Department of Physics and Astronomy (PH)

The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers programs leading to the master of science and the doctor of philosophy degrees. Research toward a degree may be conducted in either experimental or theoretical areas.
 
Experimental programs include magnetic materials, high-energy physics, materials science, observational extragalactic astronomy, and particle astrophysics. Theoretical programs include condensed matter, elementary particles, atomic and molecular physics, extragalactic astronomy, astrophysics and particle astrophysics.
 

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Programs

Faculty

Chair
  • Patrick R. LeClair
Graduate Director
  • Conor Henderson
Professors
  • Benjamin Harms
  • Raymond E. White III
  • William Keel
  • Gary Mankey
  • Tim Mewes
  • Andreas Piepke
  • Sanjoy Sarker
  • Rainer Schad
  • Ion Stancu
  • Allen Stern
Associate professors
  • Conor Henderson
  • Jimmy Irwin
  • Claudia Mewes
  • Nobuchika Okada
  • Paolo Rumerio
  • Dean Townsley
  • Dawn Williams
Assistant professors
  • Paulo Araujo
  • Jeremy Bailin
  • Adam Hauser
  • Matthias Kaminski
  • Preethi Nair
  • Igor Ovstrovskiy
  • Georg Schwiete
  • Wang-Kong Tse

Courses

Graduate credit will not be granted to physics students for 400-level physics or astronomy courses. Graduate students enrolled in 500-level courses that are also offered at the 400 level are expected to perform extra work of an appropriate nature.

Astronomy Courses

AY
521
Hours
3
Theoretical Astrophysics

This course provides a broad introduction to the theoretical foundations of astrophysical phenomena, demonstrating how fundamental phenomenology arises from physical laws. Several broad domains of astrophysics are covered, including planetary and stellar orbits, radiation, radiative transfer, ionization, star and planet formation, stellar evolution, binary stars, special and general relativity (including black holes), galactic structure and dynamics (including dark matter), active galaxies, spacetime structure, formation of large scale matter structure, and cosmology (including the accelerating expansion of the Universe, dark energy, and Grand Unification of forces in the early Universe).

AY
533
Hours
3
Observational Techniques

Theoretical and practical aspects of modern astronomical observational techniques. Photometry, spectroscopy, interferometry, and optical and radio data reduction and image processing.

AY
550
Hours
3
Stars & Stellar Evolution

This course is intended to facilitate a fairly complete understanding of stars, including their structure, evolution (formation, stages of burning, end states), synthesis of elements, and the physical processes involved in each of these, as well as introduce the modern computational modeling techniques used to apply stellar physics to stars. For astronomy students, this course will provide the background necessary to understand the underlying principles of stellar processes and modelling as they are used both in ongoing research into stellar physics and phenomena and in support of other areas of astronomical research where stellar populations, products and processes are important. In a broader context, relevant for any physics student, this course will discuss how understanding the physical principles in fluid dynamics, high-density materials, heat transfer, plasma physics, nuclear structure, and nuclear processes are assembled into our modern understanding of how stellar objects behave, and how the study of stars pushes the frontier of understanding in these areas of physics.

AY
580
Hours
3
Cosmology

This course surveys the evolution of the universe, including discussion of general relativity, the Standard Big Bang Cosmology, cosmological inflation, the cosmic microwave background, large scale structure, baryogenesis, dark matter and dark energy.

AY
582
Hours
1-3
Selected Topics in Astronomy

This course may deal with any astronomy topic not covered by existing courses. The course title is added at the time the course is taught. Repeat credit is allowed for different course titles.

AY
590
Hours
3
Research Techniques

This course provides graduate students with domain-specific skills and knowledge in their research specialty. This training is expected to be undertaken in the context of active engagement by the student in an ongoing or semester-long research project. Alternatively, if formal preparation beyond the available courses is necessary for a student's success within their specialty, such formal preparation (reading, assignments, etc) will be performed under the direction and supervision of the instructor. Any combination of active research and additional specialty formal preparation may be specified by the instructor, as is necessary to advance the student's knowledge and skill toward that necessary to plan and perform successful research in their specialty.

Prerequisite(s): Permission of instructor is required. Core courses must be completed before taking this Research Techniques course.
AY
597
Hours
1
Astrophysics Seminar

Required of all full-time physics graduate students specializing in astronomy each semester in residence. Students must attend weekly seminars and make one oral presentation.

AY
620
Hours
3
Extragalactic Astronomy

This course surveys the observational and physical aspects of galaxies, clusters of galaxies, active galaxies, quasars, and astrophysical cosmology. The cosmic distance scale and galaxy evolution will be addressed. On successful completion of this course, a student will be prepared to understand the relevant research literature and be ready to embark on independent research in these topics.

AY
630
Hours
3
Stellar and Galactic Dynamics

The subject of this course is the dynamics of collisionless objects (stars and dark matter) within self-gravitating systems, i.e. within galaxies and star clusters. The course is primarily theoretical, but there will be considerable discussion of the connections to observations. The approach will combine rigorous mathematical analysis with computational experiments.

