The Physics major offers the same broad scope of study as would be found at a larger
research university. In addition to basic offerings in classical mechanics, electricity
and magnetism, relativity, and quantum physics, the curriculum includes courses
in digital and analog electronics, solid state physics, thermodynamics and statistical
mechanics, special topics courses exploring areas of particular interest, and advanced
laboratories exploring phenomena as diverse as physical optics, x-ray diffraction,
spectroscopy, and radioactivity.
At the same time, Randolph-Macon's focus on undergraduate education means that students
enjoy individualized attention, mentoring, and support from faculty. Research apparatus
intended for and available to students for their use. The college supports an active
student research program, and many students culminate
their studies with a two-semester senior project in an area of particular interest.
Recent investigations have included an automated detector to study diffuse solar
insolation, an analysis of the frequency components of human voices as a prelude
to computerized voice recognition, effects of radiation damage of high Tc superconductors,
and a combined experimental and theoretical study of the Rubens' flame tube.
Demand for graduates in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)
fields is very high. Recent figures from the American Institute of Physics indicate
that 95% of 2009-2010 graduates with a bachelor's degree in the field of physics
were either employed or enrolled in a graduate program, with starting salaries for
these graduates in STEM jobs in the private and government sectors ranging from
$38,000 to $60,00.
See course requirements for the major and
105 – A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Physics (With Apologies to Douglas Adams)
– This course is a onesemester exploration of the physical world, built around the
theme of understanding objects and processes which surround us. Themes to be explored
may include conservation of energy and momentum, principles of thermodynamics, electricity
and magnetism, the relativity of time and space, and the quantum mechanical description
of nature. Students will explore these and other ideas, with student interest driving
the specific topics covered. Experiment and direct observation will reinforce the
conceptual understanding of topics, and allow the students to further discover the
limits of their application to specific phenomena and devices. Through the preparation
of written and oral reports, students will develop skills in the communication of
technical themes. Six contact hours each week. This course may be used to partially
satisfy the collegiate science requirement as a physical sciences course. This course
partially fulfills the Area of Knowledge requirement as a natural science with laboratory.
Offered alternate years. Four hours.
130 – Atmospheres andWeather – An introduction to planetary atmospheres
and weather phenomena, with special emphasis on the Earth. More than just a meteorology
study, the course will use atmospheric phenomena elsewhere in the solar system as
a way of understanding similar occurrences on the Earth. Topics include general
circulation, cloud formation processes, the solar energy budget and transport phenomena,
global warming, and the interaction between humankind’s activities and the earth’s
weather. Computer simulations and laboratory exercises will assist students in understanding
the basic concepts in this course. This course partially fulfills the Area of Knowledge
requirement as a natural science with laboratory. Offered alternate years. Four
150 – Science in the Movies: From Frankenstein to Star Wars – See
151-152 – Introductory Physics – A two-semester introduction to
the basic principles of classical and contemporary physics. Topics include classical
mechanics, waves, heat and thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, optics, and
modern physics. The basic ideas and tools of calculus are presented and used as
needed. Laboratory investigation, computer modeling, and context- rich problem solving
are emphasized as modes of inquiry into the phenomena being presented. Computer
techniques are extensively used for data collection and analysis. Six contact hours
each week. Prerequisites: None for PHYS 151. PHYS 151 is prerequisite for PHYS 152.
Students who have previously passed PHYS 101 or 111 may enroll in PHYS 152. Students
intending to major in physics, chemistry, or computer science, and those intending
to participate in the cooperative engineering programs, should be enrolled concurrently
or previously in MATH 131-132 or 141-142. Each semester of this course partially
fulfills the Area of Knowledge requirement as a natural science with laboratory.
205 – Modern Physics – Developments in 20th century physics, including
the theory of special relativity, blackbody radiation, the photoelectric effect,
Compton scattering, Rutherford scattering, the Bohr atom, DeBroglie waves, wave
particle duality, and introductory quantum physics. Six contact hours per week including
laboratory. Prerequisite: PHYS 152. Three hours.
