PH 101: General Physics I
PH 102: General Physics II
PH 105: General Physics w/Calculus I
PH 106: General Physics w/Calculus II
PH 111: Introductory Physics Seminar
PH 115: Descriptive Physics
PH 125: Honors General Physics w/Calculus I
PH 126: Honors General Physics w/Calculus II
PH 253: Intro to Modern Physics
PH 255: Modern Physics Laboratory
PH 301: Mechanics
PH 302: Intermediate Mechanics
PH 331: Electricity and Magnetism I
PH 332: Electricity and Magnetism II
PH 333: Optics
PH 334: Analog Electronics
PH 354: Intermediate Modern Physics
PH 411: Biophysics (from UAB)
PH 412: Physics Pedagogy
PH 413: High School Physics Labs I
PH 414: High School Physics Labs II
PH 415: High School Physics Labs III
PH 434: Digital Electronics
PH 441: Quantum Structure of Matter I
PH 442: Quantum Structure of Matter II
PH 451: Atomic and Molecular Physics
PH 461: Nuclear and Particle Physics
PH 471: Thermal Physics
PH 481: Solid State Physics
PH 488: Nanophysics
PH 490: Honors Seminar in Physics
PH 491: Advanced Laboratory
PH 493: Introduction to Research
PH 495: Independent Study I
PH 495: Nanophysics (from UAB)
PH 496: Independent Study II

PH 101: General Physics I (4 hours)

Next offered: every semester, including summer

Description and course material: How do we describe the motion of objects around us, and the forces that act on them? How do cars stay on those steep turns at Talladega? Why do the planets have the orbits they do? Did you know that a shell casing hits the ground at the same time the bullet does? These sorts of questions and more are the domain of classical mechanics, which describes everything from projectiles to machinery to spacecraft, stars, and planets amazingly well. Classical mechanics also provides a basis for the study of most “modern” subjects in physics, including quantum mechanics, general relativity, astrophysics, and elementary particle physics to name a few.

In PH101, we aim first to provide you with the fundamental physics background to understand the world in motion around you, and then use that background to delve into momentum, energy, oscillations, thermal processes, fluid mechanics, and more.

PH 101 is our first non-calculus introduction to physics, and is aimed at students who desire (or require) a good working physics background, but will not necessarily continue into upper-level physics courses. Laboratory experiments will augment lecture- and discussion-based learning, and introduce students to key experimental techniques and analysis. The course will stress a conceptual (but less mathematically rigorous) understanding of everyday phenomena in terms of their basic underlying physical principles. Broadly, the course material can be grouped into the following areas:

  • Distance, velocity, & acceleration
  • Newton’s laws of motion
  • Energy
  • Momentum & collisions
  • Rotational motion and gravity
  • Solids and fluids
  • Thermal physics
  • Sound and oscillations

Prerequisites: Formally, Math 113. Informally: a good grasp of algebra, geometry, and just a little bit of trigonometry are essential. It is also expected that you are familiar with, for example, quadratic equations, systems of linear equations, powers, and logarithms. Knowledge of calculus is not required to follow this class (though it will not hurt either).

Core curriculum: This course carries an N designation.

Why you should take PH 101: If you are curious about physics — even if you don’t think it is relevant to your career path (we think it probably is!) — this might be your course. The math involved is less rigorous than PH105 while covering the same range of topics. If you aren’t seeking to continue to higher level physics courses but want a good overview of the subject, PH101 is a good option.

Additionally, PH 101 covers a great deal of material which is directly relevant for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), and has been historically popular for pre-health/medical majors. In light of this, a special emphasis is made to both help students prepare for the MCAT and highlight the importance of the course material in the medical and health industries — for example, how physics is used in medical technologies (such as ultrasound, thermometry) and how it is used to explain chemical and biological processes.

Why you should not take PH101 over PH105 or PH125: While the mathematics required for PH101 is significantly less than PH105, there are other considerations. If you wish to continue on to higher level physics classes, PH105 is generally a requirement. Exceptions can be made, but you are likely to have a far easier time with a PH105 background. And, of course, you should look at what your major and track require!

If you are a physics major, you should really try the Honors version of mechanics, PH125.

You should also consider the class environment. PH101 is traditionally popular among (e.g., chemistry and biology majors in pre-health/medical tracks), while PH105 is traditionally more popular among engineering and physics majors. Besides considering the specific requirements for your major and ultimate career, this may be worth keeping in mind.

What to take next: The next logical course in the sequence is PH102, offered every semester.

Example material: Dr. Harrell has been preparing notes for PH101, freely available for download.

PH 102: General Physics II (4 hours)

Next offered: every semester, including summer

Description and course material: What makes the sky blue, or the colors in a rainbow? How do electronics really work? How about the hard disk in your computer or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine? Maybe the touch screen on your iPhone®? In PH102, we aim to present the fundamental physics that answers these questions — among many others. PH102 also provides an introduction to the quantum and atomic phenomena that form the basis for chemical and biological interactions, as well as a segue into many of the most recent developments in physics.

