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Physics Courses

Click here for Spring 2015 Physics course offerings. Below is more information on the content of all physics courses, some of which may not be offered every year. Links are provided for syllabi or course websites for recently offered courses. Course outlines are given for most courses and are a general description of the material covered in the course and how the course is organized. For a complete course description refer to the course catalog portion of the General Announcements or click here.  


Note Regarding Summer 2015 Courses:

This summer we will be offering PHYS 125 & 126 that may be of interest to Rice students and others who find themselves in Houston over the Summer.  Flyers (pdf) for interested Rice students can be found here, and for non-Rice students can be found here.  General descriptions and syllabi can be found listed under each course below.


PHYS 101 (With Lab): Mechanics

Calculus-based survey of Physics. Includes classes and lab exercises on topics chosen from mechanics, electricity, and magnetism.

Fall 2015 Syllabus

PHYS 101 (With Lab) Course Outline

PHYS 102 (With Lab): Electricity and Magnetism

Continuation of PHYS 101. May receive credit for only one of PHYS102, 112, 126, AP Physics-B (PHYS 142), and AP Physics-C, E&M (PHYS102).

Spring 2016 Syllabus

PHYS 102 (With Lab) Course Outline

PHYS 111 (With Lab): Mechanics

Calculus-based survey of physics. Includes classes and lab exercises on topics chosen from mechanics, electricity, and magnetism. Primarily for physical science and engineering students with strong high school backgrounds in physics.

Fall 2015 Syllabus

PHYS 111 (With Lab) Course Outline

PHYS 112 (With Lab): Electricity and Magnetism

Continuation of PHYS 111. May receive credit for only one of PHYS102, 112, 126, AP Physics-B (PHYS 142), and AP Physics-C, E&M (PHYS102).

Spring 2016 Syllabus

PHYS 112 (With Lab) Course Outline

PHYS 125 (With Lab): General Physics I

Calculus-based survey of physics. Includes classes and lab exercises on topics chosen from mechanics, waves, electricity, magnetism, optics,and modern physics. Primarily for bio-science and pre-medical students.

Summer 2014 Syllabus

Fall 2015 Syllabus

PHYS 125 (With Lab) Course Outline

PHYS 126 (With Lab): General Physics II

Continuation of PHYS 125. May receive credit for only one of PHYS102, 112, 126, AP Physics B (PHYS 142), and AP Physics-C, E&M (PHYS102).

Summer 2014 Syllabus

Spring 2016 Syllabus

PHYS 126 (With Lab) Course Outline

PHYS 141: Concepts in Physics I

Study of concepts in physics with emphasis on the nature of physical phenomena, the conceptual development of physics, and related cultural influences.

PHYS 141 Course Outline

PHYS 142: Concepts in Physics II

For AP credit only. May receive credit for only one of PHYS 102, PHYS 112, PHYS 126, AP Physics-B, and AP Physics-C (E&M).

PHYS 143: Physics for Citizenship

Physics is critical to our understanding of nuclear weapons, radiation, electronics, energy and global warming. Topics covered may include energy and conservation, radioactivity, nuclear physics, the Theory of Relativity, lasers, explosions and quantum physics.

PHYS 143 Syllabus

PHYS 144: The Physics of Music and Sound

This course explores our scientific understanding of sound and music by studying the properties of sound and its production by a variety of musical instruments. Additional topics include an analysis of musical scales, the physiology of hearing, and the technology of sound reproduction. For non-science and non-engineering majors.

Fall 2012 Syllabus

PHYS 201: Waves and Optics

Fundamentals of oscillations and waves and properties of electromagnetic waves. Basic principles of geometric optics,interference and diffraction, including Fourier methods.

Fall 2014 Syllabus

PHYS 201 Course Outline

PHYS 202: Modern Physics

An introductory course in modern physics. Topics include special relativity, early quantum theory, quantum mechanics, atomic physics,statistical physics, nuclear and particle physics.

Spring 2016 Syllabus

PHYS 202 Course Outline

PHYS 231: Elementary Physics Laboratory II

Laboratory on waves and optics.

Fall 2015 Syllabus

PHYS 231 Course Outline

PHYS 301: Intermediate Mechanics

Classical mechanics and appropriate mathematical methods. Emphasis on problem solving.

Fall 2015 Syllabus

PHYS 301 Course Outline

PHYS 302: Intermediate Electrodynamics

Classical electrodynamics and appropriate mathematical methods. Emphasis on problem solving.

