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Help in choosing 4 upper division physics classes.

  1. Mar 4, 2014 #1

    I am a transfer student that has been admitted to CSU Long Beach in the Fall '14 for a BS in electrical engineering and I would also like to pursue a BA in physics. I reckon this will take me 4 years.

    A BA in physics consist of taking lower division CALC I/II/III and PHYS ABC.

    Also, 4 classes of upper division physics and 4 classes out of the college of engineering, natural sciences, or mathematics. This latter requirement will be satisfied by classes I take in pursuing the BS in EE.

    My question: What combination of 4 of the following upper division physics classes would best help me pass the GRE if I wanted to pursue a MSc in physics.


    310. Analytic Mechanics (3) F

    Prerequisite: PHYS 151. Corequisite: MATH 364A or 370A.
    Kinematics and dynamics of mass points and systems of particles. Conservation laws. Harmonic motion. Central force problem. Noninertial frames of reference. Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulation of laws of mechanics.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lecture 3 hrs.)

    320. Thermodynamics (3) F

    Prerequisite: PHYS 152. Prerequisite/Corequisite, PHYS 254.
    Laws of thermodynamics, thermodynamic potentials, kinetic theory methods, phase transitions, equilibrium ensembles and related formalism with applications to classical and quantum systems.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lecture 3 hrs.)

    330. Experimental Optics and Spectroscopy (3)

    Prerequisites: PHYS 254, 255.
    Interference, diffraction, polarization and elementary spectroscopy.
    (Lecture 2 hrs., laboratory 3 hrs.)

    340A. Electricity and Magnetism I (3) S

    Prerequisites: PHYS 152, 310. Prerequisite/Corequisite: MATH 370A or 364A.
    Vector calculus, electrostatics, and magnetostatics. Formulation of Maxwell's equations in vector analytic form.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lecture-discussion 3 hrs.)

    340B. Electricity and Magnetism II (3) F

    Prerequisite: PHYS 340A.
    Special relativity. Applications of Maxwell's equations: Plane electromagnetic waves, guided waves, radiation, interaction of electromagnetic waves and matter.
    (Lecture-discussion 3 hrs.)

    350. Modern Physics (3) S

    Prerequisites: PHYS 310; MATH 370A or 364A.
    Physical phenomena and models leading to development of quantum mechanics. Schroedinger equation, one-dimensional quantum mechanical problems, uncertainty principle, one-electron atoms, elementary applications of quantum mechanics.
    (Lecture-discussion 3 hrs.)

    360. Physics With Symbolic Algebra Software (3)

    Prerequisite: PHYS 254. Prerequisite/Corerequisite: MATH 247.
    Learning symbolic algebra programming (e.g. Mathematica) to enhance the problem-solving abilities of students in physics, engineering and mathematics. Interpolation and fitting of experimental data. Sophisticated graphics, animations, analytic calculations, and numerical solutions for a variety of physics problems.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lecture-discussion 3 hrs.)

    380. Electronics (4) S

    Prerequisite: PHYS 152.
    Network analysis and complex impedance, transistor circuits, operational amplifiers, active filters and oscillators, digital electronics, analog-digital interfacing, microprocessors.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lecture 3 hrs., laboratory 3 hrs.)

    390. Exploring Physics Teaching (3)

    Prerequisite: PHYS 151 and consent of instructor.
    Exploration of teaching physics as a learning assistant in secondary physics classrooms and in the lower-level laboratories and tutorials of the college physics curriculum. An exploration of the profession of teaching physics at many levels.
    (Lecture, 3 hrs )

    410./515. Relativity (3)

    Prerequisite: PHYS 340A. Prerequisite/Corequisite: MATH 370A or 364A. (Undergraduates enroll in PHYS 410; graduates enroll in PHYS 515.)
    Lorentz transformation, relativistic kinematics and dynamics, 4-vectors and tensors, transformation of electric and magnetic fields, covariant form of Maxwell's equations, introduction to general relativity.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lecture-discussion 3 hrs.)

    422./522. Statistical Physics (3) S

    Prerequisites: PHYS 310, 320, 350. (Undergraduates enroll in PHYS 422; graduates enroll in PHYS 522.)
    Entropy and temperature, Boltzmann distribution and Helmholtz free energy, thermal radiation, chemical potential, Gibbs distribution, ideal gas, Fermi and Bose gases, heat and work, Gibbs free energy and chemical reactions, phase transformations and kinetic theory.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lec-discussion 3 hrs)

    434./534. Astrophysics (3)

    Prerequisites: PHYS 310, 320, and 340A or consent of the instructor. (Undergraduates enroll in PHYS 434; graduates enroll in PHYS 534.)
    Topics in astrophysics. A particular semester schedule might include one or two topics from: Stellar interiors and evolution, radiative transfer and stellar atmospheres, relativistic cosmology, galaxy formation, accretion disk physics and quasars.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lecture 3 hrs)

    445./545. Experimental Methods in Physics I (3)

    Prerequisites: PHYS 254; PHYS 450 or consent of instructor. (Undergraduates enroll in PHYS 445; graduates enroll in PHYS 545.)
    Modern physical measurement techniques including scanning probe microscopy and pulsed nuclear magnetic resonance. Noise and fluctuations in physical measurements. Low noise measurement techniques including lock-in amplifier, gated integrator and boxcar averager, bridge circuits, convolution, auto-and cross-correlation and FFT.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lecture 2 hrs., laboratory 3 hrs.)

    446./546. Experimental Methods in Physics II (3)

    Prerequisites: PHYS 254; PHYS 450 or consent of instructor. (Undergraduates enroll in PHYS 446; graduates enroll in PHYS 546.)
    Modern physical measurement techniques in condensed matter physics in high magnetic fields and low temperatures. Examples are temperature and magnetic field effects in magnetic materials, Meissner effect and superconducting transition temperature in superconductors, and mobility and Hall effect in semiconductors.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lecture 2 hrs., laboratory 3 hrs.)

