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Course Changes for Major between 2011/12 and 2012/13

A number of changes to course content and scheduling of Physics courses were implemented between the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 academic years. However, there are no changes in the requirements for the Physics major; most of the changes affect only the quarter in which courses are taken or the order in which they are taken.
This page is aimed at students who matriculated in 2011/2012 or earlier; here we describe the motivation for the changes and the impact on current majors. We also include course descriptions for those courses whose content will change.
See this pdf for the new four-year plans, annotated with a description of the changes.
1. Why are these changes in Physics courses and scheduling being introduced?
The changes are part of a larger effort to
fine-tune the UG physics curriculum (e.g., offer PHYSICS 110 as a higher-level course, such as that offered at many of our peer institutions, so that important modern topics that are more advanced can be introduced);
provide more student flexibility (e.g., the first quarter of quantum mechanics will be scheduled in the quarter after a course on partial differential equations so that quantum mechanics can be studied earlier in the curriculum);
“mezzanine” some of the advanced courses (PHYSICS 134, 170, 171, modified 110) so that first-year graduate students who did not study this material as undergraduates can enroll in 200-level courses;
improve the efficiency of teaching in Physics so that we maximize course offerings with available teaching resources (e.g., “mezzanining” some courses).
2. Will the content of the courses change?
The most significant change in content is in PHYSICS 110. The new course (PHYSICS 110/210) is a more advanced course that will place less emphasis on gravitation and more on modern topics such as nonlinear dynamical systems. There will also be significant overlap between the old and new PHYSICS 110 (e.g., Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics).
There will be slightly more material covered in PHYSICS 130 and 131 than currently covered so that all the essential topics in quantum mechanics are covered in two quarters. In particular, time-dependent perturbation theory will be covered in PHYSICS 131 (it is currently covered in PHYSICS 134); two topics that are not as essential (the variational principle and WKB approximation) may slip into PHYSICS 134 if they are not covered in PHYSICS 131.
PHYSICS 170/270 and 171/271 will remain essentially the same, but the course descriptions have been carefully reviewed and revised to minimize redundancy.
3. Can I take PHYSICS 170 before PHYSICS 130 if that is my only option for taking both?
Yes. We will communicate to the PHYSICS 170/171 instructor and TAs that some students in the class have not started the PHYSICS 130 sequence. We will provide extra resources and contact time to review any results from quantum mechanics (typically at the level of PHYSICS 65 and 70) that are needed for PHYSICS 170.
4. Will the changes impact my preparedness for the Physics Subject GRE?
No. The Physics Subject GRE does not test material covered in PHYSICS 134. Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics will be covered early in PHYSICS 110.
5. Will PHYSICS 134/234 and 110/210 be taught this fall?
Yes. For this year only, PHYSICS 134 will include time-dependent perturbation theory since it was not covered in PHYSICS 131 in Winter 2012.
6. In the longer term, will the changes prevent students from going abroad?
No. The new schedule opens up two possible quarters for going abroad – Autumn or Spring – depending on when a student takes the quantum sequence.
7. What are my options if I want to take quantum mechanics next year AND I had planned to be away in the Spring quarter (overseas studies or other constraints)?
We are offering two options (below) and will work with individual students to find a solution. Affected students should discuss options with their major advisor and then complete a request for substitution if appropriate.
For the 2012/2013 transition year, students can substitute EE 222 and 223 (Applied Quantum Mechanics) for PHYSICS 130 and 131. EE 222 and 223 are offered in the Autumn and Winter quarters and are taught by Prof. David Miller, who wrote the textbook used in the course.
Depending on who is assigned to teach PHYSICS 131, you may be able to take the course remotely, or self-study PHYSICS 131 and substitute PHYSICS 134 for the required 131.
8. How will the changes affect Engineering Physics majors?
Offering PHYSICS 130 and 131 (Quantum Mechanics) in the Winter and Spring quarters offers more scheduling flexibility since EE 222 and 223 (Applied Quantum Mechanics) are offered in the Autumn and Winter.
PHYSICS 110 is now considerably more advanced than ENGR 15, and remains non-redundant with ENGR 15. The ‘intermediate mechanics’ requirement has changed to an 'advanced mechanics requirement'; the new requirement is to take PHYSICS 110 (Advanced Particle Mechanics) or ME 333 (Mechanics) or AA 242A (Classical Dynamics), with one transition year in which ENGR 15 is still allowed. After that, ENGR 15 will satisfy this requirement only for students who took ENGR 15 in 2012/2013 or earlier.
