Richmond Students Present Their Nuclear Physics Research

Two University of Richmond physics majors, Liam Murray and Keegan Sherman, will be presenting posters about their research from last summer at the fall meeting of the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society. The meeting will be held in Newport Beach, CA and their work will be part of the Conference Experience for Undergraduates (CEU) held each year as this meeting to highlight undergraduate contributions to nuclear physics. Liam and Keegan both received funding for the trip from CEU and from the University. They worked last summer with Jerry Gilfoyle whose research is focused on the underlying quark and gluon structure of atomic nuclei and how the color force that binds quarks creates the world of nuclear physics. Here are links to Liam’s and Keegan’s abstracts describing their work.

Physics courses for entering students

We in the UR physics department are looking forward to welcoming the new members of the Class of 2016 in the fall. Here’s some information you might find helpful as you think about registering for fall courses.

If anything’s not clear, or if you have any questions about which course is for you, ask us!

Physics majors typically start with Physics 131 in the fall and either 132 or 134 in the spring.  There are four sections of physics 131 available this fall.  Physics 131 is mostly about mechanics but has some other topics as well.  It requires either that you’ve had some calculus or that you take Calc. 1 at the same time.

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

Students with strong high school physics backgrounds can skip Physics 131 and start right away with Physics 132.  There is one section of this course offered in the fall. University policy says that you need a 4 or 5 on the Physics C Mechanics, or departmental permission, to skip Physics 131.  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 town to see if you should be in 132.  (This applies especially to international students, who aren’t part of the US AP system.)

If you think you might want to major in physics (even if you’re not sure), and you’re eligible to skip 131, we strongly urge you to sign up for Physics 132 in the fall.  Finishing the introductory physics sequence early will give you a lot more scheduling flexibility in future semesters (and remember that even if you end up majoring in another science, you may still need to take this course).

Students with very strong physics backgrounds (a 4 or a 5 on the Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism AP exam) are eligible to skip both semesters of the introductory sequence.  If you’re in that category, and you think you might want to study physics, the best courses for you are Physics 205 (Modern Physics) and/or Physics 301 (Mathematical Methods).  Once again, if you didn’t take the appropriate AP exam but think you might have the right background for this option, ask 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:

Space is Big. This course will examine three occasions in the history of Western thought when the conception of the size of the Universe underwent large expansions: 1) The transition from an Earth-centered to Sun-centered view of the Universe, which led to an enormous increase in estimates of distances to stars, and hence in the scale of the known Universe; 2) The gradual understanding, in the early 20th century, of an expanding Universe filled with billions of galaxies; and 3) Contemporary ideas of the multiverse, according to which our observed environment is only a tiny fraction of all that exists. The most extreme and controversial versions of the multiverse hypothesis propose that the very laws of physics vary throughout the Universe, and that our observed patch may be quite atypical. In the course of examining the amount of space in the Universe, we will examine ideas about the nature of space, which also underwent major shifts during each of these periods.

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.

Physics courses for new first-year students

It's time for incoming first-year students to register for classes for the fall semester.  We in the physics department are looking forward to meeting you all in the fall.

Here's some information about the physics courses available for new students.  If anything here isn't clear, or if you have any questions about which course is for you, ask us!

Physics majors typically start with Physics 131 in the fall and either 132 or 134 in the spring.  There are four sections of physics 131 available this fall.  Physics 131 is mostly about mechanics but has some other topics as well.  It requires either that you've had some calculus or that you take Calc. 1 at the same time.

Pre-med students and students in other science majors also take Physics 131, and the course fulfills the science requirement for non-science majors, so even if you're not sure what you're majoring in, keep this course in mind.

Students with strong high school physics backgrounds can skip Physics 131 and start right away with Physics 132.  There is one section of this course offered in the fall. University policy says that you need a 4 or 5 on the Physics C Mechanics, or departmental permission, to skip Physics 131.  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 town to see if you should be in 132.  (This applies especially to international students, who aren't part of the US AP system.)

If you think you might want to major in physics (even if you're not sure), and you're eligible to skip 131, we strongly urge you to sign up for Physics 132 in the fall.  Finishing the introductory physics sequence early will give you a lot more scheduling flexibility in future semesters (and remember that even if you end up majoring in another science, you may still need to take this course).

Students with very strong physics backgrounds (a 4 or a 5 on the Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism AP exam) are eligible to skip both semesters of the introductory sequence.  If you're in that category, and you think you might want to study physics, the best courses for you are Physics 205 (Modern Physics) and/or Physics 301 (Mathematical Methods).  Once again, if you didn't take the appropriate AP exam but think you might have the right background for this option, ask 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 year:

Space is Big. This course will examine three occasions in the history of Western thought when the conception of the size of the Universe underwent large expansions: 1) The transition from an Earth-centered to Sun-centered view of the Universe, which led to an enormous increase in estimates of distances to stars, and hence in the scale of the known Universe; 2) The gradual understanding, in the early 20th century, of an expanding Universe filled with billions of galaxies; and 3) Contemporary ideas of the multiverse, according to which our observed environment is only a tiny fraction of all that exists. The most extreme and controversial versions of the multiverse hypothesis propose that the very laws of physics vary throughout the Universe, and that our observed patch may be quite atypical. In the course of examining the amount of space in the Universe, we will examine ideas about the nature of space, which also underwent major shifts during each of these periods.