PH 102 continues our non-calculus introduction to physics and includes electricity and magnetism, optics, and modern physics (i.e., relativity, quantum, atomic, and nuclear physics). Laboratory experiments will augment lecture- and discussion-based learning, and introduce students to key experimental techniques and analysis. The course will stress a conceptual (but less mathematically rigorous) understanding of everyday phenomena and recent technologies in terms of their basic underlying physical principles. Broadly, the course material can be grouped into the following areas:

  • Relativity
  • Electric forces, energy, and capacitance
  • Current and resistance; dc circuits
  • Magnetism
  • Electromagnetic induction and ac circuits
  • Electromagnetic waves & the nature of light
  • Reflection and Refraction
  • Mirrors and Lenses; Wave optics
  • Quantum and Atomic physics
  • Nuclear physics

Prerequisites: Formally, PH101 and Math 113. Informally: a good grasp of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry is essential. It is also expected that you are familiar with, for example, quadratic equations, systems of linear equations, powers, and logarithms. Knowledge of calculus is not required to follow this class (though it will not hurt either).

Core curriculum: This course carries an N designation.

Why you should take PH102: If you are curious about physics — even if you don’t think it is relevant to your career path (we think it probably is!) — this might be your course. The mathematics involved is less rigorous than PH106, and a broader range of topics are introduced, providing a fairly thorough survey of introductory electricity, magnetism, optics, and quantum and atomic physics. If you aren’t seeking to continue to higher level physics courses but want a good overview of the subject, PH102 is a good option.

Additionally, PH 102 covers a great deal of material which is directly relevant for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), and has been historically popular for pre-health/medical majors. In light of this, a special emphasis is made to both help students prepare for the MCAT and highlight the importance of the course material in the medical and health industries — for example, how physics is used in medical imaging technologies (such as MRI/CAT/PET scans).

Why you should not take PH102 over PH106 or PH126: While the mathematics required for PH102 is significantly less than PH106, there are other considerations. PH102 covers a great deal more material, and may be regarded as “faster paced” in a sense. If you choose PH102 over PH106 because the math is easier, you might be in for a surprise! Further, if you wish to continue on to higher-level physics classes, PH106 is generally a requirement. Exceptions can be made, but are likely to have a far easier time with a PH106 background. And, of course, you should look at what your major and track require!

If you are a physics major, you should really try the Honors version of Physics II, PH126.

Finally, you should consider the class environment. PH102 is traditionally popular among (e.g., chemistry and biology majors in pre-health/medical tracks), while PH106 is traditionally more popular among engineering and physics majors. Besides considering the specific requirements for your major and ultimate career, this may be worth keeping in mind.

What to take next: If you still hunger for more physics, and have Math 126 out of way, Introduction to Modern Physics (PH 253) might be a good choice.

Example material: Dr. LeClair has been preparing an extensive set of notes for PH 102, freely available for download (PDF). Excepting the material on quantum, atomic, and nuclear physics, most of the PH102 topics are represented. You can find the latest incarnation of the notes at the link below to get an idea of what PH102 is all about.

PH 105: General Physics with Calculus I (4 hours)

Next offered: every semester, including summer

Description and course material: How do we describe the motion of objects around us, and the forces that act on them? How do cars stay on those steep turns at Talladega? Why do the planets have the orbits they do? Did you know that a shell casing hits the ground at the same time the bullet does? These sorts of questions and more are the domain of classical mechanics, which describes everything from projectiles to machinery to spacecraft, stars, and planets amazingly well. Classical mechanics also provides a basis for the study of most “modern” subjects in physics, including quantum mechanics, general relativity, astrophysics, and elementary particle physics to name a few.

In PH105, we aim first to provide you with the fundamental physics background to understand the world in motion around you, and then use that background to delve into momentum, energy, oscillations, thermal processes, fluid mechanics, and more. Compared to PH 101, the mathematical sophistication will be much greater.

PH 105 is our first calculus-based introduction to physics and is aimed at students who desire (or require) a detailed working physics background, particularly calculations and problem-solving. Laboratory experiments will augment lecture- and discussion-based learning, and introduce students to key experimental techniques and analysis. The course will stress a conceptual and mathematical understanding of everyday phenomena in terms of their basic underlying physical principles. Broadly, the course material can be grouped into the following areas:

  • Distance, velocity, & acceleration
  • Newton’s laws of motion
  • Energy
  • Momentum & collisions
  • Rotational motion and gravity
  • Solids and fluids
  • Thermal physics
  • Sound and oscillations

Prerequisites: Formally, Math 125. Informally: a good grasp of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, vectors, differential calculus, and a bit of integral calculus are crucial. In particular, differential calculus will be used on a daily basis, and familiarity with it will be assumed. Mathematics is the language that physicists use to describe the world around them. Fluency is a requirement.

Core curriculum: This course carries an N designation.

Why you should take PH 105: If you are thinking seriously about physics or a related major, this is probably your course. The mathematics involved is more rigorous than PH101, while covering the same range of topics. If you are seeking to continue to higher level physics courses, PH105 is your best option. Except in rare cases, PH105 is a requirement for higher-level physics courses, and having the calculus-based physics sequence (PH105-PH106) under your belt will make your time in the upper-level courses much easier.

If you are, e.g., an engineering major, you may prefer the calculus-based course even if it is not required. The level of problems solved in PH105 is much closer to what you will encounter in upper-level engineering courses, and the calculus-based sequence will provide you with a much firmer foundation on which to build your degree.

Why you should not take PH 105 over PH 101 or PH 125: The mathematics required for PH101 are significantly less than for PH105. If you feel your math background is not quite ‘up to it,’ then PH101 may be for you. However, there are other considerations. If you wish to continue on to higher-level physics classes, PH105 is generally a requirement. Exceptions can be made, but you are likely to have a far easier time with a PH105 background. And, of course, you should look at what your major and track require!

