Physics and Astronomy

Phillips 230
715-836-3148
Department Website

Physics, the science of matter and energy, is the study of the deepest mysteries of our universe, ranging from subatomic particles to cosmology. Exploring ideas of space, time, matter, energy, and radiation, it serves as the basis for the physical sciences. Modern society is influenced by physics in countless ways, including recent developments in such fields as laser optics, miniaturized electronics, nuclear energy, and medical instrumentation.

Beyond the earth, astronomy applies the ideas of physics to the study of planets, stars, galaxies and all celestial phenomena within reach of our telescopes. Since the two areas share a vast array of common ideas and knowledge, new discoveries in physics often aid progress in astronomy and vice versa.

Special learning opportunities associated with the department include the Materials Science Center, the L.E. Phillips Planetarium (www.uwec.edu/planetarium), and Hobbs Observatory at the Beaver Creek Reserve (www.beavercreekreserve.org).

Departmental Honors in Physics

Departmental Honors is a way for a student to experience the thrill of innovative research and discovery in an area of interest within Physics and Astronomy. One of the most significant benefits of Departmental Honors is that it fosters one-on-one interaction between students and professors, which substantially enhances a student’s educational experience and serves as a springboard for excellence in graduate studies or professional employment after graduation.

Eligibility: Complete PHYS 332 and maintain both a resident GPA and a major GPA of at least 3.50.

Procedure: A written application for Departmental Honors in Physics and Astronomy must be approved by the student’s academic advisor, the student’s project advisor, and the chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department.

Requirements:

  1. Complete the required courses for one of the three emphases for the Liberal Arts major in Physics.
  2. Complete two courses selected from among
    PHYS 367Astrophysics3
    PHYS 375Electromagnetic Fields4
    PHYS 430Advanced Laboratory Techniques2
    PHYS 445Thermal Physics4
    PHYS 465Quantum Mechanics3
    PHYS 475Mathematical Methods in Physics3
  3. Complete a significant scholarly activity and disseminate the results of the activity by completing a written research paper and presenting at an appropriate on-campus or off-campus venue (Physics Thursday, CERCA, Provost’s Honors Symposium, etc.) or making a presentation at a professional meeting or publishing an article in a professional journal. The quality of the activity and dissemination will be evaluated by a three-member faculty panel. Upon approval by the panel, the student will receive the designation of Departmental Honors in Physics and Astronomy on his/her official transcript and a special notation in the graduation ceremony program.

Faculty

Lyle Ford, Chair

Douglas Dunham
Matthew Evans
J. Erik Hendrickson
Lauren Likkel
Nathan Miller
Kim Pierson
James Rybicki
George Stecher
Paul Thomas
Scott Whitfield
 

PHYS 100 Physical Science (4 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 2^^A conceptual study of physics using ideas of force and energy to understand motion, properties of matter, sound, light, and electricity and magnetism.

N

Attributes: GE IIE Natural Science-Physics, Lab Science, LE-K1 Natural Sciences, LE-K1L Natural Sciences with Lab

Grading Basis: No credit if taken after PHYS 110, PHYS 111, PHYS 211 or PHYS 231.

PHYS 115 Survey of Astronomy (3 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^A one-semester presentation of our current understanding of the universe, including the solar system, birth and death of stars, unusual phenomena such as black holes and quasars, evolution of galaxies and the universe, and our link with the cosmos.

N

Attributes: GE IIE Natural Science-Physics, LE-K1 Natural Sciences

Grading Basis: No credit if taken after PHYS 226 or PHYS 229.

PHYS 186 Introductory Seminar (0.5 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: .5^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^Students will explore avenues for obtaining an internship, discuss plans for participating in the required research project, attend the weekly Physics Seminar, develop academic plans, and participate in postgraduate planning.

Consent: A-F Grades Only

N

Grading Basis: Limited to physics liberal arts majors.

PHYS 205 Physics of Renewable Energy (4 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 2^^Explores the basic physics principles behind various types of renewable energy sources. Discusses impact renewable energy sources have on mitigating global warming and climate change.

Consent: A-F Grades Only

N

Attributes: GE IIE Natural Science-Physics, Lab Science, LE-K1 Natural Sciences, LE-K1L Natural Sciences with Lab, LE-R3 Civic and Environmental Issues

PHYS 211 General Physics (5 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 4^Lab/Studio Hours: 2^^Fundamental principles of mechanics, heat, wave motion, and sound. Designed for students who desire a one-year non-calculus course in physics. Proficiency with algebraic and trigonometric operations is expected.

