Summer PHYS 131 Class is On!

The UR physics department is trying to offer a section of physics 131 in summer 2017.  (Update: 12/20/2016: We’re definitely gonna do it!)  Here’s how it will work:

  • The course will be offered during the regular six-week May term, May 8 – June 16.  Update 12/20/2016: Due to issues beyond our control, we need to run it May 15 – June 23.
  • Update 12/20/2016: The class will meet five days a week, MTWRF, 4:30-7:15pm.  It needs to meet for 2.75 hours per day to match the number of hours in 131 during the regular semesters.
  • It will be taught by Dr. Alina Cichocki, who has taught 131 here before and was well liked.  The class will use the same textbook and labs as our other 131 sections.
  • It will cost about $1600.  Your financial aid could apply, but apparently only if you take two courses, not just the one.  (Sorry!  We wish we could make it free, but we don’t run this place!)
  • It is generally discouraged to take credit courses at the same time as summer research, and you would need your research advisor’s permission to enroll.  (Consider the time commitment, which probably includes ~2+ hours of studying/homework per day beyond class time.)

This class will definitely be offered this summer, barring an instructor medical crisis, building fire, or an unforeseeable thing like that.  A quick survey showed about a dozen students who are at least somewhat interested, which is well above the minimum of four registered students that we would need to keep the course from being cancelled.  Registration will be open in March.

I will continue to use this post for major updates on this topic, and I will also append a FAQ if there are obvious questions that get asked.

Spring wait-lists for physics 131 and 132

Registration for Spring 2017 classes is happening now. The physics department is offering two sections of PHYS 131 and four sections of PHYS 132. As in the past, some seats in these courses will be reserved for students in each year. To be specific, the seating limits on each section will be

  • 6 students during senior registration,
  • 12 students during junior registration,
  • 16 students during sophomore registration,
  • 24 students during first-year registration.

The reason for this is that prospective physics majors need to be able to take these courses early, so we can’t let all the seats be taken by juniors and seniors.

As we did last semester, we will have wait-lists for these courses. If all the sections that fit your schedule are full when your registration time comes, you can sign up for the wait-list. (Do continue to try to add the sections you want for as long as your registration window is open.  If a seat opens up, we can’t stop somebody else from beating you to it.)  Then, after first-year registration is complete, any available seats will be filled off the wait-lists.

The rest of this post contains details about the wait-list policies. (They’re the same as last semester.) At the very bottom, you will find links to sign up for the wait-lists (but note that you can’t sign up until your registration time has arrived).

PHYS 131-132 Wait-list policies

  1. A student may only sign up for the wait-list after that student’s registration time has begun.
  2. A student who is enrolled in one section of the course may not sign up for the wait-list for other sections.
  3. The student must provide name, email address, ID number, registration group (e.g., “rising junior scholar / athlete” or “rising sophomore”), and desired section(s) of the course. “Rising sophomore” means that you will be a sophomore in the coming semester. For PHYS 132, there is only one section, so you don’t have to provide the section.
  4. Students will be admitted off the wait-list beginning at the end of the registration period for first-year students.
  5. Students will be offered admission off the wait-list in the order they signed up. To be specific,
    • If any seats are available in any sections listed by the first student on the list, then that student will be offered a seat in one of those sections.
    • If a student has listed multiple sections, and seats are available in more than one section, then the chair will choose which section to offer the student.
    • The same procedure will be applied to each student in order.
  6. When a student becomes eligible to be admitted off the wait-list, the chair of the physics department will notify him or her by email. The student will have 12 hours to accept this invitation by replying to the email. If the student does not reply within that time, he or she will be dropped from the wait-list, and the next eligible student will be admitted.

If you have any questions, ask Matt Trawick, the physics department chair.

Here’s where you go to sign up for the wait-lists for PHYS 131 and PHYS 132.

Welcome Students! (Info on first physics courses for this fall)

Special welcome to new UR students in the class of 2017!  Also, welcome back to all of our returning students!  For those of you interested in a first physics course, here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know.

Prospective physics majors and engineers typically start with Physics 131 in the fall and 132 in the spring.  (Physics 131 is mostly about mechanics; Physics 132 is mostly electricity and magnetism.)  This fall there are four sections of physics 131, and one section of physics 132 available.    Physics 131 requires Calc. 1 (Math 211) as a prerequisite, or co-requisite (taken at the same time).  Physics 132 requires Calc. 2 (Math 212) as a pre- or co-requisite.  It’s very important for physics majors and engineers to finish 131 and 132 during the first year, so they can take physics 301 in fall of sophomore year.  Physics 301 is only offered in the fall, and is a prerequisite for all of our upper level courses; missing 301 can mean basically falling a full year behind, making it very difficult (though not impossible) to complete the major.