Additionally, PH 101 covers a great deal of material which is directly relevant for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), and has been historically popular for pre-health/medical majors. In light of this, a special emphasis is made to both help students prepare for the MCAT and highlight the importance of the course material in the medical and health industries — for example, how physics is used in medical technologies (such as ultrasound, thermometry) and how it is used to explain chemical and biological processes. If you are considering a medical career (or otherwise need to take the MCAT), the PH101-PH102 sequence may be a better fit.

If you are a physics major, you should really try the Honors version of mechanics, PH 125.

You should also consider the class environment. PH101 is traditionally popular among (e.g., chemistry and biology majors in pre-health/medical tracks), while PH105 is traditionally more popular among engineering and physics majors. Besides considering the specific requirements for your major and ultimate career, this may be worth keeping in mind.

What to take next: The next logical course in the sequence is General Physics with Calculus II (PH 106). If you’re feeling hardcore, you might try Honors Physics II (PH126).

PH 106: General Physics with Calculus II (4 hours)

Next offered: every semester, including summer

Description and course material: What makes the sky blue, or the colors in a rainbow? How do electronics really work? How about the hard disk in your computer or a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine? Maybe the touch screen on your iPhone®? In PH 106, we aim to present the fundamental physics that answers these questions – among many others.

PH 106 continues our calculus-based introduction to physics and is aimed at students who desire (or require) a detailed working physics background, particularly calculations and problem-solving. Laboratory experiments will augment lecture- and discussion-based learning, and introduce students to key experimental techniques and analysis. The course will stress a conceptual and mathematical understanding of everyday phenomena and recent technologies in terms of their basic underlying physical principles. Broadly, the course material can be grouped into the following areas:

  • Electric forces, energy, and capacitance
  • Current and resistance; dc circuits
  • Magnetism
  • Electromagnetic induction and ac circuits
  • Electromagnetic waves & the nature of light
  • Reflection and Refraction
  • Mirrors and Lenses
  • Wave optics

Prerequisites: Formally, PH 105 (or PH 125) and Math 126. Informally: a good grasp of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, vectors, differential calculus, and integral calculus are crucial. In particular, differential and integral calculus will be used on a daily basis, and familiarity will be assumed. Mathematics is the language that physicists use to describe the world around them. Fluency is a requirement. Moreso than PH 105, a good working knowledge of different coordinate systems (e.g., polar and cylindrical) and vector manipulations will be absolutely essential.

Core curriculum: This course carries an N designation.

Why you should take PH106: If you are thinking seriously about physics or a related major, this is probably your course. Even if that isn’t the case, if you are seeking to continue to higher level physics courses, PH 106 is your best option. Except in rare cases, PH 106 is a requirement for higher-level physics courses, and having the calculus-based physics sequence (PH105-PH106) under your belt will make your time in the upper-level courses much easier.

The mathematics involved is more rigorous than PH102, and the material considerably more involved. For this reason, Modern Physics (i.e., relativity, quantum and atomic physics) is not part of PH 106 but taken up in PH 253. If your major eventually requires PH 253, then PH 106 is your course. Not only is PH 106 a prerequisite, you may have a hard time in PH 253 without PH 106!

If you are, e.g., an engineering major, you may prefer the calculus-based course even if it (or subsequent physics courses) is not required. The level of problems solved in PH106 is much closer to what you will encounter in upper-level engineering courses (e.g., ECE), and the calculus-based sequence will provide you with a much firmer foundation on which to build your degree.

Why you should not take PH106 over PH102 or PH126: The mathematics required for PH 106 are significantly less than for PH 102. If you feel your math background is not quite ‘up to it,’ then PH 102 may be for you. However, there are other considerations. If you wish to continue on to higher-level physics classes, PH 106 is generally a requirement. Exceptions can be made, but you are likely to have a far easier time with a PH 106 background. And, of course, you should look at what your major and track require!

Additionally, PH 102 covers a great deal of material which is directly relevant for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), and has been historically popular for pre-health/medical majors. In light of this, a special emphasis is made to both help students prepare for the MCAT and highlight the importance of the course material in the medical and health industries — for example, how physics is used in medical technologies (such as ultrasound, thermometry) and how it is used to explain chemical and biological processes. If you are considering a medical career (or otherwise need to take the MCAT), the PH101-PH102 sequence may be a better fit.

If you are a physics major, you should really try the Honors version of mechanics, PH 125.

Finally, you should consider the class environment — PH 102 is traditionally popular among (e.g., chemistry and biology majors in pre-health/medical tracks), while PH 106 is traditionally more popular among engineering and physics majors. Besides considering the specific requirements for your major and ultimate career, this may be worth keeping in mind.

What to take next: The next logical course is probably Introduction to Modern Physics (PH 253), after this course you have all of the prerequisites finished, and it is required for physics (and some engineering) majors. If you have Math 238 completed, you can also begin the intermediate course sequence, for example, Mechanics (PH 301) or Electricity and Magnetism I (PH 331).

PH 111: Introductory Physics Seminar (1 hour; Pass/Fail)

Next offered: normally every Fall semester

Description and course materials: Lecture series on current topics in physics. Open to all undergraduates, aimed at students just starting their university education who want a broad introduction to exciting developments in modern physics at an introductory level. Faculty will present introductions to recent developments in physics, including student-suggested topics. The course will stress a conceptual understanding of everything from fundamental phenomena to recent technologies in terms of their basic underlying physical principles. Students present short research seminars on a topic of their choice once per semester.

