Graduate Courses

First Year

Each graduate student selects a course of study in consultation with a graduate adviser. A student with gaps in preparation may be advised to take one or more advanced undergraduate courses the first year. Otherwise, students are normally expected to take a sequence of "core courses" in classical mechanics, electrodynamics, quantum mechanics, mathematical methods, and statistical mechanics. Students with advanced preparation can often get permission to skip a core course, but this requires approval by a departmental committee.

First year students are expected to sign up for the Colloquium (PHY 290), in which outside speakers give broad overviews of topics of current research. Winter quarter, students also enroll in a course on departmental research (PHY 295), in which faculty members give introductions to their research areas. This course is especially useful for students who are trying to pick out a specialization and a Ph.D. adviser. Throughout their time at Davis, students may also sign up for a "Career Options" seminar (PHY 285) that brings in speakers from outside academia and occasionally arranges field trips to Silicon Valley.

By the second or third quarter, students are encouraged to spend a portion of their time on research, usually in the form of one or two units of Physics 299 under the direction of a faculty member. This does not commit a student to a given adviser or research area, but is often helpful in making such a choice later on. Quite often, this research has led to a thesis and has greatly accelerated its completion.

A typical first year graduate program for a Ph.D. student with a teaching assistantship and with no deficiencies in undergraduate preparation would be:

Fall Quarter Winter Quarter Spring Quarter
Physics 200A Physics 200B Physics 200C
Physics 204A Physics 204B Physics 215C or 230A
Physics 215A Physics 215B Physics 219A
Physics 290 Physics 290 Physics 290
Physics 371 Physics 295 (Physics 299)
Physics 390 (Physics 299) Physics 390
Physics 390

Second Year

Graduate students normally choose an area of specialization by the end of their first year. Second year students take a sequence of specialized "cluster courses" in their fields. The present clusters are:

  • Condensed Matter Experiment: PHY 240ABC
  • Condensed Matter Theory: PHY 219B, 240ABC
  • Observational Cosmology: PHY 262, 263, 266, 267, plus one additional observational class
  • Theoretical Cosmology: PHY 230AB, 260, 262, 263, 266, 267
  • Fields, Strings, and Gravity (under development): PHY 230ABC, 260, other relevant courses
  • Nuclear Physics: PHY 230B, 252B, and three courses from 224ABC, 229AB, and 252C
  • Particle Experiment: PHY 230AB, 245ABC, 252BC
  • Particle Theory: PHY 230ABC, 245ABC, 246A, 252B
  • Biophotonics Designated Emphasis (Experiment): PHY 240AB; EAD 271; BIS 101 or 102 or 104, or BIM 202
  • Biophotonics Designated Emphasis (Theory): PHY 219B, 240AB; EAD 271; BIS 101 or 102 or 104, or BIM 202

Second year students often sign up for a seminar (PHY 291, 292, 293, or 294), in which outside speakers give talks in particular areas. By this time, students should also begin serious work on independent research (PHY 299).

Graduate Course Offerings


200A. Theory of Mechanics and Electromagnetics (4)
Lecture - 3 hours; independent study - 1 hour. Prerequisite: courses 104B, 105B, and 110C or the equivalent; course 204A concurrently. Theoretical approaches in classical mechanics including the use of generalized coordinates and virtual work; variational calculus; Lagrange equations; symmetries, conservation laws, and Noether theorem; Lagrangian density; Hamilton formalism; canonical transformations; Poisson brackets; and Hamilton-Jacobi equations. - I. (I.)

200B-200C. Theory of Mechanics and Electromagnetics (4-4)
Lecture - 3 hours; independent study - 1 hour. Prerequisite: course 200A, and course 204B concurrently. Theoretical approaches in electromagnetics including static electromagnetic fields; Maxwell’s equations; plane waves in various media; magnetohydrodynamics; diffraction theory; radiating systems; and special relativity. - II-III. (II-III.)

204A-204B. Methods of Mathematical Physics (4-4)
Lecture - 3 hours; independent study - 1 hour. Prerequisite: courses 104A and 104B or the equivalent. Linear vector spaces, operators and their spectral analysis, complete sets of functions, complex variables, functional analysis, Green's functions, calculus of variations, introduction to numerical analysis. - I-II. (I-II.)

210. Computational Physics (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: knowledge of Fortran or C. Analytic techniques to solve differential equations and eignevalue problems. Physics content of course will be self-contained, and adjusted according to background of students. - II. (II.)