210 – Digital Electronics – An introduction to the study and applications
of digital electronics and microprocessor interfacing. Theoretical presentations
are accompanied by laboratory work emphasizing design of and experimentation with
digital circuitry. This course partially fulfills the laboratory science requirement
as a physical science. Due to space limitations, permission of the instructor is
required for students not majoring in physics or computer science. Six contact hours
per week. This course partially fulfills the Area of Knowledge requirement as a
natural science with laboratory. Four hours.
215 – Analog Electronics – An introduction to analog circuits.
The theoretical basis for the uses of active and passive circuit elements is presented
along with applications in power supplies, measurement circuits, and amplifiers.
Laboratory work providing hands-on usage of the devices discussed is a key component
to the course. Two three-hour class/laboratory sessions per week. Prerequisite:
PHYS 152 or 210. This course partially fulfills the Area of Knowledge requirement
as a natural science with laboratory. Offered alternate years. Four hours.
250 – Mathematical Physics – An introduction to the application
of mathematics to physical systems. Topics included are Taylor and Fourier series,
Fourier transforms, generating approximate solutions, and complex variables. Each
of these areas of mathematics will be related to applicable systems drawn from physics
and chemistry. Numerical techniques on various computers will be employed. The course
is designed to be of value to upper-division physics, chemistry, and mathematics
majors. Prerequisites: MATH 132 or 142, PHYS 152. This course partially fulfills
the Area of Knowledge requirement as a natural science without laboratory. Three
271-274 – Guided Research in Physics – A guided research course
intended to provide interested students an opportunity to do research prior to PHYS
300 or a Senior Project. Students will work with a faculty member to develop and
execute a research project. Permission of a faculty member is required. Students
will be required to spend at least three hours per week on the research project.
Prerequisite: PHYS 151-152. One hour each.
321 – Intermediate Physics Lab – An introduction to the use of
experimental apparatus and modern laboratory techniques. Experiments may involve
the use of lasers, optical and magnetic spectrometers, interferometers, photomultipliers,
radioactive sources and detectors, and standard laboratory electronics. Student
work is directed to the observation of important physical effects and often involves
reproducing some of the pivotal experimental results in the development of modern
physics. Upon the completion of the assigned experiment, students will be expected
to demonstrate, through written reports, competency with the apparatus and an understanding
of the physical phenomena measured. Prerequisites: PHYS 205 or permission of the
instructor. One hour.
322 – Advanced Physics Lab – This course will build upon the skills
developed in PHYS 321. Students will continue to work with new and familiar laboratory
equipment, keep a record of their experiments in a laboratory notebook, and report
their findings in a journal style technical report. Laboratory exercises will become
less procedurally descriptive for the student in preparation for PHYS 400. Prerequisites:
PHYS 321 or permission of the instructor. One hour.
330 – Intermediate Mechanics – A rigorous treatment of the formalism
and methods of classical mechanics, kinematics and dynamics are treated in one,
two, and three dimensions. Topics include vector algebra and coordinate system transformations,
periodic motion in two and three dimensions, non-inertial reference frames, central
force formalisms, coupled oscillations, and chaotic dynamics. Four hours of lecture
and tutorial each week. Prerequisites: PHYS 205, 250. MATH 203 should be taken in
the same term if not taken in a prior year. Four hours.
335 – Continuum Mechanics – An introduction into the study of three-dimensional
objects through the determination of internal conditions caused by external forces.
Numerous constitutive equations will be presented that describe properties of the
material such as stress, strain, elasticity, plasticity, and fluid flow. Tensor
analysis will be introduced and used extensively in the physical description of
mechanical deformation. Prerequisite: PHYS 330. Corequisites: MATH 203 or 307, or
permission of the instructor. Spring term, alternate years. Three hours.
340 – Electricity and Magnetism – A rigorous treatment of classical
electromagnetic theory. Beginning with a review of the calculus of vector fields,
these tools are applied to the study of electric and magnetic phenomena. Static
electric and magnetic fields are treated, including their interactions with matter.
effects, including radiation, are derived from the synthesis of Maxwell’s Equations.
Prerequisite: PHYS 330. MATH 307 should be taken simultaneously if not taken in
a prior year. Four hours of lecture and tutorial each week. Four hours.
