Department of Physics

  • Chair

    Herman L. Verlinde

  • Associate Chair

    Steven S. Gubser

    James D. Olsen

  • Departmental Representative

    Steven S. Gubser

  • Director of Graduate Studies

    James D. Olsen

  • Professor

    Michael Aizenman, also Mathematics

    Robert H. Austin

    Bogdan A. Bernevig

    William Bialek, also Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Frank P. Calaprice

    Curtis G. Callan Jr.

    Joanna Dunkley

    Cristiano Galbiati

    Steven S. Gubser

    F. Duncan Haldane

    M. Zahid Hasan

    David A. Huse

    Igor R. Klebanov

    Daniel R. Marlow

    Peter D. Meyers

    James D. Olsen

    Nai Phuan Ong

    Lyman A. Page Jr.

    Jason R. Petta

    Alexander M. Polyakov

    Frans Pretorius

    Michael V. Romalis

    Joshua Shaevitz, also Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Shivaji L. Sondhi

    Suzanne T. Staggs

    Paul J. Steinhardt

    Christopher G. Tully

    Herman L. Verlinde

    Ali Yazdani

  • Associate Professor

    Thomas Gregor, also Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    William C. Jones

  • Assistant Professor

    Waseem S. Bakr

    Simone Giombi

    Andrew Leifer

    Mariangela Lisanti

    Silviu S. Pufu

    Michael P. Zaletel

  • Senior Lecturer

    Katerina Visnjic

  • Associated Faculty

    Ravindra N. Bhatt, Electrical Engineering

    Roberto Car, Chemistry

    Mihalis C. Dafermos, Mathematics

    Andrew A. Houck, Electrical Engineering

    Mansour Shayegan, Electrical Engineering

    Yakov G. Sinai, Mathematics

    David N. Spergel, Astrophysical Sciences

    David W. Tank, Molecular Biology, Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Salvatore Torquato, Chemistry

    Ned S. Wingreen, Molecular Biology

Information and Departmental Plan of Study

The physics department offers a comprehensive program with the flexibility to accommodate students with a range of interests. Those students wishing to maximize their preparation for graduate school can choose from a variety of advanced-level courses. The requirements of the core curriculum, however, are such that students with diverse interests can take a considerable course load outside the department. Thus, in addition to those students planning to enter graduate school in physics, the department encourages students with career goals in such areas as engineering physics, biophysics, law, medicine, materials science, and teaching.

Advanced Placement

Students who have taken one or more of the Advanced Placement Examinations in Physics are usually placed in PHY 105-106, PHY 103-104, or PHY 101-102, and with these placements no advanced placement credit is awarded.  In some cases, students with strong backgrounds may be awarded up to two units of advanced placement credit and/or placed in higher level physics courses.

Prerequisites

Prerequisites as described here apply to the Class of 2019 and beyond. The Class of 2018 should consult the 2016-2017 Undergraduate Announcement for a list of program requirements.

Prerequisites for concentration in physics are the following five courses: PHY 103-104, PHY 207, and MAT 203-204.  These six courses should be completed by the end of sophomore year.  PHY 103 may be replaced by ISC 231-232 (the first term of Integrated Science Sequence), or EGR 191-192 (Engineering-Math-Physics), or PHY 105.  PHY 104 may be replaced by ISC 233-234 or PHY 106.  PHY 207 may be replaced by PHY 205.  MAT 203 may be replaced by MAT 201 or MAT 218.  MAT 204 may be replaced by MAT 202 or MAT 217.  Prerequisites for concentration in physics cannot be taken on a pass/D/fail basis.

It is possible to concentrate in physics starting with 100-level physics courses in sophomore year. Interested students should meet with the departmental representative as early as possible.

Program of Study

The program of study as described here applies to the Class of 2019 and beyond. The Class of 2018 should consult the 2016-2017 Undergraduate Announcement for a list of program requirements.

Upon completion of the prerequisites described above, courses required for concentration in physics are as follows.

1. One semester of quantum mechanics: PHY 208.

2. One semester of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics: PHY 301.

3. One semester of experimental physics: PHY 312.

4. One course either on complex analysis or on differential equations at the 300-level or higher:  APC 350, MAE 305, MAE 306, MAT 330, MAT 335, or MAT 427.

