Courses Offered

Undergraduate Catalog Course Listing

For many of our courses, information is available on the Blackboard system; you may need a W&M username and password to access those pages.  

In some cases, you will be able to access information as a "guest" by selecting the "Preview" button on the Blackboard login page.

Please note that not every course is offered every semester. You can view current course offerings through the College's Dynamic Schedule.

COLL 100. Cosmology and the History of Wonder

This course is intended for anyone interested in learning about scientific theories of the universe, from ancient to modern. The course is organized around the question: What is science, and how does it differ from other human endeavors like philosophy, art, and religion? We will ponder this question by examining the shifting boundary between science and these other areas over the centuries, with a particular focus on the historical development of astronomy and cosmology. Along the way, we will explore how it became possible to estimate the distances to planets, stars, and the most distant galaxies, to map out the life-cycles of stars and galaxies, and to estimate the age of the Universe. We will also explore how we might search for life elsewhere. We will discuss the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics, along with black holes, time warps, wormholes, dark matter, dark energy, cosmic inflation, and other fascinating ideas. 

100. Great Ideas of Modern Physics
This course examines the development of three pinnacles of modern physics: the special and general theories of relativity, and quantum mechanics. The course will highlight the interplay between experiment and theory in science, in addition to the type of scientific debate that often follows the introduction of new scientific ideas. Attributes: College 100

100. Scales in the Universe

This course is organized around two fundamental questions: What are the geometric scales of the universe? What are the time scales of natural phenomena? In order to explore these questions we will look at the nearby universe revealed by our senses and go far away “up” and “down” looking for patterns and symmetries between the various ranges explored and we will also look in the time domain, exploring our understanding of the universe at larger and shorter intervals spanning billion or so longer and shorter times than our human experience. This course will give students a deeper understanding of the large-scale and small-scale character of our universe in length and time as well as the tools to access them. Attributes:College 100

100. Rocketry

"Rocket science" is proverbially held out as an immensely complex subject, impossible for ordinary persons to understand. However, its basic principles are entirely accessible to anyone with a willingness to build upon high school science and mathematics. This course will explore the basic concepts of rocket propulsion and spaceflight, including Newton's laws of motion, ballistics, orbital mechanics, aerodynamics, the physics and chemistry of rocket motors and beyond. Simple algebra, numerical calculations and data analysis help us apply the principles to real situations. We will delve into the fascinating history of astronautics, from the pioneers Tsiolkovsky, Oberth and Goddard to the missiles and space vehicles of today. Finally, we take a look at some of the developments in technology and space exploration that may lie just around the corner. In addition to the regular class meeting, there will be unscheduled makerspace sessions, during which you will design, build, test and fly model rockets powered by commercial solid-fuel engines.

101. General Physics I

Corequisite(s):  PHYS 101P,   MATH 111 recommended  (PHYS 101 satisfies GER 2A)
PHYS 101-102 is a two-semester calculus-based sequence designed to develop an understanding of the fundamental concepts of physics for students considering majoring in one of the sciences or mathematics.  Emphasis in Physics 101 is placed upon Newtonian mechanics and applications. Co-registration in the laboratory PHYS 101L is not required, but strongly encouraged. Students may receive credit for only one of PHYS 101, 101H, or 107. 

102. General Physics II

Spring (3) Staff, Prerequisite: PHYS 101 or PHYS 101H Corequisite(s): PHYS 102P, MATH 112 recommended (PHYS 102 satisfies GER 2A)
PHYS 101-102 is a two-semester calculus-based sequence designed to develop an understanding of the fundamental concepts of physics for students considering majoring in one of the sciences or mathematics. Emphasis in Physics 102 is placed upon thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, waves, optics, and applications. Co-enrollment in the laboratory PHYS 102L is strongly encouraged. Students may receive credit for only one of PHYS 102, 102H, or 108.

101H. General Physics I - Honors

Fall(3) Griffioen Prerequisite(s): Instructor Permission Corequisite(s): MATH 111 recommended (101H satisfies GER 2A)
PHYS 101H is an honors section of PHYS 101 that is open to students who have a good preparation for and a strong interest in physics. Physics 101H  offers a more in-depth treatment of topics covered in PHYS 101, and includes more sophisticated examples. Prior exposure to calculus will be assumed. Co-registration in the laboratory PHYS 101L is not required, but strongly encouraged.   Students may receive credit for only one of PHYS 101, 101H, or 107.

102H. General Physics II - Honors

Spring (3) Griffioen Prerequisite(s): PHYS 101 or PHYS 101H and Instructor Permission Corequisite(s): MATH 112 recommended (102H satisfies GER 2A)
PHYS 102H is an honors section of PHYS 102 that is open to students who have a good preparation for and a strong interest in physics. Physics 102H  offers a more in-depth treatment of topics covered in PHYS 102, and includes more sophisticated examples. Prior exposure to calculus will be assumed. Co-registration in the laboratory PHYS 102L is not required, but strongly encouraged.   Students may receive credit for only one of PHYS 102, 102H, or 108.

