I’ve made it this far; what do I take next?

You’re a junior (or a senior). You’ve completed the introductory sequence. So… now what?? Below are the courses you will take, depending on whether you are pursuing the BA, Option-1 BS, BS Option-2 (Computational Physics), BS Option-3 (Radiation Physics), or BS Option-4 (Space Sciences). For more technical information, refer to the official Course Catalog.

[A distinguished portrait] PHY 336K: Classical Dynamics — Newton unhinged! While Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton started us on the path to discovering that Nature was understandable in terms of elegant mathematical laws, the 18th and 19th centuries were witness to some of the greatest minds who applied the beauty of mathematics of calculus and differential equations to the laws of motion. Names like Jules Henri Poincaré, William Rowan Hamilton, Joseph Louis Lagrange, Leonard Euler, Joseph Fourier, and Léon Foucault were amongst the greatest minds of the Enlightenment, and believers that a rational theory could be formulated to explain all phenomena. Some were mathematicians turned physicists, some were nobles, some were philosophers; one was a doctor publishing physics anonymously so as not to hurt his medical practice; one was canonized a saint; and another is credited with first discovering the Greenhouse Effect. The Hamiltonian and Lagrangian re-formulations of Newtonian mechanics are the tools that enabled truly sophisticated analyses of complex systems, including problems in astronomy, space flight, and aerospace engineering. The physical and mathematical tools developed in this course are the mathematical foundations for more advanced courses, including quantum mechanics and quantum field theory.

PHY 345: Biophysics — Biological systems range in size from single molecules to entire ecologies, and biological dynamics happen over timescales ranging from nanoseconds to eons. Biological physics comprehends a correspondingly vast and diverse set of studies. However, a few fundamental concepts underlie much of biophysics, and simple physical models often give surprisingly good insight into biological systems. This course focuses primarily on the fundamental concept of free energy and its role in biology, using cells and sub-cellular systems as concrete examples. We will also learn how to apply simple physical models (such as the harmonic oscillator) to different biological problems.

[Radio dish with equations] PHY 352K: Intermediate Electrodynamics — How do electrical circuits works? How does a radio transmitter work? How do we generate electrical power? What makes for efficient power transmission? These are some of the questions addressed in this course. More advanced than the introductory PHY 316, but not quite at the graduate level, PHY 352K utilizes more advanced mathematical tools to implement Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism into practice. Maxwell’s equations are shown to be the start of how to understand the propogation of electromagnetic radiation (light, microwaves, wireless, etc.) and the plasmas found in our upper atmosphere or inside stars.


PHY 369: Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics — Description coming soon….


PHY 375R: Relativity — Description coming soon….

[Electron orbitals] PHY 362K: Quantum II: Atoms and Molecules — Few, if any, real-world problems can be solved exactly, and this class will teach approximation techniques in quantum mechanics. Although elegant quantum mechanical solutions exist for the simple Hydrogen atom, even an atom like Helium with just two electrons requires approximations in order to solve for the electron orbits and energy levels. This is a class in which approximation techniques are developed to apply quantum mechanics to the study of atoms and molecules. Often only a small addition to a problem that you can solve is needed to do a decent job on a problem that you can’t solve: an approach called perturbation theory. These approximation techniques are essential to understanding some of the most important areas in physics, chemistry, and materials such as the interaction of an atom with visible light.

[Particle shower] PHY 362L: Quantum III: Nuclei and Particles — The four forces that govern the universe include two that are very familiar—gravity and electromagnetism—plus two that are revealed as one explores matter at either the very small or the extremely dense scale: the “strong” nuclear force and the “weak” nuclear force. These four forces govern how all the fundamental particles behave and organize into larger structures like protons and neutrons, nuclei, and atoms. To understand how the unvierse evolved from the hot, dense Big Bang 14 billion years ago to the present day, all these forces come into play. A complete theory requires graduate quantum field theory; but with the present course, students use the tools of quantum mechanics to show how these new forces are quite different from gravity and electromagnetism, and students examine some of the most elegant experiments that teach us the basic structure of these forces. The tools of scattering theory and decays, employed throughout this course to understand the interactions of nuclei and particles, are also widely applicable to students of atomic and molecular physics.

[Schrödinger’s Cat] PHY 373: Quantum I: Foundations — It is difficult to imagine our current world without the technological devices that function on the basis of quantum phenomena. Yet, it has only been about a hundred years since quantum mechanics was developed to describe the physics at the atomic scales. Progress in this field continues thanks to improved experimental techniques and methods of manipulating atoms. Indeed, experiments that once where thought impossible have been done. Quantum Mechanics is very robust and its predictions have been confirmed by experiments to an impressive accuracy. In PHY373 you will learn the principles and the tools needed to do quantum mechanics, and in doing so you will develop the intuition to understand the atomic world.


PHY 375S: Solid State Physics — The field of solid state physics (or condensed matter physics) began with the discovery of X-ray diffraction by crystals in early 1900s, and mainly focuses on properties of crystals and of electrons in crystals. This course will tell you, for example, why materials behave differently (metals, insulators, semiconductors, what makes for magnetism, etc.). You’ll also learn how many devices work such as the transistor, the photovoltaic, and the LED. Condensed matter physics is one of the largest and most vigorous areas of physics today, and it is closely related to many other disciplines including material science, electrical engineering, and nanoscience. This course is an excellent introduction to this vast and important sub-field in physics.


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