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Courses with Descriptions

Fall 2024

  • ASTR 001. Introductory Astronomy
    • The scientific investigation of the universe by observation and theory, including the basic notions of physics as needed in astronomical applications. Topics may include the appearance and motions of the sky; history of astronomy; astronomical instruments and radiation; the sun and planets; properties, structure, and evolution of stars; the galaxy and extragalactic systems; the origin and evolution of the universe; and prospects for life beyond Earth.

    • Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
    • Evening labs required.
    • 1 credit.
    • Rivera.
  • ASTR 016. Astrophysics: Stars, ISM, and Galaxies
    • This is a one-semester calculus- and physics-based introduction to astrophysics as applied to stars, the interstellar medium, and galaxies. 

    • Natural sciences and engineering.
    • Evening labs and observing sessions required.
    • 1 credit.
    • Rivera.
  • ASTR 094. Research Project
  • ASTR 123. Stellar Astrophysics
    • An overview of physics of the stars, both atmospheres and interiors. Topics may include hydrostatic and thermal equilibrium, radiative and convective transfer nuclear energy generation, degenerate matter, calculation of stellar models, interpretation of spectra, stellar evolution, white dwarfs and neutron stars, nucleosynthesis, supernovae, and star formation.

    • Natural sciences and engineering.
    • 1 credit.
    • Cohen.
  • ASTR 180. Honors Thesis
    • (Cross-listed as PHYS 180)

    • 1 or 2 credits.
    • Staff.
  • PHYS 001C. Climate Change: Science and Responses
    • (Cross-Listed with ENVS 010)

    • A study of the complex interplay of factors influencing conditions on the surface of the Earth. Basic concepts from geology, oceanography, and atmospheric science lead to an examination of how the Earth's climate has varied in the past, what changes are occurring now, and what the future may hold. Besides environmental effects, the economic, political, and ethical implications of global warming are explored, including possible ways to reduce climate change.

    •  

       

    • Natural sciences and engineering.
    • 1 credit.
    • Eligible for ENVS, GLBL-Core, ESCH
    • Beaulac.
  • PHYS 003. General Physics I
    • Topics include vectors, kinematics, Newton's laws and dynamics, conservation laws, work and energy, oscillatory motion, systems of particles, and rigid body rotation. Possible additional topics are special relativity and thermodynamics.

    • Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
    • Lab required.
    • 1 credit.
    • Hyde.
  • PHYS 003L. General Physics I: Motion, Forces, and Energy with Biological and Medical Applications
    • This course discusses the topics from the first semester of introductory physics with the greatest biological, biochemical, and medical relevance, namely motion, forces (both statics and dynamics), torques (primarily statics), work, conservation of energy and momentum, oscillations, fluid statics and dynamics, and thermal and statistical phenomena. A core goal is to develop connections between physics and the other sciences. The course addresses the appropriate medical school competencies in conjunction with PHYS 004L.

    • Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
    • Lab required.
    • 1 credit.
    • Geller and Hyde.
  • PHYS 005. The World of Particles and Waves
    • This course presents an introduction to optics and quantum theory. Students will explore the counterintuitive consequences of quantum mechanics for our understanding of the subatomic world, where our notions of absolute properties such as the position or speed of a particle are replaced by probabilities. The course will introduce multiple ways to model light, from classical waves to quantum photons. It is the usual entry point to majoring or minoring in astronomy, astrophysics, or physics, and is a pre or co-requisite for the sophomore-level physics major curriculum; it welcomes both non-majors and prospective majors who are interested in engaging rigorously and deeply with both the mathematical and conceptual descriptions of physics.

    • Not eligible for NSEP credit.

    • Natural sciences and engineering.
    • 1 credit.
    • Crouch and Geller.
  • PHYS 007. Introductory Mechanics
    • An introduction to classical mechanics. This course is suitable for potential majors, as well as students in other sciences or engineering who would like a course with more mathematical rigor and depth than PHYS 003. Includes the study of kinematics and dynamics of point particles; conservation principles involving energy, momentum and angular momentum; rotational motion of rigid bodies, and oscillatory motion.

    • Lab used for hands-on experimentation and occasionally for workshops that expand on lecture material.

    • Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
    • Lab required.
    • 1 credit.
    • Raithel.
  • PHYS 063. Procedures in Experimental Physics
    • Techniques, materials, and the design of experimental apparatus; shop practice; printed circuit design and construction.
      This is a 0.5-credit course open only to majors in physics, astrophysics, or astronomy.

    • 0.5 credit.
    • Jacobs and Palmer.
  • PHYS 081. Advanced Laboratory I
    • This is the first of a two-semester sequence designed to fulfill the physics major advanced laboratory requirement. Students will perform projects in digital electronics. They will also perform experiments chosen from among the areas of thermal and statistical physics, solid state, atomic, plasma, nuclear, biophysics, condensed matter physics, and advanced optics.

    • Writing course.
    • 0.5 credit.
    • Brown.
  • PHYS 082. Advanced Laboratory II
    • This is the second of a two-semester sequence designed to fulfill the physics major advanced laboratory requirement. Students will perform projects in digital electronics. They will also perform experiments chosen from among the areas of thermal and statistical physics, solid state, atomic, plasma, nuclear, biophysics, condensed matter physics, and advanced optics. When both PHYS 081 and PHYS 082 are taken, students will receive credit for having completed a writing (W) course.

    • When both PHYS 081 and PHYS 082 are taken, students will receive credit for having completed a writing (W) course.

    • Writing course.
    • 0.5 credit.
    • Brown.
  • PHYS 083. Advanced Laboratory I and II
    • This course is designed to fulfill the physics major advanced laboratory requirement for students who have already had sufficient experience with digital electronics (ENGR 072 or the equivalent). Students will perform experiments chosen from among the areas of thermal and statistical physics, solid state, atomic, plasma, nuclear, biophysics, condensed matter physics, and advanced optics.

    • Writing course.
    • 0.5 credit.
    • Brown.
  • PHYS 093. Directed Reading
    • This course provides an opportunity for an individual student to do special study, with either theoretical or experimental emphasis, in fields not covered by the regular courses and seminars. The student will present oral and written reports to the instructor.

    • This course is not graded. It is a credit/no-credit course.

    • 0.5, 1, or 2 credits.
    • Staff.
  • PHYS 094. Research Project
    • Initiative for a research project may come from the student, or the work may involve collaboration with ongoing faculty research. The student will present a written and an oral report to the department.

    • This course is not graded. It is a credit/no-credit course.

    • 0.5, 1, or 2 credits.
    • Staff.
  • PHYS 097. Senior Conference
    • This half-credit course is required of all physics, astronomy, and astrophysics course majors and serves as preparation for and completion of the College's comprehensive requirement ("comps") for senior course majors, with a goal of enabling students to integrate various aspects of their Swarthmore education into a single, cohesive project. Students will create, edit, and practice presenting a poster on a research topic of their choosing and then present it at an event at the end of the semester. The weekly course meetings will enable students to delve more deeply into research paper reading, data display, scientific communication, and other topics related both to the subject matter and professional practices in physics and astronomy. This course will be offered every fall, is intended for seniors who are majors, and must be taken at Swarthmore in order for students to meet the comps requirement.

    • 0.5 credit
    • Bester.
  • PHYS 107. Quantum Mechanics.
    • An introductory course in quantum mechanics. Topics include waves, photons, the Schrodinger equation, Dirac notation, one-dimensional potentials, quantized angular momentum, and central potentials. 

    • Natural Sciences and Engineering.
    • 1 credit
    • Smith, T.
  • PHYS 112. Electrodynamics
    • Electricity and magnetism using vector calculus, electric and magnetic fields, dielectric and magnetic materials, electromagnetic induction, Maxwell's field equations in differential form, displacement current, Poynting theorem and electromagnetic waves, boundary-value problems, radiation and four-vector formulation of relativistic electrodynamics. Offered every Fall.

    • Natural sciences and engineering.
    • 1 credit.
    • Brown.
  • PHYS 132. Nonlinear Dynamics.
    • This course will cover the central elements of nonlinear dynamics and chaos and their applications to physical and biological systems. Topics include nonlinear differential equations, bifurcations, strange attractors, phase space diagrams, fractals, and mapping. Readings of current research articles will be integrated with these topics.

