In anticipation of the start of the new academic year, we are featuring several new courses — some new additions, some old favorites revamped by new instructors, and some forgotten courses brought into the light. For full course descriptions and information click on the course numbers below.
For Fall 2023:
PHYS 040/ASTR 040. Expanding Ideas of Time and Space. Instructor: Meg Urry. Discussions on astronomy, and the nature of time and space. Topics include the shape and contents of the universe, special and general relativity, dark and light matter, and dark energy. Observations and ideas fundamental to astronomers’ current model of an expanding and accelerating four-dimensional universe.
PHYS 047/AMST 099/ER&M 089/HIST 059. Asian Americans and STEM. Instructor: Eun-Joo Ahn. As both objects of study and agents of discovery, Asian Americans have played an important yet often unseen role in STEM fields within the U.S. This course unites the humanities fields of Asian American history and American Studies with the fields of medicine, physics, and computer science to explore the ways scientific practice has been shaped by U.S. histories of imperialism and colonialism, migration and racial exclusion, domestic and international labor and economics, and war. The course also explores the scientific research undertaken in these fields and delves into key scientific principles and concepts to understand the impact of such work on the lives of Asians and Asian Americans, and how the migration of people may have impacted the migration of ideas and scientific progress. Using case studies, students engage with fundamental scientific concepts in these fields. They explore key roles Asians and Asian Americans had in the development in science and technology in the U.S. and around the world as well as the impact of state policies regarding the migration of technical labor and concerns about brain drains. Students also examine diversity and inclusion in the context of the experiences of Asians and Asian Americans in STEM.
PHYS 050/APHY 050/ENAS 050. Science of Modern Technology and Public Policy. Instructor: Daniel Prober. Examination of the science behind selected advances in modern technology and implications for public policy, with focus on the scientific and contextual basis of each advance. Topics are developed by the participants with the instructor and with guest lecturers, and may include nanotechnology, quantum computation and cryptography, renewable energy technologies, optical systems for communication and medical diagnostics, transistors, satellite imaging and global positioning systems, large-scale immunization, and DNA made to order.
PHYS 121L/MB&B 121L. Introduction to Physics in Living Systems I: Observation and Analysis. Instructors: Katherine Schilling (MB&B) and Caitlin Hansen (Physics). A hands-on introduction to the physics that enables life and human measurement of living things. This lab builds student knowledge of scientific experimental design and practice. Topics include detection of light, basic circuit building, sterile technique in biology and physics, data collection with student-built instrumentation, and quantitative assessment.
PHYS 124L/MB&B 124L. Introduction to Physics in Living Systems Laboratory IV: Electricity, Magnetism, and Radiation. Instructors: Katherine Schilling (MB&B) and Caitlin Hansen (Physics). Introduction to the physics that enables life and human measurement of living things. This lab introduces principles of electricity, magnetism, light, and optics at work in the biological sciences. The syllabus emphasizes electric dipoles as a model for biomolecules, electric fields such as those across cell membranes, electric current, and magnetic fields. Light is developed in terms of electromagnetic radiation, ray optics, and photons. The interaction of light with biomolecules to understand basic biological research and medical diagnostics are also covered.
PHYS 293/APHY 293. Instructor: A. Douglas Stone. The first twenty-five years of the 20th century represent a turning point in human civilization: for the first time, mankind achieved a systematic and predictive understanding of the atomic level constituents of matter and energy, and the mathematical laws which describe the interaction of these constituents. In addition, the General Theory of Relativity opened up a new quantitative study of cosmology and the history of the universe as a whole. Albert Einstein was at the center of these breakthroughs, and became an iconic figure of scientific genius engaged in pure research of the fundamental laws of nature. This course addresses the nature of the transition to modern physics, underpinned by quantum and relativity theory, through study of Einstein’s science, biography, and historical context. It presents the basic concepts of electromagnetic theory, thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, special theory of relativity, and quantum mechanics, all of which were central to this revolutionary epoch.
APHY 470/ECON 446. Statistical Methods with Applications in Science and Finance. Instructor: Sohrab Ismail-Beigi. Introduction to key methods in statistical physics with examples drawn principally from the sciences (physics, chemistry, astronomy, statistics, biology) as well as added examples from finance. Students learn the fundamentals of Monte Carlo, stochastic random walks, and analysis of covariance analytically as well as via numerical exercises.
PHYS 506. Mathematical Methods of Physics. Instructor: Walter Goldberger. Survey of mathematical techniques useful in physics. Includes vector and tensor analysis, group theory, complex analysis (residue calculus, method of steepest descent), differential equations and Green’s functions, and selected advanced topics.
PHYS 515. Topics in Modern Physics Research. Instructors: Charles Brown and Karsten Heeger. A comprehensive introduction to the various fields of physics research carried out in the department and a formal introduction to scientific reading, writing, and presenting.