215A-215B-215C. Quantum Mechanics (4-4-4)
Lecture - 3 hours; independent study - 1 hour. Prerequisite: course 115B or the equivalent. Formal development and interpretation of non-relativistic quantum mechanics; its application to atomic, nuclear, molecular, and solid-state problems; brief introduction to relativistic quantum mechanics and the Dirac equation. - I-II-III. (I-II-III.)

219A. Statistical Mechanics (4)
Lecture - 3 hours; extensive problem solving. Prerequisite: course 215B or the equivalent. Foundations of thermodynamics and classical and quantum statistical mechanics with simple applications to properties of solids, real gases, nuclear matter, etc. and a brief introduction to phase transitions. - III. (III.)

219B. Statistical Mechanics (4)
Lecture - 3 hours; extensive problem solving. Prerequisite: course 219A. Further applications of thermodynamics and classical and quantum statistical mechanics. The modern theory of fluctuations about the equilibrium state, phase transitions and critical phenomena. - I. (I.)

223A. Group Theoretical Methods of Physics—Condensed Matter (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: courses 215A, 215B (215C is corequisite) or consent of instructor. Theory of groups and their representations with applications in condensed matter. Not offered every year. - I. (I.)

223B. Group Theoretical Methods of Physics—Elementary Particles (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: courses 215A, 215B (215C is corequisite) or consent of instructor. Theory of groups and their representations with applications in elementary particle physics. Not offered every year. - I-II-III. (I-II-III).

224A. Nuclear Physics (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: course 215B. Comprehensive study of the nucleon-nucleon interaction including the deuteron, nucleon-nucleon scattering, polarization, determination of real parameters of S-matrix, and related topics. Not offered every year.

224B. Nuclear Physics (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: course 224A. Study of nuclear models, including shell model, collective model, unified model. Energy level spectra, static momenta, and electromagnetic transition rates. Not offered every year.

224C. Nuclear Physics (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: course 224B. Study of nuclear scattering and reactions including the optical model and direct interactions. Beta decay and an introduction to weak interactions. Not offered every year.

229A. Advanced Nuclear Theory (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: course 224C. Advanced topics in nuclear theory; theory of quantum-mechanical scattering processes. Exact formal theory and models for two-body scattering. Not offered every year.

229B. Advanced Nuclear Theory (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: course 229A. Advanced topics in nuclear theory; theory of quantum-mechanical scattering processes. Exact formal theory and models for three-body scattering. Not offered every year.

230A. Quantum Theory of Fields (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: course 215C. Relativistic quantum mechanics of particles; techniques and applications of second quantization; Feynman diagrams; renormalization. - I. (I.)

230B. Quantum Theory of Fields (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: course 230A. Continuation of 230A, with selected advanced topics, such as S-matrix theory, dispersion relations, axiomatic formulations. - II. (II.)

230C. Quantum Theory of Fields (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: course 230B. Continuation of 230B. Renormalization theory and applications, including dimensional regularization, Ward identities, renormalization group equations, coupling constant unification, and precision electroweak calculations. - II. (II.)

240A-240B. Condensed Matter Physics (3-3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: courses 215A-215B-215C; courses 140A-140B recommended. Introduction to the phenomena and theory of the solid state. Periodic structures, lattice structures, electron states, static properties, electron-electron interaction, electron dynamics, transport properties, optical properties, the Fermi surface, magnetism, superconductivity. - I-III. (I-III.)

240C. Condensed Matter Physics (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: course 240A-240B or the equivalent. Review of second quantization. Interacting electron gas, electron-phonon interaction and effects, including instabilities of electronic systems. Topics in the theory of superconductivity and magnetism. - II-III. (II-III.)
Sample Syllabus and More Complete Description

241. Advanced Topics in Magnetism (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: courses 240A-240B, 240C-240D, or consent of instructor. Topics chosen from areas of current research interest. Not offered every year.

242. Advanced Topics in Superconductivity (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: courses 240A-240B, 240C-240D, or consent of instructor. Topics chosen from areas of current research interest. Not offered every year.

243A-243B-243C. Surface Physics of Materials (3-3-3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: courses 140A-140B, 115A-115B or the equivalents; courses 215A, 240A, or the equivalents recommended. Experimental and theoretical fundamentals of surface and interface physics and chemistry, including electronic and magnetic structure, thermodynamics, adsorption kinetics, epitaxial growth, and a discussion of various spectroscopic and structural probes based on photons, electrons, ions, and scanning probes. Not offered every year. - I-II-III. (I-II-III.)

