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Order of upper-division physics classes?

  1. Jun 30, 2014 #1


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    I'm not exactly sure of the intended order of the upper-division physics classes because they aren't ordered one after another.

    My current background is all As in: Calc1-3, ODEs, Linear Algebra, lower division mechanics and E&M, and another physics course that didn't transfer from my previous college(covered fluids, sound waves, electromagnetic waves, thermodynamics, and entropy)

    I have not had:

    General Physics 3 - "Examines sound waves, electromagnetic waves, and geometrical and physical optics. Introduces modern physics, including discovery of the electron, the photon, wave-particle duality, the Bohr model of H-atom, the Schrödinger equation, quantum numbers, the Pauli principle and periodic table, and lasers."

    This course isn't offered until spring. I've had the sound waves and electromagnetic wave aspect of it from the physics course that didn't transfer and could self-study the other stuff if it's important for my fall schedule. However, it's not listed as a prerequisite for any of my fall classes.

    Fall schedule:

    Survey of Partial Differential Equations (Prereqs: Calc 3, ODEs) - "Surveys elementary differential equations of physics; separation of variables and superposition of solutions; orthogonal functions and Fourier series. Introduces boundary value problems, Fourier and Laplace transforms."

    General Physics 4 (Prereqs: None listed) - "Examines thermodynamics, including temperature, zeroth law, thermal expansion, specific heat, first law, second law, entropy, third law, kinetic theory, Brownian motion, and the ideal gas. Also explores special relativity, including historical background, Lorentz transformations, length contraction, time dilation, invariance of the laws of physics, relativistic dynamics and kinematics, and paradoxes."

    Pretty much all of the thermodynamics covered in this course I've already had.

    Intermediate Mechanics (Prereqs: Calc 3, Freshman mechanics) - "
    Vectors, Newtonian mechanics: rectilinear motion of a particle, general motion of a particle in three dimensions, oscillations, Hamilton's variational principle: derivation of Lagrange's equations and Hamilton's equations with simple applications , equivalence to Newtonian dynamics, forces of constraint and the Lagrange multiplier method, generalized forces, noninertial reference systems, gravitation and central forces."

    Electricity and Magnetism (Prereqs: Calc 3, ODEs, Freshman E&M - "Examines vector calculus, Gauss' law, scalar and vector potentials, Laplace and Poisson's equations, dielectrics, electrostatic and magnetostatic fields, Ampere's law, Faraday's law, and Maxwell's equations."

    I'm mainly concered about the E&M course. I have the prerequisites but is it normally taken this early? The suggested sequence (I think it's outdated because sometimes it doesn't make sense) at my university is QM before E&M although I can't figure out why.

    The other 2 physics classes seem fine, I'm just wondering when people usually take E&M? If it's completely fine I may add an english course but I was advised to keep the first semester of upper-division courses light.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 30, 2014 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    As long as you've had the prerequisites for upper-division E&M, you should be OK. Generally, the sequence of upper-division physics courses is pretty flexible because they usually require only the intro physics and calculus sequences, and maybe an extra math course like differential equations and/or linear algebra.

    Here, upper division E&M and QM are offered in alternate years, so some students get one first, some the other.
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