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Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Astronomy Courses

ASTRON 101 – Modern Cosmology

This course covers the most current views about the structure of the universe, its past, present, and its future. The course is especially suitable for nonscience majors who seek to follow up ASTRON 120 with a more detailed course.

ASTRON 102 – Milky Way Galaxy

This course covers the structure of our galaxy, star formation, interstellar clouds and dust, star clusters, neutron stars and black holes, the galactic center, and the future evolution of the sun and our solar system. The course is especially suitable for nonscience majors who seek to follow up ASTRON 120 with a more detailed course.

ASTRON 103 – Solar System

This course studies our solar system, including the planets and their moons, the Sun, comets, asteroids, and the Earth and the Moon. It is especially suitable for nonscience majors who seek to follow up ASTRON 120 with a more detailed course.

ASTRON 110-6 – First-Year Seminar: Searching for ET: Science and Strategies

The possibilities of extraterrestrial life and intelligence have long fascinated the public imagination. Recent discoveries of thousands of extrasolar planets and evidence of a watery past on Mars have heated the debate on whether we are alone in the universe. In this seminar, we will discuss the scientific foundations of this debate as well as the technology and strategies behind current and planned searches for extraterrestrial life and intelligence.

ASTRON 111 – Introduction to Astrobiology

This course presents the modern scientific perspective on the question of life elsewhere in the universe, including the prospects for life on Mars, the discovery of extrasolar planets, and the search for extrasolar biospheres.

ASTRON 120 – Highlights of Astronomy

Acquaints students with modern ideas about the solar system, stars, galaxies, and the universe. Emphasizes fundamental principles and underlying concepts.

ASTRON 220 – Introduction to Astrophysics

Use of introductory physics (mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and modern physics) to cover astrophysical topics starting with the solar system and ending with the large-scale structure of the universe and cosmology. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 135-1,2,3 or the equivalent.

ASTRON 310-0 – Radio Astronomy

Fifty years ago, most astronomical observations were made at optical wavelengths. Today, using a variety of telescopes across the electromagnetic spectrum, astronomers are making dramatic advances in our understanding of the nature of the Universe. This course introduces students how astronomical observations are carried out at radio wavelengths. Emphasis will be placed on sources and mechanisms for radio emission using interferometric and single dish telescopes. In particular, we will discuss the role of interferometers in different wavelength bands and astronomical discoveries that have been made at radio wavelengths between meters to millimeters. We will also explain the emission mechanism (e.g., synchrotron radiation, thermal radiation) operating in the Sun, massive stars, pulsars, supernova remnants and radio galaxies at radio wavelengths. Radio Astronomy Seminar Website: http://sites.northwestern.edu/radioastronomy/

ASTRON 314 – Planetary Astrophysics

Methods of exoplanet detection. The observed architecture of exoplanetary systems. The formation and evolution of planetary systems. Modeling exoplanet interiors and atmospheres. Exoplanet habitability and the search for biosignatures. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 330-1,2 or equivalent

ASTRON 321 – Observational Astrophysics

Geometric optics applied to the design of optical and X-ray telescopes; diffraction and the Airy disk; radio and optical interferometry and aperture synthesis; adaptive optics; recent developments in detector technology; quantum and thermal noise in astronomy. Includes independent research projects using the CCD camera and 18-inch refractor in Dearborn Observatory. Offered alternate years. Prerequisite: ASTRON 220.

ASTRON 325 – Stellar Astrophysics

Physics of stellar interiors, stellar atmospheres, and star formation. Specific topics covered include: simple stellar models, nuclear energy generation, overview of evolutionary phases, white dwarfs, neutron stars, interstellar gas and dust grains, gravitational collapse. Prerequisite: ASTRON 220.

ASTRON 329 – Extragalactic Astrophysics and Cosmology

Big bang cosmology, thermal history of the Universe, primordial nucleosynthesis, microwave background, dark matter, large scale structure, galaxy formation, spiral and elliptical galaxies, groups and clusters of galaxies. Prerequisite: ASTRON 220.

