What Physics courses will I take?

Wondering what Physics classes are in store for you? Read about the classes that you will take as you start out on your journey through Physics. (For more technical information, refer to the official Course Catalog.)

[Roller coaster] PHY 301: Mechanics and Motion — This is the first of our four introductory courses. It’s the inclined planes and pulleys you’ve heard about: We cover Newton’s Laws, gravity, conservation of energy and momentum, angular motion, angular momentum, and oscillations and waves. You’re a long way from learning about black holes, but the fundamentals developed in this course are key to learning all the modern physics that lie ahead. With the tools of PHY 301, you’ll know enough to analyze the physics of hitting a baseball, forces and torques of muscles in the body, why a curve ball drops, why a bicycle stays up, and why roller coasters make us sick.

N.B.: Possibly you had a similar course in high school, though maybe not at the same mathematical level. If you scored a “5” on the AP Physics C (Mechanics) exam, we encourage you to claim credit for PHY 301 and move on to PHY 316. You can also take our placement exam (offered each fall by DIAA here at UT) to see if you can place out of the course.

[Interfering waves] PHY 315: Waves and Optics — The third of our four introductory courses. You will start to use the tools of differential equations to study periodic, or “simple harmonic,” motion. Starting from here, you can study propogation of waves, superposition of waves, constructive and destructive interference, and a host of phenomena like diffraction and interference that come up in optics, quantum phenomena, lasers, and elementary particle physics. Applications include fiber optics, holograms, spectrographs, lenses and optical instruments, musical instruments, etc. Wave behavior and phenomena are amongst the most elegant and beautiful concepts brought to lifein the physical world, and this course will introduce you to some of the most startling results that capture the imagination.

[Lightning generation] PHY 316: Electricity and Magnetism — The second of our introductory courses. (Yes, PHY 316 comes before PHY 315.) You will learn about electric and magnetic fields, Maxwell’s equations, propagation of electromagnetic radiation, elementary circuits, and power generation. The mathematics are a little higher-level than in PHY 301. The fundamentals developed here will enable you to go on into any kind of electromagnetic design, whether with carbon nanowires or semiconductor circuits. The tools of electric and magnetic fields are prevalent everywhere, from quantum phenomena in the atom to understanding the forces between elementary quarks and leptons that make up the universe.

N.B.: Possibly you had a similar course in high school, though maybe not at the same mathematical level. If you scored a “5” on the AP Physics C (Electricity and Magnetism) exam, we encourage you to claim credit for PHY 316 and move on to PHY 315. You can also take our placement exam (offered each fall by DIAA here at UT) to see if you can place out of the course.

 

For more information: Call (512) 471-8856, or drop in at RLM 5.216, or email reichl@physics.utexas.edu.