N

Attributes: GE IIE Natural Science-Physics, Lab Science, LE-K1 Natural Sciences, LE-K1L Natural Sciences with Lab

Grading Basis: No credit if taken after PHYS 231.

PHYS 212 General Physics (4 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 2^^A continuation of Physics 211 including topics in optics, electricity, magnetism, and modern physics.

N

Attributes: GE IIE Natural Science-Physics, Lab Science

Grading Basis: PHYS 211. No credit if taken after PHYS 232.

PHYS 226 Astronomy-Solar System (4 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 2^^• Three years high school mathematics assumed prior to enrollment in this course. Some night observing required. ^^The physical nature of the solar system, including earth motions, celestial coordinates, time, telescopes, moon, planets, sun, and origin of solar system.

N

Attributes: GE IIE Natural Science-Physics, Lab Science, LE-I1 Integration, LE-K1 Natural Sciences, LE-K1L Natural Sciences with Lab

PHYS 229 Astronomy-Stars and Galaxies (4 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 2^^• Three years of high school mathematics assumed prior to enrollment in this course. PHYS 226 is not a prerequisite. Some night observing required. ^^The physical nature of the universe, including stellar evolution, multiple and variable stars, the Milky Way galaxy, other galaxies, and origin of the universe.

N

Attributes: GE IIE Natural Science-Physics, Lab Science, LE-K1 Natural Sciences, LE-K1L Natural Sciences with Lab

PHYS 231 University Physics I (5 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 4^Lab/Studio Hours: 2^^Physics for science and engineering students, including the study of mechanics, simple harmonic motion, and wave motion.

N

Attributes: GE IIE Natural Science-Physics, Lab Science, LE-K1 Natural Sciences, LE-K1L Natural Sciences with Lab

Grading Basis: MATH 114 or concurrent enrollment.

PHYS 232 University Physics II (5 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 4^Lab/Studio Hours: 2^^A continuation of Physics 231, including the study of electricity, magnetism, and optics.

N

Attributes: GE IIE Natural Science-Physics, Lab Science, LE-K1 Natural Sciences, LE-K1L Natural Sciences with Lab

Grading Basis: PHYS 231; MATH 215 or concurrent enrollment

PHYS 255 Statics (3 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^Designed primarily for pre-engineering students. Includes static equilibrium of rigid bodies, centroids, analysis of structures, friction, and moments of inertia.

N

Grading Basis: PHYS 231; MATH 215 or concurrent registration.

PHYS 291 Special Topics (1-3 crs)

Prerequisite: Content will be determined by the interests of students and faculty. May contain lecture or lab.

N

PHYS 308 Science of Musical Sound (3 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^Physical concepts related to production of tones and speech. Application to musical instruments and auditorium acoustics, with experimental demonstrations of vibrational phenomena and electronic sound analysis and synthesis. No prior physics or university mathematics assumed.

N

Attributes: GE IIE Natural Science-Physics, LE-K1 Natural Sciences

PHYS 315 The Mysterious Universe (3 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^A view of the world as revealed by contemporary physical thought. Topics include size and origin of universe, ultimate nature of matter; modern ideas of space, time and energy; possibilities of extraterrestrial life; and values and limitations of science.

N

Attributes: GE IIE Natural Science-Physics, LE-I1 Integration, LE-K1 Natural Sciences

PHYS 332 University Physics III (3 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^Physics for science and engineering students, including the study of fluids, heat, thermodynamics, relativity, and an introduction to modern physics.

N

Attributes: LE-I1 Integration

Grading Basis: PHYS 232 and MATH 215.

PHYS 333 Quantum Physics (3 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^Introduction to the experimental and theoretical basis of quantum physics, including particle aspects of radiation, matter waves, Bohr model of the atom, Schrodinger wave mechanics and its application to the hydrogen atom and multi-electron atoms.

N

Grading Basis: PHYS 332 and MATH 216.

PHYS 340 Optics (4 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 3^^Lecture and laboratory work cover geometrical and physical optics, image formation, optical instruments, interference, diffraction, polarization, and modern topics including lasers.

N

Grading Basis: PHYS 232 and MATH 215.

