Physical Systems and Applied Mathematics

Fall 2018
Winter 2019
Spring 2019
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 32
16 Credits per quarter
Variable credit options, see below
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Taught by

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.



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).

Fall 2018 Registration

Signature Required

Application materials will be available at the beginning of spring quarter 2018. Students must demonstrate meeting prerequisites through course completion or equivalent and also complete a diagnostic entrance exam. Applications received by spring 2017 Academic Fair (May 23, 2018) will be reviewed before registration begins. 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. After Academic Fair, applications will be reviewed as submitted and qualified students will be accepted until the program fills. Decisions will be individually emailed to students.

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 10083
So - Sr (1 - 16): 10273
Winter 2019 Registration

Signature Required

Students will need to demonstrate content knowledge equivalent to material covered in fall quarter. Contact faculty for more information.

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 20036
So - Sr (1 - 16): 20180
Spring 2019 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 30024
So - Sr (1 - 16): 30160

Academic details

Preparatory For

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

Variable Credit Options

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

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing
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.


In Person or Remote
In Person (F)
In Person (W)
In Person (S)
Time Offered
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting

LAB 2 1223A - CAL West
May be offered again in
<p>This program or its equivalent will be offered again in 2020-21.</p>