5. One additional course in Physics (not including cross-lists) at the 300-level or above.

6. One additional course in Physics at the 300-level or above, including cross-lists.

7. One additional course in either Physics or Math at the 300-level, including cross-lists.

8. One elective course at the 300-level or higher, as detailed below.

The elective course can be any Physics Department course (including cross-lists) at 300-level or above.  400-level physics courses are particularly recommended.  Courses in astrophysics, biophysics or biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, geophysical science, materials science, plasma physics, and mathematics may also be appropriate depending on the interests of the student.  Graduate courses may also be taken with permission from both the instructor and the departmental representative.

Courses required for concentration in physics may not be taken on a pass/D/fail basis by physics concentrators.

Independent Work

Junior Year. In addition to the coursework carried out during the junior year, the student is required to complete two junior papers, each of which is on a research topic of current interest. The purpose of the papers is to give students exposure to how physics research is actually performed by immersing them in journal, as opposed to textbook, literature. Each paper is written in close consultation with a faculty adviser, who is typically performing research in the subject area of the paper. A junior paper may serve as a preliminary investigation of a senior thesis topic. Junior independent work may also be satisfied with a short experimental project.

Early Concentration.  Students who complete the prerequisites for concentration before the end of sophomore year may declare early concentration in physics.  They may be offered an opportunity to undertake independent work during the spring term by writing the first junior paper.

Senior Year. In the senior year, in addition to coursework, students write a senior thesis based on their own research. The topic might be chosen from one of the active experimental or theoretical research fields of the Physics Department, or might be suggested by a faculty member with some subsidiary interest. A student could also choose a topic relating physics and another field, such as biophysics, geophysics, the teaching of physics, history of science, or engineering physics. Students whose main adviser is outside the Physics Department must also have a co-adviser who is a faculty member in the Physics Department.

Senior Departmental Examination

An oral examination conducted by a departmental committee at the end of the senior year serves as the senior departmental examination.

Certificate Programs

For those students with an interest in such topics as solid-state devices, optics, fluid mechanics, engineering design, control theory, computer applications, or other applied disciplines, the Program in Engineering Physics provides an opportunity for close contact with the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Specific requirements for the engineering physics certificate can be found in the section of this announcement on the Program in Engineering Physics.

The department also offers the opportunity for concentrators to participate in the biophysics certificate program. Interested students should consult the section of this announcement on the Program in Biophysics and discuss the program with the director and their departmental representative.

The Program in Quantitative and Computational Biology is designed for students with a strong interest in multidisciplinary and systems-level approaches to understanding molecular, cellular, and organismal behavior. The required courses provide a strong background in modern methodologies in data analysis, interpretation, and modeling.

Physics Department Facilities

The research laboratories in Jadwin Hall (the main physics building) are open to undergraduates to conduct supervised research for their junior papers, senior theses, and summer jobs. There is a "student shop" that offers a (noncredit) course in the use of machine tools. Students with an experimental bent are encouraged to take this course and are then able to participate actively in the construction of experimental apparatus. There are graduate courses in electronics (PHY 557 and PHY 558) open to undergraduates that prepare students to design and build the sophisticated electronics required in modern experiments.

