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Undergraduate Catalog 2013

Physics and Physics Education

Faculty

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Chair

L. Michael Hayden

Associate Chair

Terrance Worchesky

Professors

James Franson
Anthony M. Johnson
Phillip J. Rous
Yanhua Shih
Geoffrey P. Summers

Associate Professors

Markos Georganopoulos
Ian M. George
Theodosia Gougousi
Mark J. Henriksen
Ivan Kramer
J. Vanderlei Martins
Todd Pittman
Lynn C. Sparling
Laszlo Takacs
T. Jane Turner

Assistant Professors

Jason Kestner
Zhibo Zhang

Lecturers

Lili Cui

Research Professor

L. Larrabee Strow

Research Associate Professors

Peter Kochunov

Research Assistant Professors

Sergio De Souza-Machado

Professor Emeriti

Raymond M. Hoff
Harvey S. Melfi
Robert L. Rasera
Robert C. Reno
Morton H. Rubin

Adjunct Professors

Michael Fitelson
Bryan Jacobs
Mike Krainak
Nockolay Krotkov
Mark Kuchner

Affiliated Assistant Professors

Donald Engel
Sergio De Souza-Machado

Senior Lecturer

Eric C. Anderson

Affiliated Associate Professors

David S. Davis
Susan Hoban
Prasun Kundu
Kevin J. McCann
William S. Olson
Katja Pottschmidt
Tamas Varnai

Courses in this program are listed under PHYS.

Physics students are trained to see and to understand nature in an especially profound way. They learn how to dissect a problem into its essential components, to understand the interrelation of the parts, and to apply mathematical and computational techniques to produce a solution. This type of training is obviously advantageous in many professions besides physics, so physics graduates are found in professions as diverse as patent law, medicine and finance.

UMBC's Department of Physics offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics Education. Either track can be taken as a terminal degree for graduation.

The Bachelor of Science degree qualifies a student for immediate professional employment or can be used as a basis for entrance into graduate school. The Bachelor of Arts degree is specifically designed for those students planning a career in high school teaching, and it is coordinated with the UMBC education department. This coordination allows students to obtain a degree in physics education in a four-year program that includes certification for teaching high school physics. This method fulfills the State of Maryland requirement for new high school teachers to major in the subject area that they teach.

A special feature of both degree tracks is the opportunity for undergraduates to participate in the faculty's research programs. Many students doing this research are co-authors with their research mentors on papers at technical conferences and in research journals. To help support undergraduate research, the department presents the Langenburg Student Research Award each year to a junior or senior physics major. The Langenburg award is to support the student during the semester he or she is performing research. This award is in addition to University-supported research grants that are available to undergraduate students from the Office of the Provost and the Office of Research for their undergraduate research. 

The departmental honors program requires the course Senior Research (PHYS 499H), but this course can be taken as an elective by any student with consent of his or her academic advisor and a faculty research mentor. This course can be used as one of the two upper-level electives required for the Physics B.S. degree, and the credits earned in this course can be applied as upper-division credits toward the University graduation requirements.  It is important for all students to work closely with their departmental academic advisor to take full advantage of the elective courses offered in physics and in other Departments, especially once a particular career path has been chosen.

The department offers minors in both physics and in astronomy. The astronomy minor is aimed especially at those students interested in pursuing careers in astronomy or astrophysics.

Also, the department offers a combined B.S./M.S. program for highly qualified students.

The Department is located in a new, 72,000-square-foot Physics Building, which includes many outstanding facilities for undergraduates. There is a tutorial center, the Alvin Meckler Reading Room containing a large number of texts and other physics-related books, and a computer laboratory with PCs configured for both Windows and Linux applications, and the physics student's lounge. The department recently has purchased nearly $6 million worth of new equipment, including a 0.8 meter astronomical telescope, which is housed in a dome on the roof of the Physics Building. Other special facilities in the building include: a class-100 clean room, in which state-of-the-art photonic and electronic devices can be fabricated, and a microscopy facility containing a scanning electron microscope with special characterization attachments and an atomic force microscope. These facilities are used by students in optics courses, in the advanced laboratory course and in undergraduate research projects.

Typically about half the graduating seniors go on to graduate school. Recent UMBC Physics graduates have received PhD degrees at MIT, Harvard, Stanford, The Johns Hopkins University and the Universities of California at Berkeley, Illinois and Michigan, among others.

Career and Academic Paths

The career opportunities for physics majors are numerous and varied. Many of UMBC’s physics majors go on to pursue advanced degrees in physics and allied fields of science and engineering at the nation’s leading graduate schools. Other physics students find employment immediately upon graduation. Recent graduates are working in electro-optics, space physics, computer modeling and semiconductor research, among other fields, with employers such as Northrop Grumman, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the National Security Agency and Lawrence Livermore Laboratories. Other graduates have gone on to medical or law school or to other careers for which the problem-solving skills and understanding of the physical world learned in physics courses prepare them.

Several graduates of the physics B.S. program have chosen a career teaching high school physics. Additional students graduated from the B.A. program in Physics Education. The B.A. program in Physics Education is designed to allow students to complete their physics degree and their Maryland teaching certification in four years. The number of students enrolled in the physics education program has been increasing due to the shortage of high-school physics teachers.

The UMBC Department of Physics offers both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Applied Physics and Atmospheric Physics. Undergraduates making satisfactory progress in their physics and mathematics courses may obtain permission from their advisor to take graduate-level courses which can count toward their undergraduate degree requirements.