Spring 2016 Syllabus

PHYS 302 Course Outline

PHYS 311: Introductory Quantum Physics I

Fundamentals of quantum mechanics and applications to atomic and molecular structure.

Fall 2015 Syllabus

PHYS 311 Course Outline

PHYS 312: Introductory Quantum Physics II

Continuation of PHYS 311: Introductory Quantum Physics I.

Spring 2016 Syllabus

PHYS 312 Course Outline

PHYS 331: Junior Physics Laboratory I

Lab exercises in electronics, noise reduction, statistics and particle counting.

Fall 2015 Syllabus

PHYS 331 Course Outline

PHYS 332: Junior Physics Laboratory II

Lab exercises illustrating topics in the upper-division physics curriculum.

Fall 2015 Syllabus

PHYS 332 Course Outline

PHYS 355: Introduction to Biological Physics

Introduction to definition and basic concepts of biological physics: proteins and nucleic acids; diffusion and random walks and their application to biological systems; biological motors and membranes; folding of biomolecules; gene regulation; and modern techniques and their applications to biomolecules.

Spring 2016 Syllabus

PHYS 357: Atmosphere, Weather and Climate

Following an overview of atmospheric science, we will examine the following topics: atmospheric thermodynamics, radiative transfer, cloud microphysics, atmospheric dynamics, severe weather, and climate dynamics.

PHYS 411/542: Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics

A broad survey of history and current state of nuclear and particle physics. The emphasis is on experimental results and how they led to our current undertaking of the strong and electroweak interactions.Some recent advances are discussed in detail.

PHYS 411/542 Course Outline

PHYS 412: Solid State Physics

Introduction to topics in solid state physics, including crystal structure, lattice vibrations, electronic band structure and transport.

PHYS 412 Course Outline

PHYS 416/517: Computational Physics

Use of computational techniques to solve selected physics problems.Examine benefits and pitfalls of doing physics by computation.

Spring 2016 Syllabus

PHYS 416/517 Course Outline

PHYS 425: Stastical and Thermal Physics

Includes classical thermodynamics; classical & quantum statistical mechanics; Fermi, Bose, and classical gases; magnetic systems; and phase equilibria.

Fall 2015 Syllabus

PHYS 425 Course Outline

PHYS 461/462: Independent Research

A reading course in special topics.

PHYS 480/580: Introduction to Plasma Physics

Fundamental processes in cosmic and laboratory plasmas: gas dynamics, kinetic theory, magnetohydrodynamics, wave and shocks, individual particle drifts, collisions and electrical conductivities, geometric and distribution instabilities.

Fall 2015 Syllabus

PHYS 480 Course Outline

PHYS 491/493: Undergraduate Research

Research projects conducted under supervision of departmentally approved faculty. Open to juniors and seniors majoring in physics and astronomy. May be repeated for credit. PHYS 491/493 must be taken concurrently with PHYS 492/494 when used in partial fulfillment of B.S.degree requirements.

  Fall 2014 Syllabus

 Course Information

PHYS 492/494: Undergraduate Research Seminar

Weekly seminar for juniors and seniors in which presentations on research topics and/or topics in the scientific literature will be given. Open to juniors and seniors majoring in physics and astronomy department.

Spring 2014 Syllabus

Course Information

PHYS 501: Physics of Ham Radio

Amateur radio for middle-school science teaching. Fundamentals of electromagnetic waves and propagation, the ionosphere and space weather. Basic electronics, antenna design and safety. Provides information necessary to gain the technical level of ham radio license.

PHYS 510: Magnetosphere Physics

Plasma physics of the earth's magnetosphere, including interactions of the magnetosphere with the solar wind and the ionosphere. The emphasis is on large-scale phenomenon, but small scale (kinetic)physics is discussed in cases where it affects the large-scale phenomena.

PHYS 510 Course Outline

PHYS 515: Classical Dynamics

Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics.

Fall 2016 Syllabus  

PHYS 515 Course Outline

PHYS 516: Mathematical Methods

Survey of analytical methods used by research physicists and astronomers. Includes complex variables, ordinary differential equations, infinite series, evaluation of integrals, integral transforms, normal-mode analysis, special functions, partial differential equations, eigen functions, Green's functions, and variational calculus.

  Fall 2015 Syllabus  

Fall 2015 Course Website

PHYS 516 Course Outline

PHYS 517: Computational Physics

Use of computational techniques to solve selected physics problems. Examine benefits and pitfalls of doing physics by computation. Requires completion of project using a low-level programming language.