Courses

PHY 101 Introductory Physics I Fall STL A course in fundamental physics that covers classical mechanics, fluid mechanics, basic thermodynamics, sounds, and waves. Meets premedical requirements. One lecture, three classes, one three-hour laboratory. Staff
PHY 102 Introductory Physics II Spring STL Continuation of 101. A course in fundamental physics that covers electricity, magnetism, and an introduction to the quantum world. Meets premedical requirements. Two 90-minute lectures, one preceptorial, and one three-hour laboratory. Staff
PHY 103 General Physics I Fall STL The physical laws that govern the motion of objects, forces, and forms of energy in mechanical systems are studied at an introductory level. Calculus-based, primarily for engineering and science students, meets premedical requirements. Some preparation in physics and calculus is desirable; calculus may be taken concurrently. One demonstration lecture, three classes, one three-hour laboratory. Staff
PHY 104 General Physics II Spring STL Continuation of 103. Electromagnetism from electrostatics, DC and AC circuits to optics, and topics of modern physics are treated at an introductory level. Some preparation in physics and calculus is desirable; calculus may be taken concurrently. Calculus-based, primarily for engineering and science students, meets premedical requirements. One demonstration lecture, three classes, one three-hour laboratory. Staff
PHY 105 Advanced Physics (Mechanics) Fall STL This course parallels 103 at a level that assumes a good preparation in physics and calculus. The material is treated in more depth and with more mathematical sophistication than in 103. Students interested in 105 should enroll in 103. After three weeks, the course will reorganize with those students who qualify and are interested in entering 105 for the remainder of the term. Either course can lead to a major in physics. One demonstration lecture, three classes, one three-hour laboratory. Staff
PHY 106 Advanced Physics (Electromagnetism) Spring STL Parallels 104 at a more sophisticated level, emphasizing the unification of electric and magnetic forces and electromagnetic radiation. To enter this course, students must have done well in 103 or 105. 103 students must attend the lectures on special relativity given in reading period as part of 105. Three lectures, one class, one three-hour laboratory. Staff
PHY 115A Physics for Future Leaders (also
STC 115A
) Fall STN
What do future leaders of our society need to know about physics and technology? The course is designed for non-scientists who will someday become our influential citizens and decision-makers. Whatever the field of endeavor, they will be faced with important decisions in which physics and technology play an important role. The purpose of this course is to present the key principles and the basic physical reasoning needed to interpret scientific and technical information and to make the best decisions. Topics include energy and power, atomic and subatomic matter, wave-like phenomena and light, and Einstein's theory of relativity. Staff
PHY 115B Physics for Future Leaders (also
STC 115B
) Fall STL
What do future leaders of our society need to know about physics and technology? The course is designed for non-scientists who will someday become our influential citizens and decision-makers. Whatever the field of endeavor, they will be faced with important decisions in which physics and technology play an important role. The purpose of this course is to present the key principles and the basic physical reasoning needed to interpret scientific and technical information and to make the best decisions. Topics include energy and power, atomic and subatomic matter, wave-like phenomena and light, and Einstein's theory of relativity. Staff
PHY 191 An Integrated Introduction to Engineering, Mathematics, Physics (See EGR 191)
PHY 192 An Integrated Introduction to Engineering, Mathematics, Physics (See EGR 192)
PHY 205 Classical Mechanics Fall STN Classical mechanics, with emphasis on the Lagrangian method. The underlying physics is Newtonian, but with more sophisticated mathematics introduced as needed to understand more complex phenomena. Topics in this intensive course include the formalism of Lagrangian mechanics, central-force motion and scattering, rigid body motion and noninertial forces, small oscillations, coupled oscillations, and waves. Prerequisite: 103-104, or 105-106 (recommended), or permission of instructor; prior completion of MAT 201 or 203 recommended. Two 90-minute lectures. Staff
PHY 207 Mechanics and Waves Fall STN Covers the basics of analytical mechanics, but shifts the emphasis to wave phenomena before moving on to aspects of quantum mechanics and quantum statistical mechanics. Special relativity is given greater weight than it usually is in PHY 205. Offers students a path toward the physics concentration that is less intensive than PHY 205 and more accessible to students with less mathematical background. Prerequisites: PHY103-104, or PHY105-106; one 200-level math course; or permission of instructor. Two 90-minute lectures. Staff