    • Natural Sciences and Engineering.
    • 1 credit.
    • Bester.
  • PHYS 180. Honors Thesis
    • Theoretical or experiment work culminating in a written honors thesis. Also includes an oral presentation to the department. This course must be completed by the end of, and is normally taken in, the fall semester of the student's final year.

    • This course is not graded. It is a credit/no-credit course.

    • 1 credit.
    • Staff.

Spring 2025

  • ASTR 014. Astrophysics: Solar System and Cosmology
    • This course assumes no prior knowledge of astronomy, but knowledge of some basic physics as well as elementary calculus. It focuses on two major topics of current interest in astrophysics: (1) Solar System and planetary science and (2) cosmology, the large-scale study of the universe, its history and content. 

    • Natural sciences and engineering.
    • 1 credit.
    • Cohen.
  • ASTR 061. Current Problems in Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Reading and discussion of selected research papers from the astronomical literature. Techniques of journal reading, use of abstract services, and other aids for the efficient maintenance of awareness in a technical field.

    • Graded CR/NC. May be repeated for credit.

    • 0.5 credit.
    • Rivera.
  • ASTR 094. Research Project
  • ASTR 126. The Interstellar Medium
    • Study of the material between the stars and radiative processes in space, including both observational and theoretical perspectives on heating and cooling mechanisms, physics of interstellar dust, chemistry of interstellar molecules, magnetic fields, emission nebulae, hydrodynamics and shock waves, supernova remnants, star-forming regions, the multiphase picture of the interstellar medium.

    • Natural sciences and engineering.
    • 1 credit.
    • Cohen.
  • ASTR 180. Honors Thesis
    • (Cross-listed as PHYS 180)

    • 1 or 2 credits.
    • Staff.
  • PHYS 004. General Physics II
    • Topics include wave phenomena, geometrical and physical optics, electricity and magnetism, and direct and alternating current circuits. Possible additional topics may be added.

    • Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
    • Lab required.
    • 1 credit.
    • Hyde.
  • PHYS 004L. General Physics II: Electricity, Magnetism, and Optics with Biochemical and Biomedical Applications
    • PHYS 004L will cover the same topics as PHYS 004 but will emphasize biological, biochemical, and medical applications of those topics. The course will meet medical school requirements (in conjunction with PHYS 003 or PHYS 003L) and will include a weekly laboratory. Students who wish to take PHYS 004L before PHYS 003 or PHYS 003L must have some high school physics background and obtain permission from the instructor.

    • Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
    • 1 credit.
    • Geller.
  • PHYS 006. Foundations of Contemporary Physics.
    • Special relativity and the statistical basis of thermodynamics were two of the key discoveries early in the 20th century that launched the development of contemporary physics. Half of this course covers the counterintuitive consequences of special relativity for our understanding of space and time. Half of the course introduces thermodynamics, both macroscopic thermodynamics and introductory statistical mechanics; topics include energy, heat, work, entropy, temperature (the First, Second and "Third" Laws of Thermodynamics), heat capacity, ideal gases, paramagnetism, phase transitions, and the chemical potential. Physics 6 is the usual second course in the sequence for majoring or minoring in astronomy, astrophysics, or physics. It is also suitable for non-majors with appropriate mathematical and problem-solving preparation from a previous quantitative NSE course (physics, engineering, or chemistry).

    • 1 credit.
    • Smith, T.
  • PHYS 008. Electricity, Magnetism, and Waves
    • A sophisticated introductory treatment of wave and electric and magnetic phenomena, such as oscillatory motion, forced vibrations, coupled oscillators, Fourier analysis of progressive waves, boundary effects and interference, the electrostatic field and potential, electrical work and energy, D.C. and A.C. circuits, the relativistic basis of magnetism, Maxwell's equations, and geometrical optics. 

    • Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
    • Includes one laboratory weekly.
    • 1 credit.
    • Smith, T.
  • PHYS 064. Techniques for Scientific Computation
    • An introduction to techniques in scientific computing used to visualize and analyze data such as plotting, curve fitting, solving equations, image analysis, monte carlo and numerical integration.  Students will write programs in Python using commonly available scientific libraries.
      This is a 0.5-credit course with priority given to majors in physics, astrophysics, or astronomy. There are no prerequisites although for most students it will build on the lab experience in Physics 7. It is open to first-year students, though expected to be typically taken concurrently with Physics 8 by second-year majors.
    • This course is not graded. It is a credit/no credit course.

