Physical Systems and Applied Mathematics

Fall 2018
Winter 2019
Spring 2019
Class Size: 32
Credits per quarter
Variable Credit Options Available

Compare offerings and share your lists with others.

Taught by

Brian Walters
mathematics, computer science, improvisational theater

This intermediate-to-advanced program builds on previous introductory work in calculus and calculus-based physics to deepen students’ understanding of nature, how it can be represented via physical models, and the powerful connections between mathematics and physical theories. We will integrate topics in physics (from classical mechanics, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics) with topics in applied mathematics (from differential equations, multivariable and vector calculus, and linear algebra). We will also devote time to looking at our studies in a broader historical, philosophical, and cultural context.

We will integrate theory and experiment in a collaborative environment that mirrors practices of contemporary scientists. By studying classical and cutting-edge problems, we aim to ask increasingly sophisticated questions about the nature of physical reality and develop tools for answering those questions. Through readings, lectures, workshops, labs, and seminars, we will examine the principal models by which we describe and understand the physical world, expanding from the realms of our immediate senses out to many orders of magnitude of scale of distance, time, 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 in the context of their use in the physical sciences. Quantitative problem solving will be emphasized, with computational tools used to gain insight into physical processes. The theoretical focus will be complemented with laboratory work.

Our theoretical and experimental investigations will integrate mathematically sophisticated and conceptually challenging subject areas, and will require, for well-prepared students, a significant time commitment of at least 50 hours per week, including mastery of prerequisite material, willingness to work in a learning community, practiced time-management skills, and experience balancing intensive work over extended periods of time. The result should be beautiful and mind-boggling insights into our breathtaking universe. Our goal is to provide students the opportunity to develop the conceptual knowledge and mathematical ability required to pursue further advanced work in physics and related disciplines.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

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


Credits per quarter
Variable Credit Options Available

Variable Credit Options:

Partial credit options are available for fall quarter. Please see program website ( for details.


Proficiency in one year of introductory calculus (including both differential and integral calculus, including multiple integrals) and one year of calculus-based physics (including introductory mechanics and electricity & magnetism).

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.
Special expenses:

Math and physics textbooks at intermediate and advanced levels are generally very expensive, and may be more than $600 total. 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 the beginning of spring quarter 2017 at the program website.

Upper division science credit:

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

Class Standing: Sophomore–Senior
Class Size: 32

Scheduled for: Day

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Monday, April 1, 2019 - 9:00 am
LAB 2 1223A - CAL West

Located in: Olympia

May be offered again in:

This program or its equivalent will be offered again in 2020-21.