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.

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.

Change to fall 2011 schedule

UPDATE: We had to change it yet again! I’m sorry for all the confusion. The following should be really truly final.

We have had to move the meeting time of PHYS 132. It will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9:00-11:45.

I’m sorry for the last-minute change. If you need to talk to me about scheduling issues, let me know.

Schedule of classes: Fall 2011

UPDATE: We had to make a number of changes to the fall schedule. The most important one for current and prospective physics majors is that we’re moving computational physics from fall to spring. In addition, instructors for some courses got shuffled around, and math methods moved from Tuesday-Thursday to Monday-Wednesday. Details below. Changes are marked in bold italics.

Here is our current plan for the schedule of physics courses for next fall. It may change, but probably not dramatically. Instructors’ names are listed in parentheses.

  • PHYS 125: Elements of Physics. MWF 9:00-11:00 (Serej).
  • PHYS 131: General Physics w/ Calc. I. Four sections:
    • MWF 9-11 (Nebel).
    • TTh 1:30-4:15 (Nebel).
    • MWF 1:30-3:30 (Lipan).
    • TTh 9-11:45 (Gilfoyle).
  • PHYS 132: General Physics w/ Calc. II. MWF 1:30-3:30 (Serej).
  • PHYS 205: Modern Physics. MWF 10:30-11:20 (Bunn).
  • PHYS 215: Cancelled for fall. Moved to spring.
  • PHYS 301: Mathematical Methods in Physics. MW 1:30-2:45 (Fetea).
  • PHYS 309: Quantum Mechanics I. TTh 3-4:15 (Lipan).
  • PHYS 397/398/497/498: Junior and Senior Seminar. W 4:30-5:30 (Beausang).
  • IQS (Physics portion taught by Dr. Fetea).
  • First-year seminar: “Space is Big.” MWF 3-3:50 (Bunn).

Let me know if you have questions about physics courses.

Spring 2011 physics courses

 CLARIFICATION: When I said that electronics is one of the ways of satisfying the experimental requirement, I should have been clearer.  The physics major requires Intermediate Lab, and one more experimental thing.  Electronics and research are the two ways to get that extra thing.  You still need Intermediate Lab.

Registration for spring semester’s not far off.  Here’s some potentially useful information for physics majors and minors.

First, here are the upper-level physics courses we expect to offer.  (There are the usual bunch of intro courses too.)

  • PHYS 216 (Electronics): MWF 1:30-3:30, Matt Trawick.
  • PHYS 221 (Intermediate Lab): TTh 1:30-4:15, Jerry Gilfoyle.
  • PHYS 303 (Classical Mechanics): TTh 10:30-11:45, Ovidiu Lipan.
  • PHYS 306 (Electricity & Magnetism II): MWF 10:30-11:20, Ted Bunn.
  • Junior-Senior seminar, W 4:30-5:30, Ted Bunn.

A couple of other items to note as you prepare to register:

  • Electronics will almost certainly not be offered during the following (2011-2012) academic year. Electronics is one of only two ways to satisfy the physics major’s experimental requirement, the other being research for credit with a faculty member.  (See clarification above: this is the post-intermediate-lab experimental requirement.  Intermediate lab is required too.)
  • E&M II will almost certainly not pass your way again any time soon.
  • The 2011-2012 schedule is not fixed yet, but we’re pretty certain to offer Modern, Math Methods, Computational, Stat. Mech., Intermediate Lab, and a new Systems Biology course.  Quantum 1 is also very likely, and with luck one more advanced course to be named later.

As always, if you have questions or concerns, ask me.

Physics courses for incoming students

It's time for incoming first-year students to register for classes for the fall semester.  We in the physics department are looking forward to meeting you all in the fall.

Here's some information about the physics courses available for new students.  If anything here isn't clear, or if you have any questions about which course is for you, ask us!

Physics majors typically start with Physics 131 in the fall and either 132 or 134 in the spring.  There are four sections of physics 131 available this fall.  Physics 131 is mostly about mechanics but has some other topics as well.  It requires either that you've had some calculus or that you take Calc. 1 at the same time.

Pre-med students and students in some other science majors also take this same sequence of courses, and the course fulfills the science requirement for non-science majors, so even if you're not sure what you're majoring in, keep this course in mind.

Students with strong high school physics backgrounds can skip Physics 131 and start right away with Physics 132.  There is one section of this course offered in the fall. University policy says that you need a 4 or 5 on the Physics C Mechanics AP test, or departmental permission, to get credit for Physics 131. If you got a 4 or 5 on the Physics B AP test, then you’re eligible for credit for physics 127-128.  This in principle allows you to go straight into physics 132, but if you’re thinking about a physics major we usually recommend taking 131 in this situation.