    • 0.5 credit.
    • Jacobs and Raithel.
  • PHYS 081. Advanced Laboratory I
    • This is the first of a two-semester sequence designed to fulfill the physics major advanced laboratory requirement. Students will perform projects in digital electronics. They will also perform experiments chosen from among the areas of thermal and statistical physics, solid state, atomic, plasma, nuclear, biophysics, condensed matter physics, and advanced optics.

    • Writing course.
    • 0.5 credit.
    • Bester.
  • PHYS 082. Advanced Laboratory II
    • This is the second of a two-semester sequence designed to fulfill the physics major advanced laboratory requirement. Students will perform projects in digital electronics. They will also perform experiments chosen from among the areas of thermal and statistical physics, solid state, atomic, plasma, nuclear, biophysics, condensed matter physics, and advanced optics. When both PHYS 081 and PHYS 082 are taken, students will receive credit for having completed a writing (W) course.

    • When both PHYS 081 and PHYS 082 are taken, students will receive credit for having completed a writing (W) course.

    • Writing course.
    • 0.5 credit.
    • Bester.
  • PHYS 083. Advanced Laboratory I and II
    • This course is designed to fulfill the physics major advanced laboratory requirement for students who have already had sufficient experience with digital electronics (ENGR 072 or the equivalent). Students will perform experiments chosen from among the areas of thermal and statistical physics, solid state, atomic, plasma, nuclear, biophysics, condensed matter physics, and advanced optics.

    • Writing course.
    • 0.5 credit.
    • Bester.
  • PHYS 093. Directed Reading
    • This course provides an opportunity for an individual student to do special study, with either theoretical or experimental emphasis, in fields not covered by the regular courses and seminars. The student will present oral and written reports to the instructor.

    • This course is not graded. It is a credit/no-credit course.

    • 0.5, 1, or 2 credits.
    • Staff.
  • PHYS 094. Research Project
    • Initiative for a research project may come from the student, or the work may involve collaboration with ongoing faculty research. The student will present a written and an oral report to the department.

    • This course is not graded. It is a credit/no-credit course.

    • 0.5, 1, or 2 credits.
    • Staff.
  • PHYS 111. Analytical Dynamics
    • Intermediate classical mechanics. Motion of a particle in one, two, and three dimensions; Kepler's laws and planetary motion; phase space; oscillatory motion; Lagrange equations and variational principles; systems of particles; collisions and cross sections; motion of a rigid body; Euler's equations; rotating frames of reference; small oscillations; normal modes; and wave phenomena. Offered every Fall.

    • Natural sciences and engineering.
    • 1 credit.
    • Bester.
  • PHYS 114. Statistical Physics
    • The statistical behavior of classical and quantum systems; temperature and entropy; equations of state; engines and refrigerators; statistical basis of thermodynamics; microcanonical, canonical, and grand canonical distributions; phase transitions; statistics of bosons and fermions; black body radiation; electronic and thermal properties of quantum liquids and solids. Offered every Spring.

    • Natural sciences and engineering.
    • 1 credit.
    • Raithel.
  • PHYS 115. Advanced Quantum Mechanics
    • A modern treatment of matrix optics, interference, polarization, diffraction, Fourier optics, coherence, Gaussian beams, resonant cavities, optical instruments. The quantization of the electromagnectic field, single mode coherent and quadrature squeezed states. The interaction of light with atoms using second quantization and dressed states. Spontaneous emission.

    • Natural sciences and engineering.
    • 1 credit.
    • Brown.
  • PHYS 139. Biophysics
    • CHEM 114 

    • This seminar will provide an introduction to the study of biological systems using the tools of the physical sciences. Topics will include the role of statistical phenomena in life; feedback and control processes in biological networks; biological electricity; fluid dynamics as they pertain to organisms (both unicellular and multicellular), and topics chosen from the literature by the members of the seminar. 

    • Natural sciences and engineering.
    • 1 credit.
    • Crouch.
  • PHYS 180. Honors Thesis
    • Theoretical or experiment work culminating in a written honors thesis. Also includes an oral presentation to the department. This course must be completed by the end of, and is normally taken in, the fall semester of the student's final year.

    • This course is not graded. It is a credit/no-credit course.

    • 1 credit.
    • Staff.