Physical Systems and Applied Mathematics

Fall 2014, Winter 2015 and Spring 2015 quarters

Taught by

physics, biomedical engineering, optical imaging and microscopy
physics, math, astrophysics


One year of introductory calculus (including differential and integral calculus), one year of calculus-based physics (including introductory mechanics and electricity and magnetism).

In this intermediate to advanced program, we will build on previous introductory work in calculus and calculus-based physics to deepen our understanding of the complex and powerful connections between mathematics and physics. We will integrate theory and experiment in a collaborative environment that mirrors the communities and practices of contemporary mathematicians and physicists. Through study of classical and cutting-edge problems, we aim to ask increasingly sophisticated questions about the nature of physical reality and develop tools to start to answer those questions.

Through readings, lectures, labs, workshops and seminars, we will examine the principal models by which we describe and understand the physical world, starting from the realm of our immediate senses and expanding to encompass many orders of magnitude of scales of distance, time, speed, matter and energy. We will emphasize understanding the nature and formal structure of quantitative physical theories, unifying the concepts and mathematical structures that organize different physical theories into a coherent body of knowledge. Mathematical skills will be developed as needed and in the context of their use in the physical sciences. Quantitative problem solving will be emphasized and computational tools will be used for gaining insight into physical processes. The theoretical focus will be complemented with extensive hands-on laboratory work to develop the discipline and practical problem-solving skills of the experimental physicist.

In physics, we will study topics from classical mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics, as well as drawing from atomic, molecular and optical physics, condensed matter and material physics and astrophysics. In mathematics, we will study topics from differential equations, multivariable and vector calculus and linear algebra. In addition to work in core areas of physics and applied mathematics, we will devote time to looking at our studies in a broader historical, philosophical and cultural context.

Our theoretical and experimental investigations will be complex and challenging and will demand hard work and engaged collaboration. Our goal is for each student to develop sufficient conceptual knowledge, mathematical ability and experimental skills to pursue advanced, graduate or professional work in physics and related disciplines.

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

physics, mathematics, math or science education, engineering.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

Hybrid Online Learning 25 - 49% Delivered Online

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$200 in fall and $175 in winter and spring for overnight field trips and physics kits.

Special Expenses

Math and physics textbooks at the intermediate and advanced level are generally very expensive (might be more than $500 for new texts); students will be required to have access to these texts for successful completion of the program. Students will also require devices capable of scientific calculation and graphing, such as graphing calculators or (recommended) smartphones/tablets/laptops with appropriate software. More information will be available at the program website (

Upper Division Science Credit

Most of the work in this program will be equivalent to intermediate or advanced work in undergraduate mathematics (e.g. differential equations, multi-variable and vector calculus, linear algebra) or physics (e.g. classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics). Students who successfully complete the program requirements in those areas will earn upper division science credit in mathematics or physics.

May be offered again in


Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter); 16 (Spring)

Variable Credit Options

Students without physics prerequisites and/or interested in only taking the applied mathematics portions of the program may do so with faculty signature. Entry into this option is based on demonstration of mathematics prerequisites via application; contact faculty for more information.

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 25


Signature Required

Entry into this program requires demonstration of prerequisite knowledge in mathematics and/or physics via application materials which will be available on-line ( by the spring Academic Fair. All qualified students will get a signature, which does not guarantee registration but will permit students to register if space is available at their registration time. Decisions will be individually emailed to students.

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16 credits): 10138
So - Sr (1-16 credits): 10139

Go to to register for this program.


Accepting New Students

Signature Required

Students will need to demonstrate prerequisite knowledge equivalent to mathematics and/or physics content covered in fall quarter. Contact Neil Switz ( for more information.

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16 credits): 20079
So - Sr (1-16 credits): 20080

Go to to register for this program.


Accepting New Students

Signature Required

Students will need to demonstrate prerequisite knowledge equivalent to mathematics and/or physics content covered in fall and/or winter quarter. Contact Neil Switz ( for more information.

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16 credits): 30061
So - Sr (1-16 credits): 30062

Go to to register for this program.

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