245A. High-Energy Physics (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: course 230A. Phenomenology and systematics of strong, electromagnetic, and weak interactions of hadrons and leptons; determination of quantum numbers; quarks and quarkonia; deep inelastic scattering; the quark parton model; experiments at hadron colliders and electron-positron colliders. - II. (II.)

245B. High-Energy Physics (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: course 245A. Electroweak interactions; phenomenology of the Standard Model of SU(2)LxU(1); weak interaction experiments; properties of and experiments with W and Z vector bosons; Glashow-Weinberg-Salam model and the Higgs boson; introduction to supersymmetry and other speculations. - III. (III.)

245C. Collider Physics (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: course 245A. Strong interaction: quantum chromodynamics phenomenology; jets and other experimental tests; quark and gluon distribution functions; quark and gluon scattering; applications of the renormalization group. Not offered every year. - III. (III.)

246A. Supersymmetry: Theory and Phenomenology (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: courses 230A-230B, 245A-245B recommended, or consent of instructor. Construction of supersymmetric models of particle physics; superfields; supersymmetry breaking the minimal supersymmetric standard model; supergravity. Collider phenomenology of supersymmetry. Dark matter phenomenology. - III. (III.)
Sample Syllabus and More Complete Description

246B. Advanced Supersymmetry (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: course 246A. Advanced topics in supersymmetry. Topics inculde holomorphy, the Affleck-Dine-Seiberg superpotential, Seiberg duality for SUSY QCD, dynamical SUSY breaking,
Seiberg-Witten theory, superconformal field theories, supergravity, anomaly and gaugino mediation, and the AdS/CFT correspondence. Not offered every year. - I. (I.)

250. Special Topics in Physics (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: consent of instructor. Topic varies. May be repeated for credit. Not offered every quarter. - I-II-III. (I-II-III.)

252A. Techniques of Experimental Physics (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Introduction to techniques and methods of designing and executing experiments. Problems and examples from condensed matter research will be utilized. Not offered every year.

252B. Techniques of Experimental Physics (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Introduction to techniques and methods of designing and executing experiments. Problems and examples from nuclear and particle research will be utilized. - III. (III.)

252C. Statistics and Data Analysis for Particle Physics (3)
Lecture – 3 hours. Introduction to statistical data analysis methods in particle physics. Theoretical lectures combined with practical computer laboratory work. - III. (III.)

253. Signals and Noise in Physics (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. This course will cover techniques of measurement and analysis designed to avoid systematic error and optimize signal/noise ratio. Extraction of signals from noise, and examples of low-level detection spanning a range of subjects from laboratory physics to experimental cosmology will be discussed. Many examples will be from detection of radiation (UV to submillimeter) and imaging, including inverse problems and data analysis. - II. (II.)

256. Natural Computation and Self Organization (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Explores intrinsic unpredictability (deterministic chaos) and the emergence of structure in natural complex systems. Using statistical mechanics, information theory, and computation theory, the course develops a systematic framework for analyzing dynamical and stochastic processes in terms of their causal architecture. - II. (II.)

260. Introduction to General Relativity (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: courses 200A, 200B. An introduction to general relativity. Differential geometry and curved spacetime; the Einstein field equations; gravitational fields of stars and black holes; weak fields and gravitational radiation; experimental tests; Big Bang cosmology. Offered in alternate years. - I. (I.)
Sample Syllabus

262. Early Universe Cosmology (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: 2nd year standing in Physics graduate program or consent of instructor. Introduction to early universe cosmology: the Big Bang, inflation, primordial nucleosynthesis, dark matter, dark energy, and other topics of current interest. - I. (I.)

263. Cosmic Structure Formation (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: Course 260 (General Relativity). Growth of structure from small density inhomogeneities in the early universe to the diverse structures observable today. Use of observable properties (cosmic microwave background, gravitational lensing, peculiar velocities, number density, etc.) to constrain models of structure formation and fundamental physics. - III. (III.)

265. High Energy Astrophysics and Radiative Processes (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: graduate standing in Physics or consent of instructor. Survey course covering galactic and extragalactic X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy, radiative processes, and techniques of high-energy astrophysics. - I. (I.)

266. Data Analysis for Astrophysics (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: graduate standing in Physics or consent of instructor. Survey course covering measurement and signal analysis techniques for astrophysics and cosmology throughout the electromagnetic spectrum. - II. (II.)