Sample seminar topics:

  • The Big Bang
  • Energy
  • Galaxy evolution
  • Quantum physics in the household
  • Black holes
  • Supersymmetry
  • Information storage physics
  • Particle astrophysics

PH 115: Descriptive Physics for Non-Science Majors (4 hours)

Next offered: normally every Interim

Description and course materials: Designed for non-science majors who want an introductory course with no math prerequisites. Three lecture hours and one laboratory period. Demonstration lectures on the chief topics of classical and modern physics. Credit earned in this course may not be counted toward fulfillment of the requirements for the major or minor in physics. Credit will not be granted for both PH 101 and PH 115.

PH 125: Honors General Physics with Calculus I (4 hours)

Next offered: normally every Spring semester

Description and course material: Let’s face it: if you’re looking at the honors course description, you probably already know a little bit about physics. You probably even took some physics already. In PH125, we take off the kid gloves, and get right down to Serious Physics. The topics will be parallel to those in PH105, but significantly more advanced mathematically. Our derivations and formalisms will be more general, our problems more involved (and more realistic!), and our discussions more lively. We will use elementary calculus freely; concurrent registration in a math subject more advanced than Math 125 is not a bad idea.

In PH 125, we aim to provide you with the fundamental physics background to understand the world in motion around you, and then use that background to delve into momentum, energy, oscillations, thermal processes, fluid mechanics, and more. Compared to PH105, the mathematical sophistication will be much greater – we aim for a deeper and more theoretical understanding of mechanics that will provide a firmer foundation for later courses in physics.

This is the course for physics majors, honors students, and those of you that enjoy a challenge. PH 125 is our first honors calculus-based introduction to physics and is aimed at students who really, really want to know how things work. Laboratory experiments will augment lecture- and discussion-based learning, and introduce students to key experimental techniques and analysis. The course will stress a conceptual and mathematically rigorous understanding of everyday phenomena in terms of their basic underlying physical principles. Broadly, the course material can be grouped into the following areas:

  • Distance, velocity, & acceleration
  • Newton’s laws of motion
  • Energy
  • Momentum & collisions
  • Rotational motion and gravity
  • Solids and fluids
  • Thermal physics
  • Sound and oscillations

Prerequisites: Formally, Math 125 and membership in the university honors program or permission of the department. Informally: you need to know your calculus, or PH125 will eat you alive … the math prerequisite is a good working knowledge of differential and differential calculus, and we mean it.

Concurrent registration in a math subject more advanced than Math 125 (e.g., Math 126) is not a bad idea, though you will be fine without. It is more important that you know your Math 125 very well.

Core curriculum: This course carries an N designation.

Why you should take PH 125: You should think of PH 125 as “Physics I for the hardcore.” We will treat the same topics as PH 105, but at a much greater level of detail. We will never present results without proof, nor will we ever tell you that a derivation requires “a more advanced treatment.” This is the advanced treatment! However: this course will not be difficult just for the sake of being difficult. There will be no busy work, and it will not be harder just because there is more work. It will be harder because we are doing things the Right Way.

If you are a physics major, or a potential physics major, this is your course.

Other advantages of the class are that it is typically small, features lively discussions among bright students, and considers more sophisticated topics such as Lagrangian and Hamiltonian approaches, relativity, and current state-of-the-art research going on here at UA, just for the fun of it (it’s not on the test). For the rest, we will cover the same material as PH 105, but typically in more depth and at a more advanced level. So, if you enjoy a challenge, and want something a little different, PH 125 is for you!

If you are thinking seriously about physics or a related major and have a strong math background, this is your course. The mathematics involved are more rigorous than PH 105 while covering the same range of topics. Having the honors sequence (PH125-PH126) under your belt will make your time in the upper-level courses much, much easier.

Why you should not take PH125 over PH105: The mathematics required for PH105 are significantly less than for PH125. If you feel your math background is not quite ‘up to it,’ then PH105 may be for you.

You should also not take PH125 merely to fulfill an honors requirement. It will be hard, and you will be surrounded by extremely motivated and bright students that really, really like physics. This might be painful if you are only looking for a grade.

What to take next: If you survived PH125, it would behoove you to take PH126.

Example material: PH 125 Course Blog

PH 126: Honors General Physics with Calculus II (4 hours)

Next offered: normally every Fall semester

Description and course material: Let’s face it: if you’re looking at the honors course description, you probably already know a little bit about physics. You probably even took some physics already. In PH 126, we take off the kid gloves and get right down to serious physics. The topics will be parallel to those in PH 106, but significantly more advanced mathematically. Our derivations and formalisms will be more general, our problems more involved (and more realistic!), and our discussions more lively. We will use elementary calculus freely; concurrent registration in a math subject more advanced than Math 126 is not a bad idea.

In PH126, we aim to provide you with a deep understanding of introductory electricity and magnetism, and optics at a considerably higher (and more theoretical) level than PH 106. Unlike PH 106, in PH 126 we will also touch on quantum and atomic phenomena that form the basis for chemical and biological interactions, providing a segue into many of the most recent developments in physics. Compared to PH106, the mathematical sophistication will be much greater – you will have a deeper and more theoretical understanding that will provide a firmer foundation for later courses in physics.