AY
640
Hours
3
Radiation Processes in Astrophysics

This course covers radiative transfer, blackbody radiation, and non-relativistic and relativistic electromagnetic radiation processes, including bremsstrahlung, synchrotron and Compton radiation, as well as atomic and molecular transitions.

AY
650
Hours
1-3
Special Topics

May deal with any topic in astronomy or astrophysics not covered by existing courses. The course title is added at the time each course is taught. Repeat credit is allowed for different course titles.

AY
682
Hours
1-3
Selected Topics in Astronomy

This course may deal with any astronomy topic not covered by existing courses. The course title is added at the time the course is taught. Repeat credit is allowed for different course titles.

Physics Courses

PH
501
Hours
3
Classical Dynamics

Variational principles and Lagrange's equations; two-body central-force problems; kinematics of rigid-body motion; rigid-body equations of motion; special relativity; Hamilton's equations of motion; and canonical transformations.

PH
505
Hours
3
Physics For Science Teachers

Selected topics in contemporary physics for high school and post-secondary science teachers.

PH
511
Hours
3
Biophysics

Physics of biological systems: proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, supramolecular structures, and molecular motors; structure, function, energetics, thermodynamics, bionanotechnology. Emphasis on systems that are best understood in physical and molecular detail.

PH
512
Hours
1
Physics Pedagogy

This is a course in teaching methodologies for introductory physics, based on recent results from physics education research.

Prerequisite(s): None
Prerequisite(s) with concurrency: None
PH
513
Hours
1
High School Physics Labs I

This course is designed to provide training in Level 1 Alabama Science in Motion physics laboratory activities for pre- service high school physics teachers. In addition to hands-on training, students will observe a selected number of ASIM lab activities being performed in a local high school classroom. Whenever possible, training will occur jointly with on-going in-service workshops provided by the ASIM physics specialist.

PH
514
Hours
1
High School Physics Labs II

This course is designed to provide training in Level 2 Alabama Science in Motion physics laboratory activities for pre- service high school physics teachers. In addition to hands-on training, students will observe a selected number of ASIM lab activities being performed in a local high school classroom. Whenever possible, training will occur jointly with on-going in-service workshops provided by the ASIM physics specialist.

PH
515
Hours
1
High School Physics Labs III

This course is designed to provide classroom experience for students who have received training in Levels 1 and 2 Alabama Science in Motion physics laboratory activities for pre-service high school physics teachers. Students will assist with approximately six di!erent ASIM lab activities being performed in a local high school classroom. They will meet with the classroom teacher before and after each class to discuss the goals and objectives and to assess the e!ectiveness of the activity, and they will write a report on their observations.

PH
523
Hours
3
Relativity

Special relativity, equivalence principle, tensor analysis, gravitational effects, curvature, Einstein's field equations, action principle, classic tests of Einstein's theory.

PH
531
Hours
3
Electromagnetic Theory

Electric and magnetic fields, Green's functions, and Maxwell's equations.

PH
532
Hours
3
Electromagnetic Theory

Electromagnetic waves, relativity, and selected topics.

Prerequisite(s): PH 531
PH
534
Hours
3
Digtl Elect Comp Interfc

Theory and practical application of digital integrated circuits, including gates, flip flops, counters, latches, and displays. Computer data acquisition and control using LabView, A/D and D/A fundamentals. Digital communications.

PH
541
Hours
3
Quantum Mechanics

Solution of the Schroedinger equation, matrix methods, angular momentum, and approximation methods.

PH
542
Hours
3
Quantum Mechanics

Time-dependent perturbation theory, scattering theory, radiation, identical particles, and spin.

Prerequisite(s): PH 541
PH
561
Hours
3
Nuclear Particle Physics

Structure and properties of nuclear and subnuclear matter; conservation laws; scattering and decay processes; and fundamental interactions.

PH
571
Hours
3
Statistical Physics

Ensembles, partition function, quantum statistics, Bose and Fermi systems, phase transitions and critical phenomena, and applications.

PH
581
Hours
3
Solid State Physics

Structure of simple crystals; thermal, electrical, and magnetic properties of solids; the free-electron model and the band approximation; and semiconductors.

PH
582
Hours
1-3
Topics Physics & Astronomy

May deal with any physics or astronomy topic not covered by existing courses. The course title is added at the time the course is taught. Repeat credit is allowed for different course titles.

PH
585
Hours
3
Magnetism: Fundamentals and Applications

PH585 is the first course of series of graduate level courses on magnetism (PH585, PH586 - Advanced Magnetism: Magnetic Materials, Phenomena and Devices), magnetic phenomena, magnetic materials with examples of magnetic devices for physical science and engineering students. The course is based on a combination of physical principles (materials physics, condensed mater, physics of magnetism) and examples their applications. Lecture examples, lecture and home work problems throughout the course will be based on applications (see list of applications in the topics list) with emphasize on impact of fundamental magnetism for advances in particular technology.