101L-102L. General Physics Laboratory (101L and 102L each satisfies the lab requirement for GER 2A) Corequisites: PHYS 101/101H, 102/102H. Laboratory techniques in general physics. Two and one half laboratory hours.

107. Physics for the Life Sciences I
(107 satisfies GER 2A)
PHYS 107-108 is a two-semester algebra-based sequence designed to cover the fundamental concepts of physics for students in the life sciences, including pre-meds.   Emphasis is placed on Newtonian mechanics, fluids and waves. High school science as well as algebra and trigonometry are assumed.   Co-registration in the laboratory PHYS 107L is not required, but strongly encouraged.   Students may receive credit for only one of PHYS 101, 101H, or 107.

108. Physics for the Life Sciences II
(108 satisfies GER 2A).  Prerequisite, PHYS 107
PHYS 107-108 is a two-semester algebra-based sequence designed to cover the fundamental concepts of physics for students in the life sciences, including pre-meds.  Emphasis is placed on thermodynamics, electric and magnetic fields, simple circuits, optics and some modern physics.  High school science as well as algebra and trigonometry are assumed.   Co-registration in the laboratory PHYS 108L is not required, but strongly encouraged.   Students may receive credit for only one of PHYS 102, 102H, or 108.   

107L-108L. General Physics Laboratory (107L and 108L each satisfies the lab requirement for GER 2A)
Corequisites: PHYS 107, 108. Laboratory techniques in physics for the life sciences. Two and one half laboratory hours.

121. Physics of Music
 (GER 2A)

Basic concepts of physics, particularly acoustics, needed for an understanding of the properties of sound and music. The course will be in the form of a workshop and students will participate in the performance of experiments which illustrate the ideas. 


150. Freshman Seminar


Fall or Spring (3-4) Staff
A course that introduces freshmen to topics in the study of Physics. PHYS 150W  satisfies the freshman writing requirement.

155. Freshman Research

Prerequisite: Instructor permission. Research opportunity for Freshmen having an unusually strong background in Physics. Students will work with an individual faculty member on a research project.

171. Planetary & Stellar Astronomy

Fall, Spring (3) Hancock, Lukaszew (Coll 200; GER 2A)
Descriptive study of the solar system and its origin; stellar distance scales, star classifications; stellar evolution; stellar remnants, including white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes.   Included will be discussion of the wider historical context of the material.

172. Stellar Astronomy & Cosmology

Fall (3) Sher (Coll 200; GER 2A)
Star classifications, stellar evolution and stellar remnants, distance scales in the universe, galactic structure and evolution, galactic superclusters.   The past history of the universe and the experimental evidence for the big bang.   The beginning and the end of the universe. Included will be discussions of the historical ramifications of the discoveries of the early 20th century and the philosophical implications of study of the beginning of the universe (or universes).

177. Astronomy Laboratory 
(Lab)

Prerequisite or Corequisite: PHYS 176.
A series of experiments is undertaken with the goal of understanding both the scientific method of measurement and the laws of nature as they apply to astronomy. Two and one-half laboratory hours.


201. Modern Physics

Prerequisites: PHYS 101, PHYS 102 or PHYS 107, PHYS 108. 
20th-century developments in physics. Relativity theory; the nature of space and time, the paradox of the twins, the equivalence of mass and energy. Introductory quantum theory; the particle nature of light, the wave nature of electrons, atomic and molecular structure, the structure of the nucleus and the discovery of new particles. This course is appropriate for all those majoring in science or mathematics.


208. Classical Mechanics of Particles and Waves I

Newton's laws, the simple harmonic oscillator, nonlinear oscillations and chaos, variational methods, Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics. Overview of relevant mathematical methods. 


213. Introduction to Modern Optics

This course introduces basic optics concepts and their application, such as geometrical optics instrumentation design; wave optics and interaction with matter; quantum optics and lasers.  Connections to visual arts are explored and practiced. 

251. Experimental Atomic Physics

Corequisite: PHYS 201. 
Fundamental experiments in atomic physics. Modern scientific methods and instruments are used in such classic experiments as the measurement of the speed of light, the Millikan oil drop experiment, the photo-electric effect and optical spectroscopy. 


252. Electronics I

Prerequisite: PHYS 102 or PHYS 108. 
Introduction to analog electronics. Theory, design, and application of circuits using passive and active components. 


255. Sophomore Research

Prerequisite: Instructor Permission. Research opportunity for Sophomores having an unusually strong background in Physics. Students will work with an individual faculty member on a research project.

256. Practical Computing for Scientists

This course will focus on breaking scientific problems into algorithmic pieces that can be solved using using computational methods in MATLAB. Root finding, linear and non-linear equations, numerical modeling, optimization, random processes, graphical data presentation and fitting, scientific documentation preparation.