This is the course for physics majors, honors students, and those of you that enjoy a challenge. PH 126 is our second honors calculus-based introduction to physics and is aimed at students who really, really want to know how things work. Laboratory experiments will augment lecture- and discussion-based learning, and introduce students to key experimental techniques and analysis. The course will stress a conceptual and mathematically rigorous understanding of everyday phenomena in terms of their basic underlying physical principles. Broadly, the course material can be grouped into the following areas:

  • Electric forces, energy, and capacitance
  • Current and resistance; dc circuits
  • Magnetism
  • Electromagnetic induction and ac circuits
  • Electromagnetic waves & the nature of light
  • Reflection and Refraction
  • Mirrors and Lenses
  • Wave optics

Prerequisites: Formally, PH105 or PH125, Math 126, and membership in the university honors program or permission of the department. Informally: you need to know your calculus or PH126 will eat you alive. The math prerequisite is a good working knowledge of differential and differential calculus, the physics requirement is a good working knowledge of mechanics, and we mean it.

Concurrent registration in a math subject more advanced than Math 126 (e.g., Math 227 or 238) is not a bad idea, though you will be fine without. It is more important that you know your Math 125 and 126 very well.

Core curriculum: This course carries an N designation.

Why should you take PH 126: You should think of PH126 as “Physics II for the hardcore.” We will treat the same topics as PH106, but at a much greater level of detail. We will never present results without proof, nor will we ever tell you that a derivation requires “a more advanced treatment.” This is the advanced treatment! However: this course will not be difficult just for the sake of being difficult. There will be no busy work, and it will not be harder just because there is more work. It will be harder because we are doing things the right way.

If you are a physics major, or a potential physics major, this is your course.

Other advantages of the class are that it is typically small, features lively discussions among bright students, and considers more advanced topics, such as quantum and atomic physics, elementary particle physics, and current state-of-the-art research going on here at UA, just for the fun of it (it’s not on the test). For the rest, we will cover the same material as PH 106, but typically in more depth and at a more advanced level. So, if you enjoy a challenge, and want something a little different, PH 126 is for you!

If you are thinking seriously about physics or a related major and have a strong math background, this is your course. The mathematics involved are more rigorous than PH106 while covering the same range of topics. Having the honors sequence (PH125-PH126) under your belt will make your time in the upper-level courses much, much easier.

When you should not take PH126 over PH106 or PH102: The mathematics required for PH106 (or PH102) are significantly less than for PH126. If you feel your math background is not quite ‘up to it,’ then PH106 may be better for you. You should also not take PH126 merely to fulfill an honors requirement. It will be hard, and you will be surrounded by extremely motivated and bright students that really, really like physics. This might be painful if you are only looking for a grade.

What to take next: The next logical course is probably PH253 “Introduction to Modern Physics,” after this course you have all of the prerequisites finished, and it is required for physics (and some engineering) majors. If you have Math 238 completed, you can also begin the intermediate course sequence, for example, Mechanics (PH301) or Electricity and Magnetism I (PH 331). Really, at this point, you are ready to take on anything.

Example material: PH 126 course blog

PH 253: Introduction to Modern Physics (3 hours)

Next offered: every semester

Description and course materials: PH 253 is a study of topics in modern physics, including special relativity, quantum physics, atomic and nuclear structure, and solid state physics. Modern Physics refers to the developments in physics beginning with the revolutionary work of Einstein, Planck, Bohr, and others. The basic principles of special relativity and quantum mechanics will be taught with illustrations drawn from reaction kinematics in high energy collisions, particle accelerators, and medical imaging devices, atomic and molecular properties, and the electrical and thermal characteristics of liquids and solids. The course will conclude with a survey of what is currently known about nuclei and elementary particles and their role in cosmology and stellar evolution.

Broadly, the course material covers the following topics:

  • Relativity
  • Black body radiation & Planck’s hypothesis
  • Photons
  • Wave mechanics & matter waves
  • Schrödinger’s equation
  • Atomic structure
  • Quantum model of the atom
  • Spin, Fermi-Dirac statistics
  • Atomic & Molecular spectroscopy
  • Nuclear structure
  • Nuclear radiation
  • Radioactivity
  • Nuclear reactions
  • Conduction in solids
  • Magnetic resonance

Example material: Modern Physics @ UA

Prerequisites: MATH 126 (Calculus II) & either PH 102 (General Physics II) or PH 106 (General Physics w/Calculus II)

Core Curriculum: This course carries an N designation.

PH 255: Modern Physics Laboratory (1 hour)

Next offered: every semester

Description and course materials: The primary purpose of PH 255 is to become acquainted firsthand with some of the phenomena that provided the empirical impetus for quantum mechanics and special relativity. These include the speed of light, the photoelectric effect, electron diffraction, atomic emission spectra, and nuclear decay and detection. A secondary purpose is to develop good experimental techniques and improve skills in data analysis and interpretation.

In-class work entails performing (in teams) a series of experiments and listening to short lectures on experimental technique and on data analysis and interpretation. Out-of-class work mainly consists of writing reports on the experiments which have been completed. The course grade is based on the average lab report score.

Corequisites: PH 253 (Introduction to Modern Physics)

Core curriculum: This course carries an N designation.