PH
586
Hours
3
Advanced Magnetism: Phenomena, Materials, Devices

PH586 a graduate level course in magnetism, magnetic phenomena, magnetic materials with examples of magnetic devices for physical science and engineering students. The course is based on a combination of physical principles (condensed mater and physics of magnetism) and examples their applications to magnetization process and magneto-transport phenomena. The course material will include the following topics: • Review Principles of Magnetism: Fundamental Magnetic Properties • Magnetic domains and domain walls • Thermal Effects • Micromagnetics • Magnetization Processes • Landau-Lifshitz-Gilbert Equation • Hard and Soft Magnetic Materials , Permanent magnet applications • Overview of modern magnetic recording: magnetic recording media • Ferromagnetic Resonance • Interlayer and Interfacial Exchange and Exchange Bias • Review Principles of Electronic structure and Electronic transport • Magneto-transport Phenomena • Anisotropic Magnetoresistance • Giant Magnetoresistance • Tunneling Magnetoresistance • Overview of MagntoElectronic devices : HDD reader, MRAM • Special topics may be included, such as critical phenomena (Ising/Heisenberg model), magnetic and non-magnetic neutron scattering, or principles of VSM magnetometry, spin polarized electron characterization techniques.

PH
587
Hours
3
Magnetic Recording

Principles of magnetic recording, write and read processes, particulate and thin film recording media, write and read heads, including magnetoresistive (AMR and GMR) heads. Emphasis will be placed on the key technologies critical to high-density recording.

PH
588
Hours
3
Nanoscale Science and Applications

Nanoscale science and technology are based on the study and manipulation of phenomena at length scales approaching one billionth of a meter. Advances in this rapidly changing field are being made across multiple disciplines including Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Materials Science, Engineering, and Medicine with emerging practical applications in areas as varied as energy conversion and storage, manufacturing, telecommunications, information processing, medical diagnostics, and drug delivery to mention just a few. The goal of this course is to provide upper level undergraduate and graduate students with a foundational perspective on some of the key scientific principles relevant to the behavior of matter at the nanoscale as well as a review of processes, materials, and systems that derive their properties from nanoscale phenomena.

PH
590
Hours
3
Research Techniques

This course provides graduate students with domain-specific skills and knowledge in their research specialty. This training is expected to be undertaken in the context of active engagement by the student in an ongoing or semester-long research project. Alternatively, if formal preparation beyond the available courses is necessary for a student's success within their specialty, such formal preparation (reading, assignments, etc) will be performed under the direction and supervision of the instructor. Any combination of active research and additional specialty formal preparation may be specified by the instructor, as is necessary to advance the student's knowledge and skill toward that necessary to plan and perform successful research in their specialty.

Prerequisite(s): Permission of instructor is required. Core courses must be completed before taking this Research Techniques course.
PH
591
Hours
3
Advanced Laboratory

Experimental work in modern physics at an advanced level.

PH
595
Hours
3
Independent Study

No description available.

PH
597
Hours
1
Physics Seminar

Required of all full-time physics graduate students each semester in residence. (Students specializing in astronomy must take AY 597.) Students are required to attend at least 10 department colloquia and/or specialty research seminars. Students in their second year and beyond are required to give one oral research presentation.

PH
598
Hours
1-9
Non-Thesis Research

No description available.

PH
599
Hours
1-9
Thesis Research

No description available.

PH
641
Hours
3
Relativistic Quantum Mechanics

The Dirac equation, Lorentz covariance, free-particle solutions of the Dirac equation, Foldy-Wouthuysen transformation, propagator theory, and applications to quantum electrodynamics.

Prerequisite(s): PH 542
PH
642
Hours
3
Quantum Field Theory

Classical field theory, quantization of free fields, interacting fields, the scattering matrix, Feynman rules and diagrams, evaluation of integrals and divergences, and electroweak and strong interactions. Offered according to demand.

Prerequisite(s): PH 641
PH
661
Hours
3
High Energy Physics

Gauge invariance, non-Abelian gauge theories, hidden symmetries, electroweak interactions of leptons and quarks, strong interactions among quarks, string theories, and phenomenology of high-energy interactions. Offered according to demand.

Prerequisite(s): PH 642
PH
662
Hours
3
High Energy Physics II

This course will review physics beyond the Standard Model, Grand Unified Theories, Supersymmetric Theories, Superstrings, and Exact Solutions in Quantum Field Theory.

Prerequisite(s): PH 661
PH
681
Hours
3
Adv Solid State Physics

Computational methods in solid-state physics are explored in more detail than in PH 581. Band structure calculations, Green's functions, density-functional methods, superconductivity, and disordered materials. Offered according to demand.

Prerequisite(s): PH 581
PH
682
Hours
1-6
Selected Topics Physics

May deal with any physics topic not covered by existing courses. The course title is added at the time each course is taught. Repeat credit is allowed for different course titles.

PH
698
Hours
1-9
Non-Dissertat Research

Because this is non-dissertation research, students may repeat this course each semester for up to 18 credit hours.

PH
699
Hours
1-12
Dissertation Research

No description available.