Physical Systems and Applied Mathematics


Fall 2014, Winter 2015 and Spring 2015 quarters

Taught by

physics, biomedical engineering, optical imaging and microscopy
linguistics, mathematics


One year of introductory calculus (including both differential and integral calculus, including multiple integrals), one year of calculus-based physics (including introductory mechanics and electricity and magnetism). Students are urged to take the mathematics entrance assessment, available on the program website ( . Readiness to work at the described mathematical level (as evidenced by ability to perform on a similar assessment in the first week of class) will be critical to success in the program.

This is an intermediate to advanced-level program. Students will build on their prior knowledge of calculus and calculus-based physics to deepen their understanding of nature, how it can be represented via physical models, and the powerful connections between mathematics and physical theories. The program will involve a mix of advanced mathematics (some of it extraordinarily beautiful, as well as powerful), experiments in modern physics involving electromagnetic and quantum phenomena, and a deep immersion in modern physical theories.

Topics will include nonrelativistic quantum mechanics, the theory which revolutionized our understanding of nature and underlies much of modern chemistry, physics, and engineering; classical electrodynamics, the quintessential model of a successful unified (and relativistic) field theory; and classical mechanics with special attention to the profound “least action” principle, which provides a bridge between the classical and quantum mechanical. The mathematics underlying these theories – vector calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, and especially Fourier analysis (a technique which provides an entirely new way of looking at the world) – will be developed in the context of their use in the physical sciences. Students will also develop facility with the scientific software MATLAB, using it to solve problems as well as to build physical intuition by visualizing the behavior of matter and fields. The theoretical focus of the program will be complemented with elements of hands-on laboratory work to observe and illustrate the phenomena under discussion. We will also devote time to examining the study of physics in a broader historical, philosophical, and cultural context.

The program material will be challenging, and will demand both hard work and engaged collaboration with both the subject matter and one’s fellow students. A major goal of the program is to provide students the opportunity to develop the conceptual knowledge and mathematical background required to pursue advanced work in physics and related disciplines.

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

physics, mathematics, engineering, and math and science education.
Academic Website

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$150 per quarter for overnight field trips and physics kits.

Special Expenses

Math and physics textbooks at the intermediate and advanced level are generally very expensive (may be more than $600 total for new texts in the fall; however, those texts cover the entire year), and students will be required to have access to these texts for successful completion of the program. Students will also need to own (or have easy access to) computers with appropriate software. More information will be available by August 1 st on 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, linear algebra, Fourier techniques) or physics (e.g. classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics). Students who successfully complete the program requirements will earn upper division science credit in mathematics or physics in those areas.

May be offered again in



Date Revision
May 7th, 2014 Description has been updated, fall signature has been removed (please take note of prerequisites), and fees have been reduced from $200 to $150 per quarter.

Registration Information

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

Variable Credit Options

variable credit options may be available; contact faculty for more information.

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 32


Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 10248

Go to to register for this program.


Accepting New Students

Signature Required

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

Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 20079

Go to to register for this program.


Accepting New Students

Signature Required

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

Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 30061

Go to to register for this program.

Need Help Finding the Right Program?

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