PHYS 350 Electric and Electronic Circuits (4 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 3^^General introduction to electrical circuits and electronics including analysis of DC and AC circuits, simple passive filters, diodes, transistors, operational amplifiers, simple digital electronics, and circuit design and construction.

N

Grading Basis: MATH 215 and grade of C or above in PHYS 232.

PHYS 356 Dynamics (3 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^A continuation of Physics 255. Dynamics of rigid bodies, moments of inertia, work, energy, impulse, and momentum.

Consent: A-F Grades Only

N

Grading Basis: MATH 215 and PHYS 255 (or MATH 255). No credit if taken after MATH 256. Credit may not be earned in both PHYS 356 and PHYS 365.

PHYS 360 Electronics (4 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 3^^Description, analysis, and laboratory measurements of digital and analog devices including transistor amplifiers, operational amplifiers, oscillators, gates, flip-flops, analog-digital converters, and microprocessors.

N

Grading Basis: PHYS 350 or consent of instructor.

PHYS 361 LabVIEW Basics (2 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 2^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^• Field trip(s) optional.^^Lecture and laboratory work cover an introduction to the graphical programming language LabVIEW. LabVIEW has been widely adopted as the industry standard for computerized data acquisition, analysis and instrument control.

Consent: A-F Grades Only

N

Attributes: Undergraduate/Graduate Offering

Grading Basis: PHYS 350 or concurrent enrollment.

PHYS 362 LabVIEW Applications (2 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 2^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^• Field trip(s) optional.^^Lecture and laboratory exercises cover applications using the graphical programming language LabVIEW. Topics include advanced programming structures, CompactDAQ hardware, digital signal processing, motor control, encoders, PID process control, RS-232 instrument control, component testing, sensor monitoring.

N

Attributes: Undergraduate/Graduate Offering

Grading Basis: PHYS 361 LabVIEW Basics

PHYS 363 LabVIEW cRIO (1 cr)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 1^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^Lecture and laboratory exercises cover the theory and application of the cRIO automation controller using the graphical programming language LabVIEW. Topics include Real-Time operating system, field programmable gate array (FPGA) and network shared variables.

N

Attributes: Undergraduate/Graduate Offering

Grading Basis: PHYS 362 LabVIEW Applications

PHYS 365 Theoretical Mechanics (4 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 4^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^Newton's laws, accelerated frames, central-force orbits, angular momentum of systems, coupled oscillations, generalized coordinates, and Lagrange's equations.

N

Grading Basis: MATH 216, and a grade of C or above in PHYS 231. Credit may not be earned in both PHYS 356 and PHYS 365.

PHYS 367 Astrophysics (3 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^Physics applied to astronomical objects. The birth, structure, and evolution of stars are studied in detail. Nebulae, the interstellar medium, and stellar remnants are also investigated.

N

Grading Basis: PHYS 332

PHYS 374 Physics of Solids (4 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 4^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^• Credit may not be earned in both MSE 374 and PHYS 374.^^A description of the behaviors of crystalline solids. Topics include crystallography, diffraction, and the electrical, optical and magnetic properties of materials. Semiconducting materials and devices will also be discussed.

N

Grading Basis: PHYS 332 or MSE 350.

PHYS 375 Electromagnetic Fields (4 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 4^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^Electric and magnetic fields, dielectric and magnetic properties of materials, and electromagnetic phenomena. Field theory leading to the development of Maxwell's equations and the plane electromagnetic wave.

N

Grading Basis: PHYS 332, MATH 216, and MATH 311 or MATH 312.

PHYS 392 Current Topics in the Physics Literature (1 cr)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 1^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^Each student will choose a topic for investigation using articles in the physics literature. The class will discuss and critique each individual's project during class meetings. All students will write final summary papers.

Consent: A-F Grades Only

N

Grading Basis: PHYS 332. Limited to physics liberal arts majors.

PHYS 399 Independent Study - Juniors (1-3 crs)

Prerequisite: Individual project under the direction of a faculty member.

N

Repeat: Course may be repeated

Grading Basis: Minimum junior standing.

PHYS 430 Advanced Laboratory Techniques (2 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 0^Lab/Studio Hours: 4^^Laboratory course for students with special interests in experimental physics. The emphasis is on widely applicable modern experimental methods.

N

Grading Basis: Two courses from PHYS 340, PHYS 350, PHYS 360.