275W. University Seminar


University seminars are modeled after our freshman seminars but are reserved for transfer students and for co-enrolled students from Virginia community colleges with whom the College has signed a guaranteed admissions agreement. The objective of the seminars is to help students improve their writing skills and to develop their ability to engage in critical thinking and independent learning. All university seminars are reading-, writing-, and discussion-intensive and introduce students to research methods and strategies.  With a maximum enrollment of 15 students, university seminars provide a small group learning experience and the opportunity to interact closely with faculty. All university seminars will be four credit courses and carry the "W" designation. Students receiving a grade of "C-" or better in the seminar will have satisfied the lower-division writing requirement.


301. Introduction to Mathematical Physics

Vector analysis, complex variables, matrices, series solutions of differential equations, orthogonal functions and partial differential equations. (Cross listed with APSC 446)

303. Classical Mechanics of Particles and Waves II

Prerequisite: PHYS 208. 
Central force motion, scattering, systems of particles, coupled oscillations and normal modes, rigid body rotation, inertia tensor, continuum mechanics and wave motion, special relativity.


309. Undergraduate Seminar

Discussion of contemporary research in physics. Faculty members give survey talks during the first part of the semester. During the second part, students give talks based on their reading and research. May be repeated for credit. 


313. Quantum Mechanics I

Spring (3) Prerequisite PHYS201 and PHYS208
Fundamentals of non-relativistic quantum mechanics, solutions of the Schrodinger equation in one and three dimensions, symmetry, identical particles.

314. Quantum Mechanics II

Fall (3) Prerequisite PHYS313
Perturbation theory and other approximate methods, applications of quantum mechanics for atomic, solid state and nuclear physics.

351. Electronics II

Design and construction of digital circuits. Computer-based control of digital devices used in experimental research. 


352. Experimental Modern Physics

Experiments in atomic, nuclear, solid state and elementary particle physics. 


355. Junior Research

Prerequisite: Instructor permission. Research Opportunity for juniors having an unusually strong background in Physics. Students will work with an individual faculty member on a research project.

401. Electricity and Magnetism I

Fall (3) Prerequisite PHYS208 Development of the theory of electricity and magnetism including electrostatics, magnetostatics and Maxwell’s equations.


402.
 Electricity and Magnetism II

Spring (3) Prerequisite PHYS401
Continued development of the theory of electromagnetism, Maxwell’s equations, electromagnetic waves and radiation, and special relativity.

403. Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics

Fall (3) Qazilbash Prerequisite(s): PHYS 201 
Introduction to quantum statistical mechanics and thermal physics. Definitions of accessible quantum states, entropy, free energy, temperature and partition function for noninteracting systems. Derivation and interpretation of the physical and thermodynamic properties of classical and quantum gases, solids, thermal radiation and diffusive equilibrium.
404. Quantum Physics: Research Applications

Spring (3) Staff Prerequisite(s): PHYS 313 , PHYS 314 
Applications of quantum physics to modern research topics. The course will focus on areas (to be determined by the instructor) such as : electronic and magnetic properties of solids, atomic and optical physics, or nuclear and particle physics. May be repeated for credit when the instructor determines that there will not be a duplication of material.

451. Physics Research
Fall and Spring (1-3) Perdrisat, Krakauer
Independent study including bibliographic and experimental or theoretical research and a research paper. The student will be required to submit a preliminary draft of the research paper during the first semester and will be expected to work closely with an advisor both in the actual research and in preparation of an acceptable report. If satisfactorily completed, this course will meet the departmental writing requirement.

452. Physics Research

Fall and Spring (1-3) Perdrisat, Krakauer
Independent study including bibliographic and experimental or theoretical research and a research paper. The student will be required to submit a preliminary draft of the research paper during the first semester and will be expected to work closely with an advisor both in the actual research and in preparation of an acceptable report. If satisfactorily completed, this course will meet the departmental writing requirement. 476. Modern Astrophysics

Prerequisites: PHYS 303, PHYS 313. Corequisite: PHYS 401. 
An introduction of modern astrophysics. Topics may include stellar characteristics and evolution, galactic structure, cosmology, general relativity and the tools and techniques of astronomy and astrophysics. 481-482 Topics in Physics

Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.
 May be repeated for credit when the instructor determines that there will not be a duplication of material. 


495-496. Honors Students admitted to Honors study in physics will be enrolled in this course during both semesters of their senior year. Each candidate will be responsible for (a) reading and discussion of a selected list of books in some specific area of the literature of physics; (b) the preparation and presentation by April 15 of an Honors essay based on the student's own research, or part of a major research project; (c) satisfactory completion of a comprehensive oral examination on essay and related topics. If successfully completed this course will satisfy the College writing requirement. In addition to the major course requirements, the department requirements for Honors specify Physics 303 and 351, as well as either Physics 314 or 402. In applying for Honors, students must submit a proposal to the undergraduate committee during the semester preceding enrollment. For college provisions governing the Admission to Honors, see catalog section titled Honors and Special Programs.