9. Are there other changes of which Physics or Engineering Physics majors should be aware?
PHYSICS 113 will be taught in the Autumn quarter beginning 2012/2013.
IMPORTANT CHANGE relevant to Engineering Physics. We just learned that Professor Wei Cai in ME will begin to offer ME 346A (Statistical Mechanics) only every other year. ME 346A will not be offered next year (2012/2013). Therefore, Engineering Physics majors who have not yet satisfied their statistical mechanics requirement must take PHYSICS 170 and 171 next year.
Engineering Physics is introducing two new specialties: one in biophysics / bioengineering, and one in computation and algorithms (with a CS emphasis).
PHYSICS 204A and 204B (Seminar in Theoretical Physics) will not be offered in the foreseeable future.
We are redesigning the graduate quantum courses (the PHYSICS 230 sequence) so that they are less redundant with undergraduate quantum mechanics courses and span two quarters rather than three. Beginning next year, the two-quarter graduate quantum course will be offered in the Winter and Spring quarters.
Applied Physics already launched some new courses this year (e.g., AP 201, 202, 203) and are continuing to review their curriculum.
Applied Physics is designing a new coterminal Masters degree. The goal is to offer the new coterm in Autumn 2013, if it is approved.
10. Who should I talk to if I need to discuss detailed issues?
First, read this FAQ page carefully. Then talk to your major advisor to discuss a plan. If you have questions that are not addressed in the written FAQs or by your advisor, then see Prof. Hari Manoharan. Engineering Physics majors should consult with Professors Pat Burchat or Mark Cappelli.
Undergraduate Courses = 4 units
Graduate Courses = 3 units
PHYSICS 110/210: Advanced Mechanics
Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics. Principle of least action, Euler-Lagrange equations. Small oscillations and beyond. Symmetries, canonical transformations, Hamilton-Jacobi theory, action-angle variables. Introduction to classical field theory. Selected other topics, including nonlinear dynamical systems, attractors, chaotic motion. Prerequisites: MATH 131P, and PHYSICS 112 or MATH elective 104 or higher. Recommended prerequisite: PHYSICS 130.
PHYSICS 130: Quantum Mechanics I
The origins of quantum mechanics and wave mechanics. Schrödinger equation and solutions for one-dimensional systems. Commutation relations. Generalized uncertainty principle. Time-energy uncertainty principle. Separation of variables and solutions for three-dimensional systems; application to hydrogen atom. Spherically symmetric potentials and angular momentum eigenstates. Spin angular momentum. Addition of angular momentum. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 65 or 70. Pre- or corequisites: PHYSICS 120, and MATH 131P or MATH 173.
PHYSICS 131: Quantum Mechanics II
Identical particles; Fermi and Bose statistics. Time-independent perturbation theory. Fine structure, the Zeeman effect and hyperfine splitting in the hydrogen atom. Time-dependent perturbation theory. Variational principle and WKB approximation. Prerequisite: PHYSICS 120, 130, MATH 131P or 173. Pre- or corequisite: PHYSICS 121.
PHYSICS 134/234: Advanced Topics in Quantum Mechanics
Scattering theory, partial wave expansion, Born approximation. Additional topics may include nature of quantum measurement, EPR paradox, Bell's inequality, and topics in quantum information science; path integrals and applications; Berry’s phase; structure of multi-electron atoms (Hartree-Fock); relativistic quantum mechanics (Dirac equation). Prerequisites: PHYSICS 130, 131.
Physics 170/270: Thermodynamics, Kinetic Theory, and Statistical Mechanics I
Foundations of statistical mechanics. Thermodynamic variables and basic thermodynamics. Ideal gases (including Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution). Bose and Fermi gases; examples including blackbody radiation, Debye theory of phonons, Sommerfeld theory of electrons in metals. Thermodynamic functions. Recommended prerequisite: PHYSICS 130.
Physics 171/271: Thermodynamics, Kinetic Theory, and Statistical Mechanics II
Mean-field theory of phase transitions; critical exponents. Ferromagnetism, the Ising model. The renormalization group. Dynamics near equilibrium: Brownian motion, diffusion, Boltzmann equations. Other topics at discretion of instructor. Prerequisite: Physics 170/270. Recommended pre- or corequisite: PHYSICS 130.