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Ideal Physics UG Curriculum Order?

  1. Mar 6, 2016 #1
    I've looked at various universities' undergraduate physics programs and they're often vastly different in both courses offered and order presented. This thread is mostly just to hear others' opinions about what order the courses should be presented, and what courses undergrad physics majors ought to be required to take, both in terms of math and physics requirements.

    Looking forward to seeing your thoughts!
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 7, 2016 #2
    I mean, other than the intro stuff, a full year of classical, quantum, and electromagnetism (400-level) each. At my school Modern Physics (sort of an intro to Quantum and particle physics) is taken alongside Statistical Physics, which seems fine enough. We have two computational physics courses; every program should have at least one, in my opinion. Our first can be taken any time, the second after quantum (computationally model quantum mechanical systems = win). We have an Instrumentation Lab, which seems to cover the whole 2nd year Electrical Engineering curriculum in a single semester. A doozy, but I went in not really understanding circuits, and came out feeling much more confident. Our university also is introducing our own Mathematical Methods for Physics course for undergrads, designed to be taken in the beginning of 3rd year, to help with classical & quantum mechanics math.

    If possible, take the relevant math before you take the physics course that has it, not concurrently. I think Linear Algebra should be required, alongside with intro to ODEs and Multivariable Calc. It'd be really useful to take a Partial Differential Equations or Fourier Series class, too, though it isn't required at my university - it's helped immensely from Modern Physics onwards (I took it). I also took a Discrete Mathematics course, but it hasn't been used too much except the Advanced Counting stuff, which has been used in Statistical Physics. I've been told it'll be more useful later on (I haven't completed my degree yet!), especially probability theory stuff (I've seen a lot of that in Statistical Physics too).

    A project-oriented course or two should also be required, in my opinion. At my university it's required to take two IPROs (Interprofessional Projects), but they don't necessarily have to be in your field of study at my school. I joined a project on designing an Antimatter Gravity Interferometer though, and it was a blast, I learned a lot.
  4. Mar 7, 2016 #3
    A full year of quantum & classical? I'm only a freshman in the physics program at my school, but we only require a semester each.

    Can you take PDE as soon as you take ODE? What did your Modern Physics cover?
  5. Mar 7, 2016 #4
    Huh. Maybe that's why our school gets a lot of grad school acceptances, haha! It's required to take the full year of classical and quantum here. In fact, we cover enough for a first-semester graduate quantum course by doing the full year, or so the faculty member who teaches quantum tells me.

    At my school, it used to be that you had to take a Fourier Series class in order to take PDEs, but you needed ODEs before Fourier Series. Now it's being changed so you can go straight into PDEs from ODEs, but it's probably school-dependent.

    Modern Physics - we're doing from chapters 3 to like 10 or 11 of Tipler's Modern Physics book. You can read the table of contents here. https://www.amazon.com/Modern-Physics-Paul-A-Tipler/dp/0716775506#reader_0716775506
  6. Mar 7, 2016 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    The problem is that each of Classical Mechanics, E&M and QM goes easier after having taken the other two.

    Here's what the MIT curriculum was 30 years ago, and it mostly worked:

    • Freshman Fall: Calc I, Intro Mechanics (K&K)
    • Freshman Spring: Calc II, Intro E&M (Purcell)
    • Sophomore Fall: Differential Equations, Waves (French)
    • Sophomore Spring: QM1 (Eisberg and Resnick)
    • Junior Fall: QM2 (Liboff), Junior Lab 1
    • Junior Spring Classical Mechanics (Goldstein), Junior Lab 2
    • Senior Fall: E&M (Jackson)
    • Senior Spring: Stat Mech (Reif)
  7. Mar 8, 2016 #6
    Modesty, yeah it sounds like it is grad level QM.

    Vanadium, really? I'm not sure if that's reassuring or daunting. When do they take Calc III? And wow, they don't mess around. Is there any reason they do 2 semester of QM before classical? I'd always thought you learned classical first then QM. I'm assuming Thermal Physics = Statistical Mechanics?

    My school does it differently, though I don't know which texts we use for every class.
    • Freshman Fall: Calc I (Briggs for all Calc1-3)
    • Freshman Spring: Calc II, Intro Mechanics (Young)
    • Sophomore Fall: Calc III, Intro E&M (Young)
    • Sophomore Spring: DiffEQ, Modern Physics I (Thornton) , Instrument. Lab, Intro to Theoretical (Boas)
    • Junior Fall: Classical Mechanics (Goldstein), Adv. Lab I, Modern Physics II (Williams)
    • Junior Spring: E&M I (Griffiths), Adv. Lab II
    • Senior Fall: E&M II (Griffiths), Intro to Quantum (?)
    • Senior Spring: Thermal Physics (Reif)
  8. Mar 8, 2016 #7

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    No such beast at MIT. Two semesters of calculus (Institute requirement) and you're ready to move on.
  9. Mar 8, 2016 #8
    So Calc I covers everything from basic derivatives and integrals through Taylor/Maclaurin series? And Calc II is Multivariable/Vector Calc?
  10. Mar 8, 2016 #9
    Where did you find this ? Could you give me a link if such thing exists ?
  11. Mar 8, 2016 #10
    First Year Fall: Single Variable Calc, Linear Methods, Intro Mechanics (Matter and Interactions I)
    First Year Winter: Multivariable Calc, Intro EM (Matter and Interactions II)

    Second Year Fall: Differential Equations, Linear Methods 2, Optics, Lab 1, Classical Mechanics 1 (Fowles)
    Second Year Winter: Vector Calc, Modern Physics (Krane/Taylor), Classical Mechanics 2, Computational Physics 1

    Third Year Fall: Stat Mech 1, EM 2 (Griffiths), Math Methods (Boas/Kreider), Computational Physics 2
    Third Year Winter: Stat Mech 2, EM 3, QM 1 (Griffiths), Lab 2

    Final Year: QM 2, Relativity, research thesis and lab. Options for nuclear/solid state physics, optics, more lab and computational physics.

    Only in first year grad school do students get to Goldstein, Jackson, Sakurai, and Reif.
  12. Mar 9, 2016 #11

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    I didn't find it. I took it.
  13. Mar 9, 2016 #12
    What math text did you use ?
  14. Mar 9, 2016 #13

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