    450. Quantum Physics I (3) F

    Prerequisites: PHYS 310, 340A, 350.
    Schroedinger equation, atomic physics, harmonic oscillator, scattering, perturbation theory, Heisenberg and Dirac representations, spin, symmetries (angular momentum, time reversal, and parity), applications.
    (Lec-discussion 3 hrs.)

    451. Quantum Physics II (3)

    Prerequisite: PHYS 450.
    Measurement processes, atomic physics, identical particles, quantum statistics, numerical methods, many-body systems, density matrix, applications.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lecture-discussion 3 hrs.)

    462. Computational Methods in the Sciences (3)

    Prerequisite: PHYS 310, 360.
    Numerical programming and essentials of operating systems to tackle a problem in sciences, engineering and mathematics. Differential equations, integrals, roots, optimization, etc. Problems chosen from topics in upper-division science and mathematics courses.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lecture 3 hrs)

    470./569. Introduction to Solid State Physics (3)

    Prerequisite: PHYS 450. (Undergraduates enroll in PHYS 470; graduates enroll in PHYS 569.)
    Study of properties of solids from quantum theoretical viewpoint. Includes lattice vibratons, elastic constants, and thermal, electric, and magnetic properties.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lecture 3 hrs.)

    475./575. Modern Optics (3)

    Prerequisite: PHYS 340A. (Undergraduates enroll in PHYS 475; graduates enroll in PHYS 575.)
    Propagation of electromagnetic waves, optical resonators, laser spectroscopy and operation, optical phase conjugation, nonlinear optics and selected application.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lecture 3 hrs.)

    476./576. Modern Optics with Laboratory (3)

    Prerequisite: PHYS 340A. (Undergraduates enroll in PHYS 476; graduates enroll in PHYS 576.)
    Propagation of electromagnetic waves, optical resonators, laser spectroscopy and operation, optical phase conjugation, nonlinear optics and selected application. Experiments illustrating principles and techniques of electro-optics and laser physics. Applications include optical methods in communications, atomic spectroscopy, and nonlinear optics.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lecture 2 hrs., laboratory 3 hrs.)

    480./580. Computer Interfacing in Experimental Physics (3)

    Prerequisite: PHYS 380 or consent of instructor. (Undergraduates enroll in PHYS 480; graduates enroll in PHYS 580.)
    Modern data acquisition and analysis methods using computer-based equipment and high level software. Physics experiments performed with standard personal computers, research-quality data acquisition hardware, and programmable instruments. Computer use as tool in execution and interpretation of experiments.
    Letter grade only (A-F). (Lecture 2 hrs., laboratory 3 hrs.)

    490./590. Selected Topics in Physics (3)

    Prerequisite: Consent of instructor. (Undergraduates enroll in PHYS 490; graduates enroll in PHYS 590.)
    Physics topics selected from such areas as atomic and nuclear physics, astrophysics, physics of materials, low temperature physics, acoustics, and theoretical physics.
    May be repeated to a maximum of 6 units. Topics announced in the Schedule of Classes. (Lecture 3 hrs.)

    496. Special Problems in Physics (1-3)

    Prerequisites: Consent of instructor and senior standing.
    Physics problems selected by instructor for considered and mature analysis. Written and 10-minute oral reports required.


    Sorry for the large copy and paste. I am aware that I am very limited in my choices because required prerequisite classes for the more advanced classes.

    I am thinking either Analytical Mechanics, Modern Physics, Quantum Physics I, and Thermodynamics.

    Or Analytical mechanics, Modern Physics, Physics with Symbolic Algebra software, and Thermodynamics.

    Ooorr Analytical mechanics, Modern Physics, Relativity, and Thermodynamics.

    I also want to mention that I will take Electromagnetic Fields as part of my BSEE degree so I am excluding electricity from my selection.

    Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2014 #2
    GRE percentiles for questions Classical Mechanics 20%
    Electromagnetics 18%
    Quantum Mechanics 10%
    Thermo 10%

    Probably your 310, 320, 340A, and 350.
  4. Mar 4, 2014 #3

    Thanks mpresic but, since Im already taking elctromagnetic fields as a part of my EE curriculum I wont take 340A (Elec. and Mag. I). What do you recommend be in its place?

    I just noticed that I couldn't take QM I without EM I sooo rules that out. Unless I can get the department to waive that prerequisite since I will take an EM I equivalent in EE.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2014
  5. Mar 4, 2014 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    This is why your best advice is likely to come from your advisor - if you are a dual major I am guessing you can get a physics advisor as well as an EE advisor? I would be surprised if you couldn't get a waiver, but only your university can help you with that. Anyway, I would hope that your EE courses cover both semester of E&M, not just the first. Likewise, you may have an EE course that is equivalent to 350 (I know I did as an EE).

    I wish you luck, but recommend you speak with profs at your university.

  6. Mar 5, 2014 #5
    I noticed 10 % of the GRE is atomic physics. Maybe your 450 course. But if you want to prepare for the GRE be careful. Probably most physics GRE questions are at the level of a good introductory course at your first two years- level. (Also 9% is optics?)

    I know when I went to school my upper undergraduate courses gave exams with 4 or 5 questions designed to take 20 minutes to forty minutes each. The physics GRE's are much more quick answers (at most two-minutes per question). For example the period of a pendulum on the planet Mars. Not where to aim a rifle to hit a deer from a merry-go round (with coriolis force.)

    When I took the GRE (without practice tests as this was 1978) it was quite a shock. It was easy for me to spend too much time on simple problems.

    Your advisor should give you good input
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