Courses

Physics and astronomy are disciplines that have given us the tools to stretch human understanding of the universe, from the building blocks of matter to the structure and evolution of the most distant galaxies. Courses at Agnes Scott cover subjects as common as gravity and electricity, and as unusual as quantum mechanics, relativity and dark matter.  

Physics

PHY-102   ELEMENTS OF PHYSICS I/LAB         (4)                                           
Quantitative discussion of physical phenomena. Knowledge of algebra and trigonometry is required. This course does not count toward a major or minor in physics or astrophysics. Students planning to major or minor in physics or astrophysics should take Physics 202-203. Physics 102/Lab satisfies the lab science distribution requirement. Credit cannot be received for both PHY-102 and PHY-202.                                                                                            
3 LEC, 1 LAB


PHY-103   ELEMENTS OF PHYSICS II/LAB          (4)                                         
Elements of Physics II/Lab. Continuation of Physics 102/Lab. Credit cannot be received for both PHY-103 and PHY-203.
3 LEC, 1 LAB
Prerequisite: PHY-102


PHY-130   INTRO TO COMPUTER PROGRAMMING       (4)                                 
Lab-based course introducing computation and program development. Introduction to the fundamentals of computational problem solving and the Python programming language. Students will use and modify existing programs as well as write their own. Semester projects will be built around areas of interest of enrolled students. No prerequisites.
(Cross-listed with MAT-130)  Reaches SUMMIT requirements


PHY-150 WAVES AROUND THE WORLD: GLOBAL MUSIC AND PHYSICS     (4)
This course provides answers to many musical questions using physics: "Why does a zurnah sound different from a ney? Or a french horn from a bugle?" "Why does every culture recognize the interval of the octave?" We will cover both music topics like pitch, instrumentation, intensity, and quality; and physics topics like standing waves, interference and frequency analysis. Students will work in teams to pursue measurements relating physics and music during class time, a model that fully integrates lecture and lab. Examples of music and instruments will be pulled from around the world, highlighting the cultural-specific aspects of music from the physics fundamentals. Students will present a final project consisting of a self-designed investigation of a musical phenomenon. Students may petition to have this course count as a 200-level elective in music.

3 LEC, 1 LAB

 

PHY-160   GEOLOGY OF THE EARTH AND TERRESTRIAL PLANETS/LAB            (4)
An introduction to geology, including the study of common minerals, rocks and fossils. Discussion of the modification of the Earth’s surface by geological processes such as volcanism, tectonism, gradation (gravity, wind, water and ice) and impact catering. Consideration of geology of other terrestrial planets and moons.
3 LEC, 1 LAB

PHY-202   INTRO PHYSICS I: MECHANICS/LAB        (4)                                   
A calculus-based course with laboratory covering Newtonian mechanics, oscillations, and other classical physics topics. Credit cannot be received for both PHY-102 and PHY 202.
3 LEC, 1 LAB
Prerequisite: MAT-118
Prerequisite or Corequisite: MAT-119

PHY-203   INTRO PHYSICS II: ELECTRICITY AND MAGNETISM/LAB          (4)
A calculus-based course with laboratory covering electricity, magnetism, circuits, and light. Credit cannot be received for both PHY-103 and 203.
3 LEC, 1 LAB-- Reaches SUMMIT requirements
Prerequisite: PHY-110 or PHY-202

PHY-210   MODERN PHYSICS          (4)                                                          
One-semester introduction to the fundamentals of modern physics with integrated modern physics laboratory. Students perform simulations and experiments important to the development of modern physics and are introduced to modern experimental techniques. Topics include: relativity, atomic physics, wave phenomena, quantum mechanics, nuclear physics, and particle physics. Course provides a broad base of understanding of modern physics for use in upper-level physics and astronomy courses.
Prerequisite: PHY-111 or PHY-203
Pre- or Corequisite: MAT-220

PHY-230   DATA ANALYSIS IN PYTHON        (4)                                              
Activity based course introducing numerical analysis techniques and data analysis tools developed for the Python programming language. Students will develop skills in data visualization and work with datasets from their fields of interest.
Prerequisite: MAT-119; PHY-130 (or permission of instructor in lieu of PHY-130 based upon evidence of successful completion of the codeacademy.com Phython program).
(Cross-listed with MAT-230)