267. Observational Extragalactic Astronomy & Cosmology (3)
Lecture - 3 hours. Prerequisite: graduate standing in Physics or consent of instructor. Survey course covering current areas of research on extragalactic objects, their physical properties, origin, evolution, and distribution in space. - III. (III.)

270. Current Topics in Physics Research (2)
Lecture/Discussion - 2 hours. Prerequisite: graduate standing in Physics or consent of instructor. Reading and discussion to help physics graduate students develop and maintain familiarity with the current and past literature in their immediate field of research and related areas. May be repeated for credit when topics differ. - I-II-III. (I-II-III.)

280. Seminar in Ethics for Scientists (2)
Seminar--2 hours. Studies of topical and historical issues in the ethics of science, possibly including issues such as proper authorship, peer review, fraud, plagiarism, responsible collaboration, and conflict of interest.

285. Careers in Physics
Seminar - 1 hour. Prerequisite: graduate standing in Physics. Designed to give Physics graduate students an in-depth appreciation of career opportunities with a graduate degree in physics. Professional physicists, mainly from outside academia, will give seminars describing both research and career insights. - II. (II.)
More Complete Description

290. Seminar in Physics (1)
Seminar - 1 hour. Prerequisite: graduate standing in Physics or consent of instructor. Presentation and discussion of topics of current research interest in physics. Topics will vary weekly and will cover a broad spectrum of the active fields of physics research at a level accessible to all physics graduate students. May be repeated for credit. (S/U grading only.) - I-II-III. (I-II-III.)

291. Seminar in Nuclear Physics (1)
Seminar - 1 hour. Prerequisite: graduate standing in Physics or consent of instructor. Presentation and discussion of topics of current research interest in nuclear physics. May be repeated for credit. (S/U grading only.) - I-II-III. (I-II-III.)

292A. Seminar in Elementary Particle Physics (1)
Seminar - 1 hour. Prerequisite: graduate standing in Physics or consent of instructor. Presentation and discussion of topics of current research interest in elementary particle physics. May be repeated for credit. (S/U grading only.) - I-II-III. (I-II-III.)

292B. Seminar in Joint Theory (1)
Seminar - 1 hour. Prerequisite: graduate standing in Physics or consent of instructor. Presentation and discussion of topics of current research interest in joint theory physics. May be repeated for credit. (S/U grading only.) - I-II-III. (I-II-III.)

293. Seminar in Condensed Matter Physics (1)
Seminar - 1 hour. Prerequisite: graduate standing in Physics or consent of instructor. Presentation and discussion of topics of current research interest in condensed matter physics. May be repeated for credit. (S/U grading only.) - I-II-III. (I-II-III.)

294. Seminar in Cosmology (1)
Seminar - 1 hour. Prerequisite: graduate standing in Physics or consent of instructor. Presentation and discussion of topics of current research interest in Cosmology. May be repeated for credit. (S/U grading only.) - I-II-III. (I-II-III.)

295. Introduction to Departmental Research (1)
Seminar - 1 hour. Seminar to introduce first- and second-year physics graduate students to the fields of specialty and research of the Physics staff. (S/U grading only.) - II. (II.)

297. Research on the Teaching and Learning of Physics (3)
Seminar - 3 hours. Prerequisite: graduate standing in Physics or consent of instructor. Discussion and analysis of recent research in how students construct understanding of physics and other science concepts and the implications of this research for instruction. - III. (III.) Potter

298. Group Study (1-5)
Prerequisite: consent of instructor. (S/U grading only.)

299. Research (1-12)
(S/U grading only.)

Professional Courses

371. Teaching in an Active-Engagement Physics Discussion/Lab Setting (1)
Lecture/Discussion- 1 hour. Prerequisite: Physics 9D or equivalent. Open to graduate students only. Analysis of recent research on science/physics teaching and learning and its implications for teaching labs, discussions, and discussion/labs with an emphasis on the differences between conventional and active-engagement instructional settings. The appropriate role of the instructor in specific instructional settings. - I-II-III. (I-II-III.)

390. Methods of Teaching Physics (1)
Lecture/discussion - 1 hour. Prerequisite: graduate standing in Physics; consent of instructor. Practical experience in methods and problems related to teaching physics laboratories at the university level, including discussion of teaching techniques, analysis of quizzes and laboratory reports and related topics. Required of all Physics Teaching Assistants. May be repeated for credit. (S/U grading only.) - I-II-III. (I-II-III.)

396. Teaching Assistant Training Practicum (1-4)
Prerequisite: graduate standing. May be repeated for credit. (S/U grading only.) - I-II-III. (I-II-III.)