ASTRON 331 – Astrophysics (ISP)

A broad survey of astronomy topics, from stars and compact objects to galaxies and cosmology. Prerequisite: PHYSICS 339-3. Limited to students enrolled in ISP or by consent of the physics department.

ASTRON 390 – Current Topics in Astronomy

This course will explore in detail an area of current research interest in astrophysics. Contact the department office or instructor for specifics. May repeat for credit with change in topic. Prerequisites vary.

ASTRON 399 – Independent Study

Advanced study on a topic of interest to the student, under the direction of a faculty member. Open to all students. Consent of the instructor required. More information about research opportunities.

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Data Science Courses

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Physics Courses

PHYSICS 103-0 – Ideas of Physics

Ideas of Physics is a series of independent one-quarter courses on interesting topics in physics. Course content during any year varies with faculty and student interest; recent offerings have included relativity, the physics of music, and the progress of physics through history. Ideas of Physics requires only high school mathematics and is designed for nonscience majors.

PHYSICS 105-0 – Music-Sound-Timbre

Introductory-level course dealing with the interface between art, technology, and science. Topics include MIDI, musical analysis and composition, physical acoustics and psychoacoustics, construction and acoustics of instruments, signal generation, recording, and analysis. Students have access to the Physics Department Sound Laboratory.

PHYSICS 110-6 – First-Year Seminar

No description available.

PHYSICS 125-1,2,3 – General Physics for ISP

This is a general physics course which uses calculus extensively. The course content is similar to that of PHYSICS 135-1,2,3 but is more advanced and intended for ISP students. (Physics majors may take PHYSICS 125-1,2,3 with permission of the department.) There are three lectures, one discussion, and one two-hour laboratory per week. A concurrent advanced calculus course (MATH 291-1,2,3) is offered by the mathematics department. Prerequisite: first-year standing in ISP or consent of the department and concurrent enrollment in 126-1,2,3.

PHYSICS 126-1,2,3 – General Physics Laboratory for ISP

Introductory physics laboratory for students taking 125-1,2,3. Concurrent registration required.

PHYSICS 130-1,2,3 – College Physics (see also Physics Workshops)

This is a three-quarter sequence in algebra-based physics. It is intended primarily for premedical students who need a full year of physics, but do not need to take calculus-based physics. The topics covered are similar to those of PHYSICS 135-1,2,3. There are three lectures, one discussion, and one two-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: algebra and trigonometry and concurent enrollment in 136-1,2,3. PHYSICS 130-1,2,3 must be taken in sequential order.

PHYSICS 135-1 – General Physics

Particle kinematics, Newtonian dynamics, work and energy, collisions and momentum, torque and angular momentum, rigid-body statics and dynamics, harmonic oscillations, gravitation.

PHYSICS 135-1,2,3 – General Physics (see also Physics Workshops)

This is a three-quarter sequence in calculus-based classical physics with an introduction to modern physics in the third quarter. It is intended for science and engineering majors and premedical students. There are three lectures and one discussion per week. 

1. Mechanics. Prerequisites: MATH 220-0, MATH 224-0, MATH 230-0 and concurrent enrollment in 136-1.  Note:  MATH 230-0 may be taken concurrently with 135-1.

2. Electricity and magentism. Prerequisite: 135-1 and 136-1 and concurrent enrollment in 136-2. 

3. Introduction to modern physics; wave phenomena. Prerequisite: 135-2 and 136-2 and concurrent enrollment in 136-3. Students with credit for a quarter of 135 may not later receive credit for the comparable quarter of 130. The topics covered in each quarter are:

PHYSICS 135-2 – General Physics

Electrostatics, magnetostatics, DC and AC circuits, time-varying fields, Maxwell's equations.

PHYSICS 135-3 – General Physics

Mechanical waves, sound waves, electromagnetic waves, geometric optics, interference and diffraction, the quantum nature of particles and light, atomic and nuclear phenomena.

