suitable for junior year physics majors or engineering students. Subjects include static electric fields in vacuum, in matter and in vacuum and matter. Also includes time-dependent phenomena, electromagnetic induction and Maxwell's equations. 


Physics 406- Statistical and Thermal Physics
Introduction to thermal processes including the classical laws of thermodynamics and their statistical foundations: basic probability concepts; statistical description of systems of particles; thermal interaction; microscopic basis of macroscopic concepts such as temperature and entropy; the laws of thermodynamics; and the elementary kinetic theory of transport processes


Physics 411- Introduction to Computational Physics
Introduction to techniques of computational physics with applications in optics, atomic, solid-state, nuclear and particle physics.  Topics covered include motion in a force filed, calculation of electric and magnetic fields, optical and ion-optical ray tracing, quantum mechanical (QM) bound states (Schrodinger Equation) and QM barrier penetration and scattering.


Physics 413 / CMPLXSYS 541- Introduction to Nonlinear Dynamics and the Physics  of Complexity
An introduction to non-linear science with an elementary treatment from the point of view of the physics of chaos and fractal growth.


Physics 415- Special Problems for Undergraduates
Experimental or theoretical research under the supervision of a staff member.  Generally a small facet of a large research undertaking is investigated in detail.


Physics 417- Dynamical Processes in Biophysics
This course covers the basic physics behind many biological processes.  Modules cover diffusion, electrophysiology, biopolymer elasticity, and molecular motors.  Two basic themes that resurface throughout the course are the universality of diffusive behavior and the role of energy consumption in driving non-equilibrium processes.  Includes an introduction to reading the primary scientific literature.


Physics 420- Physics for the Elementary Classroom
PHYSICS 420 is a survey course for students preparing to teach at the elementary classroom level. The goal of the course is to provide a good and practical appreciation of the basic laws that govern our universe. In addition to homework questions, there will be a variety of hands-on activities designed to demonstrate the rules of physics in action which might be adapted for use in elementary classrooms.


Physics 424- Physics in Action
This course provides elementary pre-service teachers with the opportunity to develop a deeper conceptual understanding of the basic laws of the universe and skills for teaching and assessing these understanding to elementary students.


Physics 435- Gravitational Physics
The Einstein theory of general relativity for gravitation is discussed with implications for astrophysical observations and cosmology.  In particular, the experimental tests of general relativity in the past as well as the significance of pulsars, black holes, supernovae, cosmic background radiation and gravitational wave detection are described.


Physics 441- Advanced Laboratory I
This is an advanced laboratory course.  A wide selection of individual experiments is offered.  Students are required to select five experiments in consultation with the lab instruction.  Experiments are to be selected from several different areas of Physics.


Physics 442- Advanced Laboratory II
This is an advanced laboratory course.  A wide selection of individual experiments is offered.  Students are required to select five experiments in consultation with the lab instruction.  Experiments are to be selected from several different areas of Physics.


Physics 452- Methods of Theoretical Physics II
Applications of matrix theory and vector and tensor analysis; boundary value problems; approximation and variational methods; applications from theory of analytic functions; Fourier series and integrals; eigenvalue problems; spherical harmonics; Bessel functions and other special functions of mathematical physics; and Green's functions. Other topics may include an introduction to integral equations or group theory, with applications to physical problems.


Physics 453- Quantum Mechanics
An introduction to quantum mechanics that emphasizes the description of physical situations in one, two, and three dimensions as they occur in atoms, molecules and nuclei.


Physics 457- Particle Physics & Cosmology
This course is an introduction to nuclear and elementary particle physics.  Topics include (1) nuclear structure: binding energies, size and shape; angular momentum, parity, isopin, magnetic moments, electric quadrupole moments; models for the nucleus; (2) the quark model of elementary particles: the standard model; the neutron and proton; mesons; gluons; resonant states; (3) nuclear and particle decays: radioactivity; barrier penetration and alpha-particle decay; the weak interaction and beta-decay; electromagnetic transitions (4) nuclear and quark-quark interactions: basic properties of the strong force; scattering; reactions and reaction models; and (5) experimental techniques: interaction of charged particles, gamma-rays and neutrons with matter; particle and radiation detectors; accelerators.  The basic elements of quantum mechanics are used.


Physics 460- Quantum Mechanics II
Develops the quantum description of phenomena at the scale of atoms and molecules


Physics 463- Introduction to Solid State Physics
Structure and physical properties of crystalline solids.  Ionic crystals, free electron theory of metals, band theory of solids, effects of impurities and imperfections, and theories of magnetism.  Introduction to the concept of phonons, polarons, plasmons, etc. Interaction of radiation with crystalline materials.


Physics 465- Senior Seminar
Seminar dealing with selected topics of current physics designed to give physics concentrators and acquaintance with the principle fields of modern research.


Physics 481- Science, Technology and Public Policy
The aim of this lecture course is to introduce students to the manner in which science and technology issues both shape and are shaped by public policy. Issues such as global climate change, energy sustainability, human genomics, and exponentially evolving technologies (e.g., info-, bio-, and nano-) are among the most challenging and complex facing contemporary society.
The course will review the historical role of national science policy in addressing the health, welfare, and security needs of the nation, and will provide an organizational map to help the reader better understand how the federal government develops and executes its science policy and why it funds science. It will explore how universities, national laboratories, and industry partner with the federal government to carry out scientific research, and why states are developing their own scientific and technological support structures. The importance of the public and attention to social values and ethical concerns will also be discussed. The course will examine the interactions between the scientific community and policymakers, and the grand challenges that face science and society, including environmental preservation, advances in new technologies, transportation, power generation, and prevention and cure of diseases.
The urgency of strengthening these interactions in order to meet such significant scientific and technical challenges will be explored. The course is intended for a broad spectrum of upper division undergraduate students, both from science-based and non-science concentrators.


Physics 496- Senior Thesis I & Physics 497- Senior Thesis II
Students get introductory experience and research work with faculty, the results of which could provide the basis for a senior thesis project. If work is not completed in the fall term, student would register for PHYSICS 497 in winter term.


Physics 498- Introduction to Research for Honors Students & Physics 499- Introduction to Research for Honors Students
Honors students do research under the supervision of a faculty member. The results can provide a basis for an Honors thesis. If work is not completed during the Fall Term, the student must register for PHYSICS 499 in Winter Term.

Class Schedule & Textbook List +

Fall 2014 (Please refer to the LSA Course Guide for the most up to date list. Graduate course listings can be found here)

Winter 2014 (Please refer to the LSA Course Guide for the most up to date list)

Labs +

Introductory Physics Labs (136/141/161/236/241/261)
A round-the-clock educational resource for students taking the physics courses 136/141/161 and 236/241/261.

Advanced Physics Labs (441/442)
A two-semester sequence of courses (Physics 441 and 442) on the experimental foundations of modern physics, presented using a survey of instrumentation, data acquisition, and analysis methods employed in contemporary research and industrial laboratories.

Physics Department Wait List Policy 
Information on how to receive an override for a lab

Policies & Procedures +