Example material: Modern Physics @ UA

PH 301: Mechanics (3 hours)

Next offered: normally every Fall semester

Description and course materials: This course is a more rigorous and sophisticated treatment of the classical mechanics topics covered in PH105. The list of topics covered includes, but is not limited to:

  • Oscillations Various aspects of harmonic motion are covered including, energy considerations, damped harmonic motion, forced harmonic motion, nonlinear oscillators and nonsinusoidal driving forces.
    Noninertial Reference Frames This topic includes accelerated coordinate systems and inertial forces, rotating coordinate systems, dynamics of a particle in a rotating coordinate system, effects of the Earth’s rotation and the Foucault pendulum.
  • Gravitational and Central Forces The study of gravitational and central forces includes the gravitational force between a particle and a uniform sphere, Kepler’s laws, the potential energy in a gravitational field and a general central field, and motion in an inverse square repulsive field.
  • Dynamics of Systems of Particles The content of this topic is linear momentum, angular momentum, angular kinetic energy, collisions and rocket motion.
  • Lagrangian Mechanics This important method of analyzing mechanical systems entails the development of Hamilton’s variational method, generalized coordinates, Lagrange’s equations of motion and Hamilton’s equations.
    Classical mechanics provides a basis for the study of most modern subjects in physics including quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, general relativity, astrophysics and elementary particle physics to name a few.

This course and its graduate level extension provide students of physics and astronomy with the necessary tools to understand and utilize the concepts of modern physics.

Corequisite: MATH 238 (Applied Differential Equations I)

Course content: Weekly homework, three hour-exams, one final exam.

PH 302: Intermediate Mechanics (3 hours)

Next offered: every Spring semester

Description and course materials: This course is a more rigorous and sophisticated treatment of the classical mechanics topics covered in PH105, taught at an intermediate level. This course is designed for students planning graduate study in physics or astronomy. The list of topics covered includes, but is not limited to:

  • Oscillations: Various aspects of harmonic motion are covered including, energy considerations, damped harmonic motion, forced harmonic motion, nonlinear oscillators and nonsinusoidal driving forces.
  • Noninertial reference frames: This topic includes accelerated coordinate systems and inertial forces, rotating coordinate systems, dynamics of a particle in a rotating coordinate system, effects of the Earth’s rotation and the Foucault pendulum.
  • Gravitational and central forces: The study of gravitational and central forces includes the gravitational force between a particle and a uniform sphere, Kepler’s laws, the potential energy in a gravitational field and a general central field, and motion in an inverse square repulsive field.
  • Dynamics of systems of particles: The content of this topic is linear momentum, angular momentum, angular kinetic energy, collisions and rocket motion.
  • Lagrangian mechanics: This important method of analyzing mechanical systems entails the development of Hamilton’s variational method, generalized coordinates, Lagrange’s equations of motion and Hamilton’s equations.
  • Classical mechanics provides a basis for the study of most modern subjects in physics including quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, general relativity, astrophysics and elementary particle physics to name a few. This course and its graduate level extension provide students of physics and astronomy with the necessary tools to understand and utilize the concepts of modern physics.

Prerequisite: PH 102 or PH 106 or PH 126

Corequisite: MATH 238 (Applied Differential Equations I)

Course content: Weekly homework, three hour-exams, one final exam.

PH 331: Electricity and Magnetism I (3 hours)

Next offered: normally every Fall semester

Description and course materials: This is the first of an intermediate level two semester course in electricity and magnetism. The course uses Griffiths’ popular textbook “Introduction to Electrodynamics” The list of topics covered includes, but is not limited to:

  • Vector analysis: Introduction to vector calculus including definitions of gradient, divergence, and curl with emphasis on the physical meaning of these operations and applications to electricity and magnetism.
    Electrostatics: Including Coulomb’s law, Gauss’ law, electrostatic potentials, and applications to extended charge distributions and charged conductors in equilibrium.
  • Magnetostatics: The Lorentz force, the Biot-Savart law, Ampere’s law, the vector potential, and applications to computing magnetic fields for simple currents.
  • Applications to electric and magnetic fields in matter. Electric and magnetic fields are treated in the presence of dielectric and ferromagnetic materials.

The objective of this course is to provide the student with a working knowledge of electricity and magnetism and the background needed to study more advanced topics in physics.

Corequisite: MATH 238 (Applied Differential Equations I)

PH 332: Electricity and Magnetism II (3 hours)

Next offered: normally every Spring semester

Description and course materials: This is the second part of an intermediate level course in classical electricity and magnetism, which is one of the core courses of the undergraduate curriculum that provides an important bridge to many topics in modern physics.

The course uses Griffiths’ popular textbook Introduction to Electrodynamics and covers selected topics in magnetic fields in matter, electrodynamics, conservation laws, electromagnetic waves, potentials and fields, radiation, and electrodynamics and relativity. These topics treat time-dependent fields and the unification of Electric and Magnetic phenomena that was accomplished by Maxwell and applies this unified theory to the description of moving charges, electromagnetic waves, radiation phenomena, and the relativistic description of electricity and magnetism.

Students will be learning not only new physics related to electricity and magnetism itself, but also more general concepts and mathematical methods related to the description of fields. They will focus on solving problems concerning magnetic fields from electrical currents in wires, in atoms, and subatomic particles, including effects of electromagnetic induction and displacement current, leading to the unification of electric and magnetic fields via Maxwell’s Equations.