PHYSICS 136-1,2,3 – General Physics Laboratory (0.34 units each)

Introductory physics laboratory for students taking 130-1, 2, 3 or 135-1, 2, 3. Concurrent registration required.

PHYSICS 140-1 – Fundamentals of Physics

Physics 140-1 is the first part of a three-course sequence in classical physics intended primarily for prospective physics majors and minors and other students with a special interest in physics. The course offers an introduction to fundamental topics in classical mechanics, including kinematics, relative motion, Newton's Laws, work and energy, linear and angular momentum, and rigid body rotation, with special attention paid to establishing strong connections between physical concepts and mathematical techniques. This course will be taught in an active learning style.

PHYSICS 140-2 – General Physics (Majors)

No description available.

PHYSICS 140-3 – General Physics (Majors)

No description available.

PHYSICS 238-0 – Energy and Nuclear Power

Energy problems and different energy sources. Basics of the physics of atoms and nuclei. Chain reactions, criticality and nuclear reactors. The dream and prospects for fusion power. Prerequisites: 130-1, 2 ,3 and 136-1, 2, 3 or 135-1, 2 ,3 and 136-1, 2, 3; or equivalent.

PHYSICS 239-0 – Foundations of Modern Physics

Introduction to modern foundations of physics, including principles of waves, probability, quantum theory, and selected topics from special relativity, statistical mechanics, optics, and atomic structure. Prerequisites: Physics 135-1, 2, 3 and Physics 136-1, 2, 3 and Math 250 or equivalent, or concurrent enrollment.

PHYSICS 311-1,2 – Mathematical Tools for Physical Sciences

Introduction to the tools necessary to solve physics problems, including integral calculus, complex numbers and complex algebra, matrices and vector spaces, differential equations, and Fourier analysis. Prerequisites: Physics 135-1 or equivalent, Math 230 or equivalent; concurrent registration in Phys 135-2. For Phys 311-2: Phys 311-1, Phys 135-2 or equivalent; concurrent registration in Phys 135-3.

PHYSICS 330-1 – Classical Mechanics

Kinematics, Newton's Laws, one-dimensional oscillator, solutions of ordinary differential equations, phase space, linear systems, Laplace transforms, Fourier series, matrices.

PHYSICS 330-1,2 – Classical Mechanics

Introduction to classical mechanics and mathematical methods of physics. The subject matter is treated so as to lead naturally to more advanced physics courses such as quantum mechanics. There are typically three lectures and one discussion section per week. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 135-1 or equivalent; MATH 234 and 311-1, 2; or MATH 240, 250, or the equivalent.

PHYSICS 330-2 – Classical Mechanics

Conservation laws, collisions, torque and angular momentum, moment of inertia, multidimensional integrals, the gyroscope, gravitation, line integrals, central forces.

PHYSICS 332-0 – Statistical Mechanics

This course covers the basics of statistical physics, including the ideal gas, Boltzmann distributions, transport phenomena, fluctuation theory, Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac statistics, and other applications. There are typically three lectures and one discussion per week. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 135-1, 2, 3, MATH 234 or the equivalent.

PHYSICS 333-1 – Advanced Electricity and Magnetism

Review of vector calculus and basic electromagnetic phenomena. Electrostatics and magnetostatics, multipole expansion, solutions of Laplace's equation by orthogonal function expansion, images, analytic functions. Magnetic scalar and vector potentials.

PHYSICS 333-1,2 – Advanced Electricity and Magnetism

There are typically three lectures and one discussion per week. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 135-1,2,3; MATH 234 and 311-1, 2; or MATH 240, 250 or equivalent.

PHYSICS 333-2 – Advanced Electricity and Magnetism

Maxwell's equations, electrodynamics, electromagnetic wave propagation and radiation. Conservation laws, electromagnetic fields in special relativity.

PHYSICS 335-0 – Physics of Magic

This course will use magic tricks, illusion, and deception to discuss the rarely explored but often surprisingly flexible boundaries of what is physically possible. Does not fulfill 300-level requirement for majors. Prerequisites: 135-1; MATH 220, 224, or equivalent.