PHY 208 Principles of Quantum Mechanics Spring STN An introduction to quantum mechanics, the physics of atoms, electrons, photons, and other elementary particles. Topics include state functions and the probability interpretation, the Schrödinger equation, the uncertainty principle, the eigenvalue problem, operators and their algebras, angular momentum and spin, perturbation theory, and the hydrogen atom. Prerequisites: PHY 106, PHY 205, or PHY 207 and MAT 203 or MAT 217, and MAT 204 or MAT 218 (MAT 204/MAT 218 can be taken concurrently); or instructor's permission. Two 90-minute lectures. Staff
PHY 209 Computational Physics Seminar Fall STL Introductory course in the application of computers to physics research. Two main themes are numerical analysis methods and the computer-based techniques for implementing them. Methods discussed include least-squares fitting, numerical integration, and Monte Carlo simulation. Techniques include scientific programming, spreadsheets, symbolic-manipulation programs, statistical and plotting packages, and computer graphics. Examples are drawn from various fields of physics, including elementary particle physics and astrophysics. Prerequisites: 104 or 106 or permission of instructor. One 90-minute seminar, one three-hour laboratory. Staff
PHY 210 Experimental Physics Seminar Spring STL This seminar introduces students to the basic techniques of electronics and instrumentation used to conduct experiments in the physical sciences. The course begins by teaching a foundation in analog and digital circuits including programmable digital logic devices using an iPad interface for data acquisition. Students develop measurement techniques in a wide range of experimental areas. Prerequisites: PHY 102, 104, 106 or 304. One three-hour seminar. Staff
PHY 231 An Integrated, Quantitative Introduction to the Natural Sciences I (See ISC 231)
PHY 232 An Integrated, Quantitative Introduction to the Natural Sciences I (See ISC 232)
PHY 233 An Integrated, Quantitative Introduction to the Natural Sciences II (See ISC 233)
PHY 234 An Integrated, Quantitative Introduction to the Natural Sciences II (See ISC 234)
PHY 301 Thermal Physics Fall STN A unified introduction to the physics of systems with many degrees of freedom: thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, both classical and quantum. Applications will include phase equilibrium, classical and quantum gases, and properties of solids. Three lectures. Prerequisites: Any one of PHY 106, 205, 207 or 208, or instructor's permission. Staff
PHY 304 Advanced Electromagnetism Spring STN Extensions of electromagnetic theory including some important applications of Maxwell's equations. Solutions to Laplace's equation--boundary value problems. Retarded potentials. Electromagnetic waves and radiation. Special relativity. Mathematical tools developed as required. Two 90-minute lectures. Prerequisites: 104 or 106. Staff
PHY 305 Introduction to the Quantum Theory Fall STN A second course on the basic principles of quantum mechanics with emphasis on applications to problems from atomic and solid-state physics. Two 90-minute lectures. Prerequisites: 208. Staff
PHY 309 The Science of Nuclear Energy: Fission and Fusion (See AST 309)
PHY 312 Experimental Physics Spring STL The course offers six different experiments from the advanced laboratory collection. Experiments include Josephson effect, ß-decay, holography, Mössbauer spectroscopy, optical pumping. Lectures stress modern experimental methods and devices. One lecture, one laboratory. Staff
PHY 321 General Relativity (See AST 301)
PHY 371 Global Geophysics (See GEO 371)
PHY 401 Cosmology (See AST 401)
PHY 402 Stars and Star Formation (See AST 403)
PHY 403 Mathematical Methods of Physics (also
MAT 493
) Not offered this year QR
Mathematical methods and techniques that are essential for modern theoretical physics. Topics such as group theory, Lie algebras, and differential geometry are discussed and applied to concrete physical problems. Special attention will be given to mathematical techniques that originated in physics, such as functional integration and current algebras. Three classes. Prerequisite: MAT 330 or instructor's permission. Staff
PHY 405 Modern Physics I: Condensed-Matter Physics Spring STN An introduction to modern condensed-matter physics, this course builds on quantum and statistical mechanics to study the electronic properties of solids, including band theory. Metals, quantum Hall effects, semiconductors, superconductors and magnetism, as well as phase transitions in condensed systems and structure and dynamic of solids and liquid crystals. Two 90-minute lectures. Prerequisites: PHY 208, PHY 301, and PHY 305. Staff
PHY 406 Modern Physics II: Nuclear and Elementary Particle Physics Fall STN The basic features of nuclear and elementary particle physics are described and interpreted, primarily in the context of the "Standard Model." Problems of current interest are discussed. Two 90-minute lectures. Staff
PHY 408 Modern Classical Dynamics Spring STN The course discusses some of the most important and beautiful phenomena described by classical dynamics. This includes generalized Hamiltonian systems and variational principles, shock waves propagation, gravitational instabilities, simple solitons and vortices plus elementary exposition of the theories of turbulence and period doubling. Two 90-minute lectures. Prerequisite: PHY 205 or 207. Staff
PHY 419 Physics and Chemistry of Earth's Interior (See GEO 419)
PHY 442 Geodynamics (See GEO 442)