Prerequisites: PH 331 (Electricity and Magnetism I)

PH 333: Optics (4 hours)

Next offered: unknown

Prerequisites: PH 102 or PH 106 or PH 126; and MATH 126 or MATH 146. Three lecture hours and one laboratory period. Geometric optics, including matrix method, thin and thick lenses and mirrors, aberrations, stops, and optical instruments. Physical optics, including interference, diffraction, coherence, transfer functions, optical filtering, holography, and lasers.

PH 334: Analog Electronics (4 hours)

Next offered: unknown

Description and course materials: Three lecture hours and one laboratory period. Theory and practical applications of electronic devices and circuits. Specific topics include DC and AC circuits, semiconductor diode circuits, bipolar and field effect transistor circuits, simple amplifiers and oscillators, and an introduction to operational amplifiers.

Prerequisites: PH 102 or PH 106 or PH 126; and MATH 125 or MATH 145.

PH 354: Intermediate Modern Physics (4 hours)

Next offered: normally offered every other year.

Description and course materials: Continuation of PH 253. Applications of quantum mechanics, including lasers, semiconductors, particle physics, nanoscience, and other current topics.

Prerequisite: PH 253

PH 405: Physics for Science Teachers (3 hours)

Next offered: normally offered annually.

Selected topics in contemporary physics for high school and post-secondary science teachers.

Prerequisite: none

PH 411: Biophysics (3 hour)

Next offered: normally every year.

Description and course materials: Physics of biological systems: proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, supramolecular structures, and molecular motors; structure, function, energetics, thermodynamics, bionanotechnology. Emphasis on systems that are best understood in physical and molecular detail.

Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

PH 412: Physics Pedagogy (1 hour)

Next offered: normally offered every Fall semester.

This is a course in teaching methodologies for introductory physics, based on recent results from physics education research.

Prerequisite: none

PH 413: High School Physics Labs I (1 hour)

Next offered: normally offered every other year.

Description and course materials: This course is designed to provide training in Level 1 Alabama Science in Motion physics laboratory activities for pre-service high school physics teachers. In addition to hands-on training, students will observe a selected number of ASIM lab activities being performed in a local high school classroom. Whenever possible, training will occur jointly with on-going in-service workshops provided by the ASIM physics specialist.

Prerequisite: PH 102 or PH 106 or PH 126.

PH 414: High School Physics Labs II (1 hour)

Next offered: normally offered every other year.

Description and course materials: This course is designed to provide training in Level 2 Alabama Science in Motion physics laboratory activities for pre- service high school physics teachers. In addition to hands-on training, students will observe a selected number of ASIM lab activities being performed in a local high school classroom. Whenever possible, training will occur jointly with on-going in-service workshops provided by the ASIM physics specialist.

Prerequisite: PH 102 or PH 106 or PH 126.

PH 415: High School Physics Labs III (1 hour)

Next offered: normally offered every other year.

Description and course materials: This course is designed to provide classroom experience for students who have received training in Levels 1 and 2 Alabama Science in Motion physics laboratory activities for pre-service high school physics teachers. Students will assist with approximately six different ASIM lab activities being performed in a local high school classroom. They will meet with the classroom teacher before and after each class to discuss the goals and objectives and to assess the electiveness of the activity, and they will write a report on their observations.

Prerequisite: PH 102 or PH 106 or PH 126.

PH 434: Digital Electronics and Computer Interfacing (3 hours)

Next offered: normally every Spring semester

Description and course materials: Learn the basics of digital electronics & computer interfacing and apply it to real world problems using the graphical programming language LabVIEW:

  • Introduction to LabVIEW how does one “write” programs graphically?
  • Digital electronics – what are gates, latches, multiplexer, flip-flops, etc. and how do they really work?
  • Advanced LabVIEW programming – event-driven programming or how to get your programs to do what the user wants them to do at any time. How to “write” programs graphically and effectively.
  • Computer interfacing – the connection to the real world. How to get analog signals in and out of the computer and how to talk to other instruments using GPIB

The course will end with a final project during which you can demonstrate what you have learned. Maybe you know about a problem in the lab of your advisor or maybe you are interested in developing software that can be used for lab experiments in middle schools and high schools. The decision what project you want to work on and how you want to do it is up to you.

Prerequisites: PH 334 (Analog Electronics). However, since this course has not been offered recently, this is not necessary. Undergraduates should contact Dr. Mewes before signing up for this course.

PH 441: Quantum Structure of Matter I (3 hours)

Next offered: normally every Fall semester

Description and course materials: This course is a more rigorous and sophisticated treatment of the quantum mechanics topics covered in PH253. The list of topics covered includes, but is not limited to:

  • The wave function – The wave picture of microscopic matter is developed. This development begins with the Schrödinger equation and proceeds through the statistical interpretation, probability, normalization, momentum and the uncertainty principle.
  • The time-independent Schrödinger equation – This topic includes a discussion of stationary states, the infinite square well, the harmonic oscillator, the free particle, δ-function potentials, the finite square well, and the scattering matrix.
  • Formalism – This topic covers linear algebras, function spaces, the generalized statistical interpretation and the uncertainty principle.
  • Hermitian operators – Topics covered include Dirac notation, Hilbert spaces, and properties of Hermitian operators
  • Problems with two degress of freedom – Some simple applications of quantum mechanics to systems with two degrees of freedom are investigated. These applications include standing waves at the band edges, theory of conduction in solids, and the two-dimensional harmonic oscillator.