350 – Computational Physics – In this course students will learn
computational methods for simulating physical systems to solve a variety of physics
problems. Students will be introduced to object oriented programming; no prior programming
experience is necessary. The overall goal is to lead students to conceptualize a
physical system, develop a computer experiment, and analyze and explain the data
that they generate. This course is project based. Topics to be covered as a group
include particle motion, the effects of drag resistance, lattice models, and thermal
systems. Methods will include the numerical solution of differential equations,
and Monte Carlo techniques. Prerequisites: PHYS 152 and MATH 132 or MATH 142. Recommended:
MATH 203 or PHYS 250. Three hours.
391-392 – Independent Study – An independent exploration of a specialized
area of physics under the guidance of a member of the department. Prerequisites:
permission of the instructor, a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or greater, and approval
of the Committee on the Curriculum. Three hours each.
400– Physics Research – Students select a research topic in a specialized
area of physics or astronomy. Projects are student-designed in consultation with
a faculty member. A proposal (including a literature review and a research plan)
must be submitted to the faculty member no later than the second week of the term
in which the research is to be completed. The project will culminate in a formal
written report and oral presentation by the end of that term. Prerequisite: PHYS
322 and/or permission of instructor. Three hours.
430 – Introductory Quantum Mechanics – An intermediate formulation
of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics using Shroedinger’s equation. In particular,
the study of finite, infinite, and periodic potential barriers and wells will lead
to a description of the hydrogen atom, simple molecules, and solids, and the nucleus
at a more sophisticated level than that developed in PHYS 205. Three one-hour lectures
per week. Prerequisite: PHYS 330. Offered alternate years. Three hours.
435 – Optics – An intermediate course in dynamical electromagnetic
systems, including geometric and physical optics. Emphasis will be placed upon the
nature of electromagnetic waves and their diffraction and interference. Three one-hour
lectures per week. Prerequisite: PHYS 340. Offered alternate years. Three hours.
440 – Statistical and Thermal Physics – A survey of thermal phenomena.
Topics include classical thermodynamics – temperature, heat, work, energy, entropy;
the thermodynamic laws; classical and quantum statistics describing systems of distinguishable
and indistinguishable particles. Three one-hour lectures per week. Prerequisite:
PHYS 152. Offered alternate years. Three hours.
445 – Solid State Physics – A survey of matter in the solid phase.
Fundamentals of crystallography and band structure will be treated along with selections
from the topics of superconductivity, ferromagnetism, photovoltaics, amorphous solids,
luminescence, and defects. This course is intended primarily for physics majors,
although students majoring in chemistry and computer science will find topics relevant
to their fields. Prerequisite: PHYS 205 or CHEM 311, or permission of instructor.
Offered alternate years. Three hours.
450 – Physics Internship – Students in this course are placed in
an industrial or research facility and follow an arranged set of readings relevant
to their internship experience. Students will be expected to demonstrate through
a written report upon completion of the internship an understanding of the physical
phenomena used and their applications. Application required; see Internship Program.
Offered as needed. Three hours.
481-482 – Selected Topics in Physics – A course in seminar or tutorial
format which allows the student to study – through individual readings, conferences,
or laboratory work – advanced topics not covered in the normal curriculum. This
course is intended for students who have demonstrated ability and a thorough understanding
of physics and appropriate mathematics. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.
496-498 – Senior Project – Extensive work in some area of departmental
research interest. Students will be required to show diligence and independence
in their chosen study. A departmental faculty member must consent to supervise and
review the student’s work. A formal paper and an oral examination are required.
Prerequisite: Permission of department.A Senior Project fulfills the Cross-Area
Requirement as a capstone experrience. Six hours.
499 – Senior Seminar in Physics – This course provides a capstone
experience for senior physics majors. Students will hear presentations by faculty
and other physics professionals, prepare and deliver oral resentations on their
own research activities, and gain familiarity with current professional literature
in physics. Reading and discussions in the history and philosophy of physics will
familiarize students with the larger cultural context in which the discipline has
developed. Prerequisites: PHYS 300, 330, and 340, or permission of department. This
course fulfills the Cross-Area Requirement as a capstone experience when combined
with PHYS 300. Three hours.