Spring 2021 Physics and Astronomy Course Offerings

Updated March 5, 2021

The department will offer two in-person classes for physics majors who have achieved senior standing and who plan to graduate in the near future.  All other PHY and AST classes will be held remotely.

Brief descriptions of PHY 198 sections are included below. Seniors who would like to register should contact Falicia Savala at fsavala@ucdavis.edu for a Permission To Add number.

With the exception of the two PHY 198 sections, all other Physics and Astronomy undergraduate classes in Spring 2021 will be entirely remote and in some cases asynchronous. We aim to make space for all students interested in our courses. In some ways remote instruction makes this easier, by removing constraints from lecture hall sizes and available lab setups. If a course you want appears full, please add yourself to the waitlist. That tells us there is extra demand, and it lets us communicate with you when new seats are added. If you have a nominal conflict with a course and need a PTA number, please contact either the course instructor or Amy Folz, aefolz@ucdavis.edu. Include the exact section you would like and details about the conflicting course.

PHY 198. Advanced Mathematical Techniques for Physicists
2 credits, one 80 minute in-person class per week
Instructor: Warren Pickett
Date/Time: Fridays 2:10-3:30pm
Room: TBA
CRN:  email fsavala@ucdavis.edu to request a PTA number

The physics core courses, while rigorous, cannot cover some of the math techniques that are essential to address forefront topics that physicists encounter. This course will introduce and provide practice for a few such topics. Examples are (1) functionals and functional derivatives: formal uses and examples of functional calculus, (2) spin angular momentum, including matrix representations and manipulations and time development, and (3) topological phases ("Berry phases") and their origin in semiclassical theory. Useful knowledge for this course includes an ability to code (in some language) and having taken (or taking) upper division core courses, primarily classical mechanics, and quantum mechanics, but reliance on prior expertise will be minimized. An online office hour will be provided if there is demand.

PHY 198. Monte Carlo and Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking
2 credits, one 80 minute in-person class per week
Instructor: Richard Scalettar
Date/Time: Wednesdays 5:10-6:30pm
Room: TBA
CRN:  email fsavala@ucdavis.edu to request a PTA number

Phase transitions refer to very abrupt changes in properties of a system.  At a more subtle level, they occur when a symmetry of nature is 'broken':  a state forms which arbitrarily selects out a preferred configuration from many completely equivalent ones.  In this course we will learn how to use Monte Carlo methods to understand quantitatively how magnetic, superconducting, and metal-insulator transitions occur in materials, including evaluating the critical temperatures at which they occur and the critical exponents which determine their 'universality class'.  We will begin with the foundations of MC- how can a method using random numbers provide *exact* information!?- and then write codes to solve the Ising model and the onset of magnetic order.  To check our codes, we will learn some of the analytic methods that can be used. Time permitting, we will learn how to map quantum problems in d dimensions onto classical problems in d+1 dimensions (Feynman's path integral method) and illustrate how the quantum phase transition of the d=1 Ising model in a transverse field is equivalent to the thermal phase transition of the d=2 Ising model.  Useful background for this course includes an ability to code (in some language), statistical mechanics, and quantum mechanics.  However, I will endeavor to minimize the requirements of previous background, in particular by running some separate sections which review material (including programming) for folks who find it useful.

Physics 7 - all sections offered remotely:
We plan to make room for all students who sign up for Physics 7, although not necessarily in their first-choice section. We will add more seats once waitlists are available. For Physics 7, attendance at quizzes during the first 25 minutes of lecture is mandatory, and Discussion/Laboratory attendance is also required. There will be one required midterm during a lecture. Contact the course instructor or DL TA if this will be a problem for you, and we will try to find a workable solution. We will be careful that the midterms do not conflict with those of ABI 102, ABI 103, or CHE 8B.

Physics 9 - all sections offered remotely:
We have added seats which we think will accommodate everyone who wants to take a Physics 9 course this spring. If necessary we will add more. The Physics 9 lectures will be recorded for asynchronous viewing. There will be office hours and problem solving during the lecture time slot. Attendance at the lecture time is optional except for an expected 3 midterm exams during the quarter. Laboratories will be entirely synchronous. The weekly one-hour Discussion section has mandatory attendance.