Quantum mechanics provides a basis for the study of most modern subjects in physics including quantum field theory, astrophysics, elementary particle physics and condensed matter to name a few. This course and its graduate level extension provide students of physics and astronomy with the necessary tools to understand and utilize the concepts of modern physics.

Prerequisites: PH 253, PH 301, and PH331; or permission of the instructor.

Math prerequisites: Some knowledge of matrix algebra and partial differential equations.

Course content: Weekly homework, two hour-exams, one final exam.

PH 442: Quantum Structure of Matter II (3 hours)

Next offered: normally every Spring semester

Description and course materials: Go deeper into the mysterious quantum world and learn about

  • inner workings of atoms, molecules and nuclei
  • strange quantum properties of angular momentum, spin, and statistics
  • approximation techniques which allow you to accurately compute many observable quantum effects
  • strange paradoxes resulting from trying to mix special relativity with quantum theory
  •  hypothetical quantum computer

Prerequisites: PH 441 (Quantum Structure of Matter I)

Math prerequisites: Some knowledge of matrix algebra and partial differential equations.

Core curriculum: This course carries a W designation.

PH 451: Atomic and Molecular Physics (3 hours)

Next offered: unknown

Description and course materials: Detailed study of the structure of simple atomic and molecular systems, perturbation theory, the hydrogen and helium atoms, the hydrogen molecular ion, the hydrogen molecule, and introduction to mathematical methods of molecular physics.

Prerequisites: PH 441

PH 461: Nuclear and Particle Physics (3 hours)

Next offered: normally offered every other year

Description and course materials: Stable nuclei, isotopes, nuclidic masses, alpha decay, phase space, gamma ray transitions, Yukawa forces, isotopic spin, scattering, resonance behavior, the quark model, heavy flavors, Higgs bosons, and the electroweak theory.

Prerequisites: PH 441

PH 471: Thermal Physics (3 hours)

Next offered: normally every Spring semester

Description and course materials: Introduction to thermal phenomena on a macroscopic and a statistical basis, and principles and laws governing them.

Prerequisites: MATH 227 (Calculus III)

PH 481: Solid State Physics (3 hours)

Description and course materials: Don’t just memorize the properties of materials — learn to predict them. Most properties of materials, like density, vary at most one order of magnitude (factor of 10) — so why is the conductivity of silver 20 orders of magnitude higher than that of glass? Do you want to go through your life using cell phones, computers, etc., clueless about why they work? This course covers electrical, magnetic, thermal, and mechanical properties of materials. Topics include crystal structure, electronic band structure and the free-electron approximation, ferromagnetism.

Prerequisites: PH 441 (Quantum Structure of Matter I )

Example material: Solid State Physics Course Page

PH 488: Nanophysics (3 hours)

Next offered: normally offered every year

Description and course materials: Nanoscale science and technology are based on the study and manipulation of phenomena at length scales approaching one billionth of a meter. Advances in this rapidly changing field are being made across multiple disciplines including physics, chemistry, biology, materials science, engineering, and medicine with emerging practical applications in areas as varied as energy conversion and storage, manufacturing, telecommunications, information processing, medical diagnostics, and drug delivery to mention just a few. The goal of this course is to provide upper level undergraduate and graduate students with a foundational perspective on some of the key scientific principles relevant to the behavior of matter at the nanoscale as well as a review of processes, materials, and systems that derive their properties from nanoscale phenomena.

Prerequisites: none

PH 490: Honors Seminar in Physics (1 hour)

Next offered: depending on demand

A seminar course on current topics in physics and astronomy.

Prerequisites: Participation in departmental honors program or permission of the instructor.

PH 491: Advanced Laboratory (3 hours)

Next offered: normally every Fall semester

Description and course materials: Perform the three basic types of physics experiments: microscopy, spectroscopy and diffraction. The experiments will be performed in the field of condensed matter physics on thin film samples made by the class. The basic principles learned can be applied to all physics experiments.

  • Develop skills to perform experiments in physics with advanced apparatus and to analyze the data from the experiments.
  • Find out how to contribute and disseminate new physics knowledge by preparing scientific presentations and papers about the results of experiments.
  • Gain experience in recognizing the relative importance of new results through the application of the scientific method.
  • Discover how collaboration leads to achieving goals.
  • Promote independent thinking through the process of performing research.

The class will work as groups fabricating samples and performing measurements. Analysis and presentation of results will be left up to the individual. Each student will prepare a journal-ready paper describing the results of the experiments. These papers will be reviewed at mid-term and further refined during the remainder of the semester. During finals week, each student will give a 10-minute talk using methods and materials developed in class.

Prerequisites: PH 255 or a similar course in experimental methods.

Core curriculum: This course carries a W designation.

PH 493: Introduction to Research (not to exceed 3 hours)

Next offered: depending on demand

Description and course materials: Credit is by arrangement, but no graduate credit will be awarded for PH 493. Student performs research under supervision of a faculty member.

Prerequisites: Permission of supervising faculty member and approval of the department chairperson.

PH 495: Independent Study I (not to exceed 3 hours)

Next offered: depending on demand

Prerequisites: Permission of supervising faculty member and approval of the department chairperson. No graduate credit.

PH 496: Independent Study II (not to exceed 3 hours)

Next offered: depending on demand

Prerequisites: Permission of supervising faculty member and approval of the department chairperson. No graduate credit.