Physics 450

PHYS 450: Selected Topics in Physics

Three hours lecture or three hours lecture and two hours laboratory (3-4).

Prerequisite: Permission of Instructor

Selected topics in advanced undergraduate physics. A specific course syllabus will be available when the course is offered. A student may take this course for credit more than once provided the topic is different each time.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

This course is intended to provide flexibility in the training of students enrolled in the physics option of the physical science major. Depending on the needs of these students, this course can provide any of the following:


1. A laboratory course covering an area of physics seen in the elementary sequences but not treated in any of the other three or four hundred level physics courses, e.g., electricity and magnetism.
2. A theory course devoted to subject matter which is otherwise inadequately covered in the curriculum, e.g., quantum mechanics.
3. A course which is devoted to a topic which is not generally covered in an undergraduate physics curriculum but which is of special interest to students, e.g., general relativity.


Students' needs will be dependent on their career plans. If they intend to do graduate work in physics, this course, if it is planned wisely and perhaps taken twice (with different topics, of course), can, together with independent study, correct shortcomings in their preparation. The department will try to assess student needs when scheduling this course.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

This course will be taught either as a lecture/lab course or a four-semester hour lecture course. Lecture periods will follow the standard exposition/worked examples/discussion format. If labs are included, they could be verification-type experiments, open-ended experiments, student-designed experiments, or some combination of these, depending on the instructor, and the desires and abilities of the students.


Goals and Objectives of Course

The specific goals of a particular offering of this course will obviously depend on the subject chosen. However, in general, it is hoped that most students taking this course will have sufficient physics background and/or ability so that the material can be covered at a level which is appreciably beyond the level of elementary physics (i.e., PHYS 221:222). (Note: although no physics beyond PHYS 222, in fact PHYS 112, is required for this course, it is expected that most students in PHYS 450 will have taken one or more additional three- or four-hundred level physics courses beforehand).


Assessment Measures

These will depend on the nature of the course and on the instructor. Clearly, problem-solving ability will be measured by the doing of problems -- on homework, tests, or the exam. Lab skills assessment, if appropriate, will probably be partially dependent on the format of the lab. But certainly verbal (written and/or oral) presentations of procedures, results, and conclusions will be important.


Other Course Information

First offered in Spring 1991, as a lecture-only course in quantum mechanics.

Students taking this course for graduate credit have two options. They may either: (1) demonstrate a level of proficiency with the material beyond that of the undergraduate students, or (2) submit a library research paper on a topic related to the course material. In the first case, additional homework problems, including problems of greater complexity, will be assigned; in addition, one of the problems on each test and the exam will be replaced by a more sophisticated problem. In the second case, the topic of the paper, its length, and its expected level of scientific maturity will be discussed with the instructor at the beginning of the semester.


Approval and Review

March 1, 2018
September 2001 Reviewed by Walter S. Jaronski, Chair