Pre-med students and other science majors also take Physics 131 and 132, and these courses fulfill the science requirement for non-science majors, so even if you’re not sure what you’re majoring in, keep these courses in mind.

Students with strong high school physics backgrounds can skip Physics 131 and start right away with Physics 132.  In exceptional cases, very strong students can even skip Physics 132 and go straight into our sophomore level courses.  Usually, this is determined by AP tests; receiving actual course credit on your transcript for physics 131 or 132 is determined by official university policy, requiring a 4 or 5 on the Physics C Mechanics or E&M AP test, respectively.  However, the question of what course you should take is really separate from the question of AP credit; if you can demonstrate that you know the physics, we are happy to let you skip a course, whether or not you have taken a particular AP exam.  (This especially applies to international students who don’t have easy access to AP exams.)   If you have a strong physics background but didn’t take the right AP exam, email us or talk to one of the physics faculty when you arrive.  In general, we want you in the physics course that’s right for you, and check marks on official pieces of paper aren’t a big deal to us.

For students who aren’t planning to major in a science, we offer Physics 125, a survey of conceptual physics.  This course fulfills the general-education science requirement, but it does not fulfill prerequisites for more advanced science courses.

Finally, I’ll point out that there’s one physics-related first-year seminar this fall:

The Five (or Ten) Best (Physics) Experiments Ever!: This course will examine the people and stories behind some of the key experiments in physics.  We will focus on experiments which have radically altered our views of the world or universe around us or which have radically altered our civilization by the technology they enabled. Inspired by and loosely based on the text “The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments” by George Johnson the course will explore great physics experiments from history as well as some of the more amazing experiments underway.

Like all first-year seminars, this course is open to all first-year students, not just science majors. But I thought I’d mention it, because someone who’s read this far down into this post might be particularly interested in a topic like this.

Professor Matt Trawick awarded NSF grant

Richmond physics professor Matt Trawick has just been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation in support of his ongoing research in developing new atomic force microscopy techniques.  The three-year, $140,201 grant will allow Trawick and his students to develop new techniques to correct common imaging artifacts, making nanometer-scale surface measurements more accurate.

Students, professor publish nanotechnology paper

Nathan Follin, lead author

Three University of Richmond students and their professor have recently published an article in the journal Review of Scientific InstrumentsTheir article describes a new technique they invented for correcting certain kinds of imaging and measurement errors that are common in scanning probe microscopy.  The students, Nathan Follin ’13, Keefer Taylor ’13, and Chris Musalo ’12, all worked with physics professor Matt Trawick to both develop the new technique and test it on Richmond’s state-of-the-art atomic force microscope.  They expect their technique will find wide-scale use in nanotechnology, where accurate measurement and imaging of nanometer-scale features is routinely required.

Dr. Con Beausang Wins Grant Renewal

This fall Richmond physics professor Con Beausang had his Department of Energy grant renewed for a further three years. This award, funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration funds Dr. Beausang’s non-classified research into nuclear stewardship science. In addition to providing travel and equipment funding the award provides salary support for a postdoctoral fellow and graduate student as well as summer stipends for Richmond undergraduates to enable them to participate in experiments and study nuclear physics under Dr. Beausang’s guidance.

Welcome, Admitted Students!

Congratulations to all newly admitted prospective UR students!  Every year we are excited to meet the new group of admitted students interested in physics and and engineering.  We hope that exploring this blog and our website will give you a good feel for what the physics department is all about.  If you would like to know more, feel free to leave a comment here, or contact us directly.  And of course, please drop by and say hello if you are able to visit campus in person.

If you are visiting campus, we would be happy to let you sit in on a physics class!  To set up a classroom visit, please contact our department admin, Mary Ann Stewart.  During the fall, classroom visits are arranged centrally by the UR admissions office; they don’t do it during the spring, presumably to avoid unmanageably large numbers during that busy time.  But as usual, the physics department doesn’t play by the rules; we’re small enough that we can welcome visitors anytime if you contact us directly.

Looking forward to meeting you!