 

PHY-240   PRACTICAL ELECTRONICS        (4)                                                     
Electronic devices are all around us, but what is inside and how do they work? This course will build on a basic physics understanding of charge, current, and voltage; covering DC components, frequency response, semiconductors, op-amps, digital signals, and microprocessors. Students will design, build, and measure circuits, utilizing computer simulation and calculations to predict circuit behaviors. The class culminates in designing and building an Arduino-based project to solve a real-world problem. Reaches SUMMIT requirements
Prerequisite: PHY103 or PHY203 or permission of instructor

PHY-311 LABORATORY PHYSICS         (4)
Students perform experiments important to the development of modern physics. They are introduced to modern experimental techniques, including keeping a formal lab notebook, computer-aided data acquisition, electronic instruments, and data and error analysis.
Prerequisite: PHY-210

PHY-321   CLASSICAL MECHANICS         (4)                                                   
Newton’s system for describing and predicting motion, the formulations of Lagrange and Hamilton, central forces, oscillations, chaos, rigid bodies, accelerated reference frames, relativity, continua and waves.
Prerequisite: PHY-111 or PHY-203

 

PHY-331   THERMAL PHYSICS           (4)                                                        
Equilibrium thermodynamics, statistical methods, quantum methods in thermal physics, discussion of thermal phenomena such as phase transitions, superconductivity, superfluidity, magnetism and applications in chemistry, engineering and astrophysics.
Prerequisite: PHY-111 or PHY-203

 

PHY-341   ELECTROMAGNETISM          (4)                                                     
Maxwell’s equations applied to static and to dynamic situations, production and propagation of electromagnetic radiation.
Prerequisite: PHY-111 or PHY-203
Pre- or Corequisite: MAT-220

 

PHY-361   QUANTUM PHYSICS          (4)                                                           
Spin and matrix mechanics. Dirac notation. Schroedinger’s equation applied to one-dimensional situations and then to atomic, nuclear and molecular phenomena. Systems of identical particles.
Prerequisite: PHY-210

 

PHY-371 INTRODUCTION TO GENERAL RELATIVITY          (4)
An overview and introduction to general relativity, including flat spacetime (special relativity), tensors, the calculus of curvature, and the Einstein equation. Other topics may include neutron stars, black holes, the early universe, evolution of the universe, and Cosmic Microwave Background.
Prerequisites: PHY-210 and MAT-220

 

PHY-400   CAPSTONE COLLOQUIUM        (1)                                                  
Bi-weekly (~8 meetings per semester) colloquium for all students enrolled in all 400-level courses in a given semester. Students will share research, projects and internship results. Course is pass/fail. Can be taken multiple times.                                                                                                  
Corequisite: Any 400-level Physics or Astronomy course.


PHY-401   PROBLEM-SOLVING IN PHYSICS       (1)                                          
An additional course for students seeking greater depth in physics problem-solving. Students will identify specific areas of physics for development or enrichment and will work together to solve a variety of physics problems. May be repeated for credit.
Prerequisite: PHY-210; Corequisite: PHY-400


PHY-410   DIRECTED READING            (1-4)                                                  
Directed reading courses are open to qualified juniors and seniors to pursue reading outside a program's listed courses. Please see the Special Curricular Opportunities section for more information.
Corequisite: PHY-400        

                                                             
PHY-420   ADVANCED SEMINAR IN PHYSICS         (2-4)                                     
A capstone experience for astrophysics and physics majors. Topics will include use of online and other research resources, research methods and the ethics of scientific research. Students in the class will report regularly on their research experiences, or—if they are not actively engaged in a research project with a faculty member—on recent advances as reported in the scientific literature.
Prerequisite: Enrollment limited to juniors and seniors
Corequisite: PHY-400


PHY-440   DIRECTED RESEARCH         (1-4)                                                      
Directed research courses are open to junior and senior majors to work with a faculty member on a project related to particular field of intellectual or artistic interest. Please see the Special Curricular Opportunities section for more information.
Corequisite: PHY-400


PHY-450   INTERNSHIP       (1-4)                                                                     
Please see the Special Curricular Opportunities section for more information.
Corequisite: PHY-400