ENAS 577. Analysis of Biological Systems. Instructor: Andre Levchenko. Biology is undergoing a rapid evolution from descriptive and largely qualitative science to a data-rich, quantitative, and mature discipline. However, given the complexity of biological processes and the early stage of its development, it lacks a solid theoretical basis. What is becoming clear is that it is a science of systems, with new and frequently unexpected properties emerging from the interaction of multiple components on different temporal and spatial scales. New physical, chemical, and mathematical principles are being developed to understand these processes. This course is focused on learning the key concepts that have emerged over the last two decades that shape this new biology, and on the experiential, theoretical, and computational tools used in this research. These concepts will likely be shaping the 21st-century biology-driven advances in physics, and chemistry; in understanding and engineering life; and in new technologies that will emerge. The course is primarily aimed at graduate students with college-level backgrounds in math, physics, and chemistry. The biological concepts are introduced in the class.
PHYS 603. Euclidean-Signature Semi-Classical Analysis for Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Field Theory. Instructor: Vincent Moncrief. The textbook WKB (Wentzel, Kramers, Brillouin), or semi-classical approach to solving quantum eigenvalue problems has been significantly improved and generalized in scope in recent years. New techniques offer advantages, not only over the circumscribed WKB methods, but over conventional perturbation theory as well. The corresponding “Euclidean-Signature Semi-Classical Program” is undergoing rapid, continuing development and has significant applications to both higher dimensional quantum mechanical problems and to interacting quantum field theories. Unlike conventional perturbation theory this approach does not require the decomposition of a quantum Hamiltonian operator into a solvable (e.g., free field) component and its “perturbation” and, in the case of gauge theories, can maintain full, non-abelian gauge invariance at every order of a calculation.
PHYS 609. Relativistic Field Theory I. Instructor: Ian Moult. The fundamental principles of quantum field theory. Interacting theories and the Feynman graph expansion. Quantum electrodynamics including lowest order processes, one-loop corrections, and the elements of renormalization theory.
PHYS 635. Quantum Entanglement in HEP. Instructor: Keith Baker. Basic principles and applications of quantum entanglement and quantum information science at GeV to TeV energies in particle and nuclear physics are covered. Topics include: quantum superposition, quantum entanglement, entanglement entropy, quantum computing, quantum algorithms, Bell’s inequality tests, and quantum sensors.
PHYS 670. Special Topics in Biophysics. Instructor: Ben Machta. The aim of the course is to introduce students to the approaches, methods, major results, and open questions in modern biological physics. Topics include non-equilibrium statistical physics, with applications to kinetic proof-reading and understanding molecular motors, information theory with applications to cellular signaling and phase transitions as they occur in living systems.
PHYS 050/APHY 050/ENAS 050. Science of Modern Technology and Public Policy. Instructor: Daniel Prober. Examination of the science behind selected advances in modern technology and implications for public policy, with focus on the scientific and contextual basis of each advance. Topics are developed by the participants with the instructor and with guest lecturers, and may include nanotechnology, quantum computation and cryptography, renewable energy technologies, optical systems for communication and medical diagnostics, transistors, satellite imaging and global positioning systems, large-scale immunization, and DNA made to order. Enrollment limited to first-year students.
PHYS 100/APHY 100/ENAS 100/EPS 105/EVST 100. Energy, Environment, and Public Policy. Instructor: Daniel Prober. The technology and use of energy. Impacts on the environment, climate, security, and economy. Application of scientific reasoning and quantitative analysis. Intended for non–science majors with strong backgrounds in math and science.
PHYS 296. The Impact of the Atom. Instructor: Steve Lamoreaux. Born in secrecy, the power of the atom was revealed to the world over Hiroshima in 1945. Since then, the atom has touched every facet of our lives. This seminar explores issues on how the atom has impacted the world using a multidisciplinary approach. These topics may include the impact of the atom on history, infrastructure, budget, arts and culture, peace and activism, healthcare, energy and climate change, policy, national security, international relations, science, and the future. Weekly assignments are supplemented with movie screenings and guest speakers.
PHYS 345. Introduction to Quantum Information Processing and Communication. Instructor: Steven Girvin. There is now a second quantum revolution underway and a world-wide race to build powerful new types of computers based on quantum principles, and to develop new techniques for encrypted communication whose security is guaranteed by the laws of quantum mechanics. The approach of this course to these topics will strip away much of the traditional physics details to focus on the information content of quantum systems, the nature of measurement, and why the true randomness of certain measurement results can be a feature rather than a bug. We learn what it means for a quantum bit (‘qubit’) to be simultaneously 0 and 1 (in some sense). We learn about quantum entanglement and the associated ‘spooky action at a distance’ that convinced Einstein that the quantum theory must be wrong. Ironically, this bizarre effect is now used on a daily basis to prove that quantum mechanics is indeed correct and used as a routine engineering test to make sure that quantum computers are working properly and are truly quantum. Specific topics include: the mathematical representation of quantum states as complex vectors, the superposition principle, entanglement and Bell inequalities, quantum gates and algorithms for quantum computers, quantum error correction, dense coding, teleportation, and secure quantum communication. Students learn to do problem sets based on programming and operating publicly-accessible cloud-based quantum computers.