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 town to see if you should be in 132.  This applies especially to international students, who aren't part of the US AP system.

If you think you might want to major in physics (even if you're not sure), and you're eligible to skip 131, we strongly urge you to sign up for Physics 132 in the fall.  Finishing the introductory physics sequence early will give you a lot more scheduling flexibility in future semesters (and remember that even if you end up majoring in another science or going pre-med, you may still need to take this course).

Students with very strong physics backgrounds (a 4 or a 5 on the Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism AP exam) are eligible to skip both semesters of the introductory sequence.  If you're in that category, and you think you might want to study physics, the best courses for you are Physics 205 (Modern Physics) and/or Physics 301 (Mathematical Methods).  Once again, if you didn't take the appropriate AP exam but think you might have the right background for this option, ask 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.  (Also, it’s full at the moment.)

Physics courses for new first-year students

It’s time for incoming first-year students to register for classes for the fall semester.  We in the physics department are looking forward to meeting you all in the fall.

Here’s some information about the physics courses available for new students.  If anything here isn’t clear, or if you have any questions about which course is for you, ask us!

Physics majors typically start with Physics 131 in the fall and either 132 or 134 in the spring.  There are four sections of physics 131 available this fall.  Physics 131 is mostly about mechanics but has some other topics as well.  It requires either that you’ve had some calculus or that you take Calc. 1 at the same time.

Pre-med students and students in other science majors also take this same sequence of courses, and the course fulfills the science requirement for non-science majors, so even if you’re not sure what you’re majoring in, keep this course in mind.

Students with strong high school physics backgrounds can skip Physics 131 and start right away with Physics 132.  There is one section of this course offered in the fall. University policy says that you need a 4 or 5 on the Physics C Mechanics, or departmental permission, to skip Physics 131.  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 town to see if you should be in 132.  (This applies especially to international students, who aren’t part of the US AP system.)

If you think you might want to major in physics (even if you’re not sure), and you’re eligible to skip 131, we strongly urge you to sign up for Physics 132 in the fall.  Finishing the introductory physics sequence early will give you a lot more scheduling flexibility in future semesters (and remember that even if you end up majoring in another science, you’ll still need to take this course).

Students with very strong physics backgrounds (a 4 or a 5 on the Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism AP exam) are eligible to skip both semesters of the introductory sequence.  If you’re in that category, and you think you might want to study physics, the best courses for you are Physics 205 (Modern Physics) and/or Physics 301 (Mathematical Methods).  Once again, if you didn’t take the appropriate AP exam but think you might have the right background for this option, ask 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.

New telescope

Our department just took delivery of a new 14€³ telescope, to be used for classes, student projects, and public observing nights:

celestron14.JPG

As you can see, it's not in the  best possible observing location at the moment.  Plans are in motion to give it a permanent home on the roof of our building.

Thanks a lot to Dean Newcomb for buying us this!

Welcome, admitted physicists and engineers!

If you are a newly admitted student planning to attend Richmond in fall 2009, please drop us a line!  We like to stay in touch with potential physics and engineering students over the summer, to pass on information on course selection and research opportunities.  (Probably only a couple of notes over the summer; we promise not to flood your inbox.)  Please drop a quick note to Matt Trawick, and we’ll put you on our contact list.  Welcome, class of 2013!

Evolution and entropy

Researchers tend to get very specialized, working mostly in just one area.  But every once in a while, it’s fun for a researcher to work on something completely different.  UR Professor Ted Bunn, who normally does astrophysics, just had an article accepted for publication that talks about biological evolution and its relationship to the laws of thermodynamics.

Believers in creationism and intelligent design sometimes say that Darwinian evolution is impossible, because it conflicts with the second law of thermodynamics.  The second law says, very roughly, that the total amount of disorder (or entropy) in the universe always increases, so, the creationists say, it’s impossible for the orderliness of life to arise spontaneously.  This argument is wrong — there’s no conflict between evolution and thermodynamics.  The point of this article is to explain exactly why it’s wrong.

Visiting UR? Yes, you CAN sit in on a physics class!

If you are a prospective physics student visiting UR this spring, we would be happy to let you sit in on a physics class!  It’s a great way to get a feel for what a Richmond physics class is really like.  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.)

Jim Stith speaks about careers in physics

stith.jpgJim Stith, recently retired as Vice President, Physics Resources Center for the American Institute of Physics, spoke at the University of Richmond about careers for physics students.  The title of his talk was “The Physics Passport – Where does it take you?”  Jim points out that of the 5500 yearly graduateswith bachelors degrees in physics, only a small number continue a “traditional path” of academic physics research.  Many more continue in industry and government sector work, where their technical backgrounds and problem solving skills allow them to address a variety of challenging problems in different areas.  Before coming to AIP, Dr. Stith was a Professor of Physics at The Ohio State University and also spent 21 years on the faculty of the United States Military Academy at West Point.