PHYSICS 337-0 – Physics of Condensed Matter

This course introduces the emergent properties and collective descriptions that arise when simple components of matter (e.g. atoms and molecules) are combined into larger systems with varying degrees of order. Topics from condensed matter physics will be selected with an eye toward relevance in modern technology, which typically may include electrons in solids, semiconductor and device physics, optics, magnetism, superconductivity, and nanostructures. There are typically three lectures and one discussion per week. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 339-1 or equivalent. PHYSICS 332 or equivalent recommended

PHYSICS 339-1,2 – Quantum Mechanics

This is a two-quarter introduction to quantum theory. Emphasis is placed on applications to atomic and molecular systems, with some discussion of the experimental foundations of quantum theory. Mathematical solutions for several simple systems (the harmonic oscillator, the one-electron atom, the hydrogen molecule, barrier penetration) are studied in detail. There are three lectures and one discussion per week. Prerequisites for 339-1: second-year standing in ISP or 135-1, 2, 3 or equivalent; 239; 330-1; 311-1 or MATH 240. Prerequisites for 339-2: 339-1, second-year standing in ISP or 311-2 or MATH 250, 351.

PHYSICS 345-0 – Introduction to General Relativity

Review of special relativity and Newtonian gravity; Gravity as geometry of curved spacetime; Geodesics and conservation laws; Schwarzschild geometry; Post-Newtonian expansions and tests of general relativity; Gravitational collapse and black holes; Linearized gravity and gravitational waves; Cosmological models for the expanding Universe. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 330-1, 2 or consent of instructor.

PHYSICS 352-0 – Introduction to Computational Physics

Introduction to computing and its application to physics. Topics covered include Monte Carlo simulation of physical systems and numerical integration of equations of motion, discrete element methods in electromagnetism, simulation of simply nonlinear systems, neural networks, statistical and graphical representation of data. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 135-1,2,3 or equivalent; MATH 250 or equivalent (concurrent enrollment is sufficient); EECS 110 or equivalent prior programming experience.

PHYSICS 357-0 – Optics Laboratory

Students in this laboratory course obtain hands-on experience with many optical techniques, including optical microscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, and optical scattering. Prerequisites: consent of instructor.

PHYSICS 358-0 – Nanolithography

This advanced laboratory course involves the fabrication of metallic nanometer-scale structures by electron-beam lithography. Characterization of these structures is done by atomic force microscopy. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 135-1,2,3 or the equivalent.

PHYSICS 359-0 – Electronics Laboratory

Introduction to modern electronics, construction of elementary analog and digital circuits. This laboratory emphasizes independent work. There are two one-hour lectures and two three-hour laboratories per week. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 333-1,2 or consent of instructor.

PHYSICS 360-0 – Physics Laboratory

Classic experiments in atomic, nuclear, and solid-state physics using modern electronics and microcomputers. This laboatory emphasizes independent work. There are two one-hour lectures and two three-hour laboratories per week. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 333-1, 2 or consent of instructor.

PHYSICS 361-0 – Classical Optics and Special Relativity

This course covers advanced topics following from electrodynamics, including advanced classical optics, Fraunhofer and Fresnel diffraction, radiation from accelerated charges, wave guides and/or antennae, and special relativity, including dynamics. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 333-1, 2.

PHYSICS 371-0 – Nonlinear Dynamics And Chaos

This course covers the mathematics of nonlinear oscillations, fractal geometry, chaotic dynamics, the dynamics of complex systems, and physics applications of these ideas. Projects involving applications of nonlinear dynamics and chaos are integral to this course. Prerequisites: PHYSICS 330-1,2 and some familiarity with computer programming.

PHYSICS 398 – Honors Independent Study

Individual study under the direction of a faculty member. Open only to advanced students pursuing departmental honors. More information about research opportunities.

PHYSICS 399 – Independent Study

Opportunity to study an advanced subject of interest under the individual direction of a faculty member. Open to all students; consent of instructor required. More information about research opportunities.

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