Spring 2014 Syllabus

PHYS 519: Plasma Kinetic Theory

Plasma kinetic equations (Klimontovich, Liouville, BBGKY, Balescu-Lenard, Fokker-Planck, Vlasov), Vlason theory of waves and instabilities, connections to fluid plasma models.

Fall 2014 Syllabus

PHYS 519 Course Outline

PHYS 521: Quantum Mechanics I

Graduate level course on non-relativistic quantum mechanics. Topics include early quantum theory, one-dimensional systems, matrix formulation, quantum dynamics, symmetries and conservation laws, bound states, scattering, spin, and identical particles, perturbation theory.

Fall 2014 Syllabus

PHYS 521 Course Outline

PHYS 522: Quantum Mechanics II

Continuation of PHYS 521.

Spring 2014 Syllabus

PHYS 522 Course Outline

PHYS 526: Statistical Mechanics

Selected topics in statistical mechanics, including phase transitions and transport phenomena.

Spring 2016 Syllabus

PHYS 526 Course Outline

PHYS 532: Classical Eletrodynamics

Maxwell's equations, wave propagation, special relativity and covariant formulation, charged-particle dynamics, and radiation.

Spring 2016 Syllabus

Spring 2016 Course Website

PHYS 532 Course Outline

PHYS 533: Nanostructures and Nanotechnology I

Physics of structures and devices at the nanometer scale. After are view of solid state physics, topics include nanostructured materials, nanoelectronics, and nanomagnetism. Emphasis on relevance of nanophysics to current and future technologies.

Fall 2014 Syllabus

PHYS 533 Course Outline

PHYS 534: Nanostructures and Nanotechnology II

Physics of structures and devices at the nanometer scale. Topics include nanomechanics, bionanotechnology, advanced sensors and photonics. Continuation of PHYS 533.

Spring 2014 Syllabus

PHYS 534 Course Outline

PHYS 535: Crystallography and Diffraction

Study of crystals by x-ray, electron and neutron diffraction.Includes basic diffraction theory as well as methods for characterizing the structure, composition and stresses in crystalline materials. Required for undergraduate materials science and engineering majors. Cross-list: MSCI 535.

Spring 2014 Syllabus  

PHYS 537: Methods of Experimental Physics I

This two-semester course will familiarize students with basic experimental techniques that are common to all academic and industrial research laboratories. Topics will include lab safety, mechanical design, computer-based data acquisition and experimental control, laboratory electronics, vacuum technology, optics, thermal measurement and control, cryogenics and charged particle optics.

Fall 2014 Syllabus

PHYS 537 Course Outline

PHYS 538: Methods of Experimental Physics II

Continuation of PHYS 537.

Spring 2016 Syllabus

PHYS 538 Course Outline

PHYS 539: Characterization and Fabrication at the Nanoscale

Introduction to study and creation of nanoscale structures, emphasizing relevant physical principles. Techniques covered include optical, X-ray, electron-based and scanned-probe characterization, as well as patterning, deposition and removal of material.

Spring 2014 Syllabus

PHYS 539 Course Outline

PHYS 541: Radiative Processes

Radiation processes and their applications to astrophysical phenomena and space science. The course treats radiative transfer, radiation from moving charges, relativistic covariance and kinematics, bremsstrahlung, synchrotron radiation, Compton scattering, some plasma effects, and radiative transitions in atoms and molecules.

Spring 2015 Syllabus

PHYS 541 Course Outline

PHYS 542: Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics

Graduate/Undergraduate Equivalency: PHYS 411. See PHYS 411 above for links.

PHYS 543: Physics of Quarks and Leptons

A continuation of PHYS 542.

Spring 2014 Syllabus  

PHYS 543 Course Outline

PHYS 551: Biological Physics

Introduction to biological physics. Review of basic physical concepts. Cells and their components. Diffusion and random walks.Entropy and energy concepts and their roles in biological systems.Modern experimental methods. Applications to biological macromolecules.

Fall 2014 Syllabus

PHYS 551 Course Outline

PHYS 552: Molecular Biophysics

This is an introductory course for physical sciences graduate students who have not taken college-level biology courses. We will examine biological systems such as DNA, proteins and membranes, first by giving a thorough description of their biological functions and then by analyzing their underlying physical principles.

PHYS 552 Course Outline

PHYS 561: General Relativity

Study of Einstein's theory of gravitation, including cosmological models.