PHYS 440 Digital Image Processing (3 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^• Credit may not be earned in both MATH 440 and PHYS 440.^ ^Applications of Fourier analysis and wavelets to optics and image processing. Topics include: diffraction, wave optical theory of lenses and imaging, wavelets, and image processing.

N

Grading Basis: MATH 215

PHYS 445 Thermal Physics (4 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 4^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^Statistical mechanics and thermodynamics including the laws of classical thermodynamics, equations of state, thermodynamical processes, and applications to classical and quantum mechanical systems.

N

Grading Basis: PHYS 332, PHYS 333, and MATH 216. No credit if taken after PHYS 334 and PHYS 435.

PHYS 465 Quantum Mechanics (3 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^A continuation of Physics 333, including Dirac notation, operator methods, one dimensional potentials, spin and angular momentum, and the philosophical interpretation of quantum mechanics.

N

Grading Basis: PHYS 333, MATH 311 or MATH 312.

PHYS 475 Mathematical Methods in Physics (3 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 3^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^An introduction to the mathematical methods in physics with emphasis on applications in classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and electrodynamics.

N

Grading Basis: PHYS 365 and MATH 311 or MATH 312; or consent of instructor.

PHYS 486 Senior Seminar (0.5 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: .5^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^^• Students need to have completed an adviser-approved capstone project before entering this class. This can be accomplished through various means: PHYS 392, PHYS 399, PHYS 430, PHYS 495, PHYS 499, through an academic or industrial internship, or through another approved means.^^Students will present a capstone project seminar, develop presentation skills (oral and poster), take a nationally normed test covering undergraduate physics, discuss their post-graduate plans, and assist the department in assessing the major.

N

Attributes: LE-S3 Creativity

Grading Basis: Limited to physics liberal arts majors, liberal arts emphasis; and physics liberal arts majors, applied physics emphasis.

PHYS 491 Special Topics (1-3 crs)

Prerequisite: Content will be determined by the interests of students and faculty. Possible topics include astrophysics and solid state physics.

N

Repeat: Course may be repeated for a maximum of 6 credits

Grading Basis: PHYS 333 and PHYS 365.

PHYS 495 Directed Study (1-3 crs)

Prerequisite: • Limit of three credits counted toward major.^^Special project or research activity, primarily on campus, and directed by a faculty member. Projects and topics available will be determined by the activities and interests of the faculty.

N

Repeat: Course may be repeated for a maximum of 6 credits

Grading Basis: PHYS 332; 2.75 GPA in physics. Limited to physics majors and minors.

PHYS 499 Independent Study - Seniors (1-3 crs)

Prerequisite: Individual project under the direction of a faculty member.

N

Repeat: Course may be repeated

Grading Basis: Minimum senior standing.

PHYS 561 LabVIEW Basics (2 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 2^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^• Cross-listed with PHYS 361. Credit may not be earned in both courses. Field trip(s) optional.^^Lecture and laboratory work cover an introduction to graphical programming language LabVIEW. LabVIEW has been widely adopted as the industry standard for computerized data acquisition, analysis and instrument control.

Consent: A-F Grades Only

N

Attributes: Field Trip(s) Required

PHYS 562 LabVIEW Applications (2 crs)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 2^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^• Cross-listed with PHYS 362. Credit may not be earned in both courses. Field trip(s) optional.^Lecture and laboratory exercises cover applications using the graphical programming language Lab VIEW. Topics include advanced programming structures, Compact DAQ hardware, digital signal processing, motor control, encoders, PID Process control, RS-232 instrument control, component testing, sensor monitoring.

Consent: A-F Grades Only

N

Attributes: Field Trip(s) Required

PHYS 563 LabVIEW cRIO (1 cr)

Prerequisite: Lecture/Discussion Hours: 1^Lab/Studio Hours: 0^• Cross-listed with PHYS 363. Credit may not be earned in both courses.^Lecture and laboratory exercises cover the theory and application of the cRIO automation controller using the graphical programming language LabVIEW. Topics include Real-Time operating system, field programmable gate array (FPGA) and network shared variables.

Consent: A-F Grades Only

N

Attributes: Field Trip(s) Required

PHYS 793 Directed Studies (1-4 crs)

Prerequisite: Permits groups of students to study topical areas in an intensive way under the direction of departmental faculty members.

Consent: No S/U Grade Option

N

Repeat: Course may be repeated