PHY-490   SENIOR THESIS    (4)                                                                   
A senior thesis gives superior students the opportunity to write a thesis about a project related to particular field of intellectual or artistic interest. Please see the Special Curricular Opportunities section for more information.
Corequisite: PHY-400

Astronomy

AST-120   THE SOLAR SYSTEM        (4)                                                         
A survey of the solar system, including the planets, minor bodies and the sun. An overview of orbital motion, the properties of light and fundamentals of astronomical instrumentation. Includes a required laboratory component in which students learn introductory observational methods, including telescope alignment and calibration and visual, photographic and CCD observations of the sun, the moon, planets and stars. Reaches SUMMIT requirements
3 LEC, 1 LAB


AST-121   GALAXIES AND COSMOLOGY        (4)                                             
A survey of the universe beyond our solar system. Fundamental techniques and discoveries in galactic and extragalactic astronomy. Topics include stellar evolution, black holes, structure of the Milky Way, large-scale structure and cosmology. Majors and minors are encouraged to take this course along with AST 200L.


AST-122 FIRST CONTACT: SPACE EXPLORATION, SCIENCE FICTION, AND NATIVE PEOPLES        (4)
This is an interdisciplinary course that examines first contact between alien peoples, through the disciplinary perspectives of astronomy and anthropology. By reading and discussing first contact scenarios found in science fiction and the historical record, students will confront the logistical, ethical, and philosophical challenges involved in encountering new peoples. These challenges include questions about how to prepare for first contact, how to communicate between peoples, the ethics of exploration, reconciling cultural and religious differences, and the potential of first contact to create unequal power relations between peoples and technologies. (Cross-listed with ANT122.)
Prerequisite or corequisite: AST-120 or AST-121 or ANT-101


AST-150   TOPICS IN PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY        (4)                                
A semester study of a topic chosen from such areas as planetary astronomy, the search for life in the universe, astrobiology, elementary particles, cosmology, energy and the environment. Possibility for interdisciplinary topics and informal astronomical observations.
May be repeated for credit when topics change.


AST-200L INTERMEDIATE OBSERVATIONAL TECHNIQUES       (4)                    
A laboratory experience in which students learn observational methods of radio and optical astronomy. Use of computer-controlled optical and radio telescopes, electronic (CCD) imaging and photometry. Students also learn to operate the Zeiss ZKP3 planetarium projector.
Prerequisite: AST-120L


AST-300   ASTROPHYSICS I: RADIATION         (4)                                          
The application of physics to the study of astronomical radiation. Topics include multiwavelength astronomical telescopes and instruments, stellar and planetary radiation transfer, stellar evolution, the interstellar medium, the intergalactic medium, magnetic fields and cosmology.
Prerequisite or Corequisite: PHY-111 or PHY-203


AST-301   ASTROPHYSICS II: DYNAMICS       (4)                                            
The application of physics to the study of astronomical structures and motions. Topics include dynamics from planetary to galactic scales, distance determination, galaxy evolution, mass distributions, large-scale structure and cosmology.
Prerequisite or corequisite: PHY-111 or PHY-203


AST-400   ADVANCED SEMINAR         (4)                                                       
A capstone experience for astrophysics and physics majors. Topics will include use of online and other research resources, research methods and the ethics of scientific research. Students in the class will report regularly on their research experiences, or if they are not actively engaged in a research project with a faculty member on recent advances as reported in the scientific literature.
Prerequisite: Enrollment limited to juniors and seniors


AST-410   DIRECTED READING         (1-4)                                                        
Directed reading courses are open to qualified juniors and seniors to pursue reading outside a program's listed courses. Please see the Special Curricular Opportunities section for more information.


AST-440   DIRECTED RESEARCH         (1-4)                                                       
Directed research courses are open to junior and senior majors to work with a faculty member on a project related to particular field of intellectual or artistic interest. Please see the Special Curricular Opportunities section for more information.


AST-450    INTERNSHIP       (1-4)
Please see the Special Curricular Opportunities section for more information.


AST-490   SENIOR THESIS       (4)                                                                
A senior thesis gives superior students the opportunity to write a thesis about a project related to particular field of intellectual or artistic interest. Please see the Special Curricular Opportunities section for more information.


If you are interested in credit or placement based on AP or IB tests, please see this page for AP and IB information.