Physics Major Receives Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship

Congratulations to Junior physics major Sarah Scheurich for being chosen as first runner-up for the Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship!  The scholarship is funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and is named for Clare Booth Luce, a playwright, journalist, ambassador, and U.S. congresswoman.  In recognition for her achievement in science and mathematics Sarah will receive a  scholarship towards the remainder of her Richmond education.

Richmond Physics Olympics Fun

Last weekend was the Richmond Physics Olympics.  Fifteen teams of high school students competed in various fun events, building towers, floating boats, and throwing bags of sand off the third floor balcony into the science building atrium.  Many thanks to the University of Richmond students who volunteered to help out with this event.  Several of our students also had some fun with a video camera, proving that our students can goof off just as hard as they work.

Two students present research at national physics conference

Sophomore Nathan Follin and junior Chris Musalo traveled with professor Matt Trawick to Dallas, Texas, to present their research at the annual March meeting of the American Physical Society.  Approximately 5000 physicists from around the world convened there for the five day conference.  Nathan and Chris presented a new technique in atomic force microscopy that enables topographical imaging with nanometer scale accuracy.  The two did their work using the University of Richmond Physics Department’s state of the art atomic force microscope.

Research Update: Mark Moog '11

mark_moog.jpg Senior Mark Moog is part of a team that is preparing for the “12 GeV Upgrade” at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News. The upgrade is a $300 million project at Jefferson Lab to explore new territory within the atomic nucleus. Mark has been performing sophisticated simulations of a new detector which will be used in experiments to measure the internal structure of the neutron, a project lead by professor Jerry Gilfoyle. Mark traveled to Santa Fe, NM, this fall to present his work at the fall meeting of the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society.

Jeff Zheng '11 publishes cosmology paper

Senior jeff_zheng.jpgJeff Zheng recently published a paper in the prestigious journal Physical Review D presenting the results of cosmology research performed with Professor Ted Bunn.  Jeff’s work involved the examination of maps of the cosmic microwave background radiation (the oldest light in the Universe).  These maps appear to contain certain unexpected patterns, which may provide clues about the nature of the early Universe.  Jeff analyzed the patterns to assess whether certain “exotic” variations on the standard Big Bang model might explain their presence.

Richmond students do research at national accelerator facility

Three Richmond physics students are currently working with professor Jerry Gilfoyle on nuclear physics experiments at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) in Newport News.  From left to right are junior Chris Musalo, senior Mark Moog, and junior Josh Carbonneau in the Machine Control Center there; the displays behind them are used to monitor the functioning of the accelerator during experiments.  All three also traveled to Santa Fe, NM, this fall to present their work at the meeting of the division of nuclear physics of the American Physical Society.musalo_moog_josh_jlab_r.jpg

Nathan Follin '13 to present research in Dallas

nathan_follin.jpgSophomore Nathan Follin will travel to the annual March meeting of the American Physical Society in Dallas, TX, this spring to present the results of his research with physics professor Matt Trawick.  Nathan has helped develop a new atomic force microscope technique for producing topographical images with nanometer scale accuracy.  The two began working together in the summer before Nathan’s freshman year; they expect to publish a paper on their work soon.

Research Update: Nick Annichiarico '12

nicholasdannichiarico.jpgJunior Nick Annichiarico is working with professor Ted Bunn on a project to look for large-scale patterns in the orientation of galaxies.  Standard theory predicts that the Universe is expanding in the same way at all locations and in all directions.  If this is correct, galaxies should be oriented at random.  Looking for departures from randomness is a good way to test whether our understanding of the uniform expansion is correct.  Nick’s work will be presented at an upcoming meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

New Telescope gets New Home

The Physics Department recently completed the installation of the new Martha Carpenter Observatory on the roof of Gottwald Science Center. The observatory now houses our new 14″ Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain reflecting telescope. All University of Richmond physics majors will have access to the new telescope.  Several students will also be working with professor Henry Nebel, pictured above, on various research projects involving the telescope, including tracking the moons of Jupiter and recording daily fluctuations in variable stars.

Bernard Wittmaack, '11, presents research in Puerto Rico

Junior Bernard Wittmaack, ‘bernardwittmaack.jpg11, traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico this fall to present a talk on his research at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.  Bernard studies halogen bonding in group 14 halomethane analogues with chemistry professor Kelling Donald, using computational chemistry techniques.  The two have performed intensive calculations using a supercomputer cluster here at Richmond, and expect to publish their work soon.  Bernard is majoring in interdisciplinary physics with a chemistry concentration, allowing him to combine courses from both disciplines.