Spring 2016 Syllabus

PHYS 561 Course Outline

PHYS 563/ELEC 563: Introduction to Solid State Physics I

Fundamental concepts of crystalline solids, including crystal structure, band theory of electrons, and lattice vibration theory.Cross-list: ELEC 563.

Fall 2014 Syllabus

PHYS 563 Course Outline

PHYS 564/ELEC 564: Introduction to Solid State Physics II

Continuation of PHYS 563, including scattering of waves by crystals,transport theory, and magnetic phenomena. Cross-list: ELEC 564.

PHYS 564 Course Outline

PHYS 566: Surface Physics

An introduction to surface- and low-dimensional physics covering experimental surface physics and ultra-high vacuum technology, crystal structure, chemical analysis, epitaxy, nanoscale electronic and magnetic structures and devices, elementary excitations, optical properties and nanoscale sensitive magnetic and non-magnetic spectroscopies.

Fall 2014 Syllabus  

PHYS 567: Quantum Materials

This course uses real data on archetypal materials to illustrate the thermodynamic and transport properties of solids, and principles of materials synthesis. The goal is building a phenomenological understanding of topics including the origin of magnetism; interactions and long range order; phase transitions (magnetism; superconductivity); quantum oscillations and Landau levels.

PHYS 568: Quantum Phase Transitions

Introductory course for graduate students. Topics include the concepts of classical and quantum phase transitions, mean field theory, renormalization group and quantum phase transitions in magnetic, fermionic, and bosonic systems.

PHYS 568 Course Outline

PHYS 569: Ultrafast Optical Phenomena

Cross-list: ELEC 569.

Spring 2014 Syllabus  

PHYS 571: Modern Atomic Physics

This is an introductory course at the graduate level. Topics to be discussed include: atomic structure, principles of lasers, fundamental interactions of atoms with electro-magnetic radiation, including coherent effects, laser spectroscopy, quantum optics, and laser cooling and trapping of atoms, and Bose-Einstein condensation.

Spring 2016 Syllabus  

PHYS 571 Course Outline

PHYS 572: Fundamentals of Quantum Optics

Discussion of quantization and statistical properties of light fields; interaction between atoms and light; non-classical states;basic laser theory; quantum effects of nonlinear optics; introduction to atom optics.

Fall 2012 Syllabus

Fall 2012 Course Website

PHYS 572 Course Outline

PHYS 600-003: Fields, Disorder, and Dynamics in Condensed Matter Physics

Lecture/seminars which treat topics of departmental interest.

Spring 2016 Syllabus, Section 1

Spring 2016 Syllabus, Section 2  

PHYS 605/ELEC 605: Computational Eletrodynamics and Nanophotonics

This course covers computational and numerical methods for calculating electromagnetic fields and propagation in complex geometries on the nano and microscale. Methods include the finite difference time domain method, boundary element methods, Greens functions methods, finite element methods, the discrete dipole approximation and relaxation methods. Cross-list: ELEC 605.

PHYS 605 Course Outline

PHYS 610/BIOE 610: Biological and Molecular Simulation

Modern simulation techniques for classical atomistic systems. Monte Carlo and molecular dynamic techniques, with extensions to various ensembles. Applications to simulations of large molecules. Advanced techniques for simulation of complex systems, including constraint satisfaction, cluster movies, biased sampling and random energy models.Cross-list: BIOE 610.

Spring 2014 Syllabus

PHYS 622: Quantum Field Theory

An introduction to relativistic quantum field theory. Topics include: quantization of scalar, spinor, and vector fields; Feynman diagrams; gauge theories, including QED and QCD; renormalization; and functional-integral methods.

Spring 2014 Syllabus

PHYS 622 Course Outline

PHYS 643: Mechanical and Thermodynamic Properties of Biomembranes

The mechanical properties of membranes influence several biological processes including endocytosis, fusion, signalling and cellular differentiation. This course will cover the theoretical foundations of membrane mechanics, examine experimental methods for measuring membrane material properties, including nanomechanical and optical techniques, and emphasize the importance of membrane mechanics in bioengineering applications. Cross-list: BIOS 643.

PHYS 663: Condensed Matter Theory: Applications

Applications of techniques developed in PHYS 664.

PHYS 663 Course Outline

PHYS 664: Condensed Matter Theory: Many-Body Formalism

Formal structure of many-body theory as used in condensed matter physics.

Spring 2016 Syllabus

PHYS 664 Course Outline

PHYS 700: Teaching Practicum

Supervised teaching for graduate students.

PHYS 800: Graduate Research

Thesis research under the supervision of department faculty.