The areas of research emphasis in the graduate programs are non-linear and quantum optics, solid-state materials and nanophysics, photonics, atmospheric physics and astrophysics. All faculty have active research programs, and several of the faculty are internationally recognized in their field. The external research funding of the department exceeds $6 million per year. These funds come from such agencies as NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research and the National Security Agency.

The department plays a major role in UMBC’s Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET) with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. There are 10 JCET research faculty affiliated with the Department of Physics. The department also participates in the Center in Astrophysics (CRESST) with NASA’s Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics, with twenty-five researchers connected to the UMBC Physics Department, and the Center for Advanced Studies in Photonics Research (CASPR).

Academic Advising

All students considering a major or minor in physics, or a minor in astronomy, are strongly encouraged to contact the Department as soon as possible. There is a special faculty advisor for freshmen, transfer students and new physics majors. After their first year in the program, all majors are assigned to a permanent physics faculty academic advisor until they graduate.

In addition to following each student’s progress through the academic program and assisting the student with course selection, the faculty advisor is available to discuss such subjects as career goals, summer internships and opportunities for graduate study.

Major Programs

B.S. IN PHYSICS

Physics majors must take and pass the following courses:

Physics Courses (48 credits)

  • PHYS 121 Introductory Physics I  (F/S)
  • PHYS 122 Introductory Physics II  (F/S)
  • PHYS 122L Introductory Physics Laboratory  (F/S)
  • PHYS 220 Introduction to Computational Physics  (S)
  • PHYS 224 Introductory Physics III  (F/S)
  • PHYS 303 Thermal and Statistical Physics  (F)
  • PHYS 320L Electronics for Scientists  (S)
  • PHYS 321 Intermediate Mechanics  (S)
  • PHYS 324 Modern Physics  (F/S)
  • PHYS 330L Optics Laboratory  (F)
  • PHYS 407 Electromagnetic Theory  (F)
  • PHYS 424 Introduction to Quantum Mechanics  (S)
  • PHYS 431L Modern Physics Laboratory  (F/S)
    ( Courses are designated as being offered normally in the Fall Semester, or Spring Semester)

In addition, six elective credits in physics at the 300 level or higher, one of which must be a lecture-type course.

Other Courses (25 or 26 credits)

  • MATH 151 Calculus I
  • MATH 152 Calculus II
  • MATH 251 Multivariable Calculus
  • MATH 221 Linear Algebra
  • MATH 225 Differential Equations
  • CHEM 101 Principles of Chemistry I
  • CMSC 104 Problem Solving and Computer Programming
    OR
  • CMSC 201 Computer Science I for Majors

Physics Elective Courses:

  • PHYS 304 Fundamentals of Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • PHYS 315 Galaxies and the Interstellar Medium
  • PHYS 335 Physics and Chemistry of the Atmosphere
  • PHYS 402 Nuclear Physics
  • PHYS 403 Solid-State Physics
  • PHYS 405 Stellar Astrophysics
  • PHYS 415 Observational Astronomy
  • PHYS 416 Extra-galactic Astronomy and Cosmology
  • PHYS 418 Semiconductor Optical Devices
  • PHYS 425 Relativistic Physics
  • PHYS 428 Integrated Optics and Holography
  • PHYS 430 Introduction to Materials
  • PHYS 440 Computational Physics
  • PHYS 450 Special Topics
  • PHYS 480 Mathematical Physics I
  • PHYS481 Mathematical Physics II
  • PHYS 490 Senior Seminar
  • PHYS 499H Senior Research

Physics and mathematics courses that serve as prerequisites to other required courses must be satisfied with a grade of no less than “C.”

The cumulative GPA of physics courses at the 300 and 400 level required for the physics major must be at least 2.0

For physics majors, the suggested sequence of courses starts with the basic core, which is usually completed by the end of the first three semesters at UMBC. The basic core consists of PHYS 121, PHYS 122, PHYS 122L, CMSC 104 or CMSC 201, CHEM 101, MATH 251 and all of its prerequisites.

For example:

First Year

  • Fall           /     Spring
  • MATH 151 / MATH 152
  • CMSC 104 / PHYS 121
  • CHEM 101 / PHYS 220

Sophomore Year

  • Fall Semester
  • PHYS 122
  • PHYS 122L
  • MATH 251

Well-prepared freshmen may elect to begin the introductory physics sequence in the fall semester of their first year.

For example:

First Year

  • Fall            /     Spring
  • MATH 151 / MATH 152
  • CMSC 104 / PHYS 122
  • PHYS 121 / PHYS 122L
  • --------------  / PHYS 220

Sophomore Year

  • Fall Semester
  • PHYS 224
  • PHYS 122L
  • MATH 251
  • CHEM 101

Completion of the basic core will prepare all students to enter PHYS 324 in their fourth semester. A sample program starting in the fourth semester is as follows:

Sophomore Year

  • Spring semester
  • PHYS 224 (if not taken earlier)
    OR
  • PHYS 324
  • PHYS 320L
  • MATH 225

Junior Year 

  • Fall           /    Spring
  • PHYS 303 / PHYS 321
  • PHYS 330L / PHYS 431L
  • MATH 221 / PHYS 220
    OR
  • PHYS elective

Senior Year 

  • Fall           /     Spring
  • PHYS 407 / PHYS 424
  • PHYS 431L(if not taken earlier) or Electives
  • Electives / Electives

B.A. IN PHYSICS EDUCATION

Students enrolled in the physics education B.A. program must satisfy requirements in physics, education and those needed for teacher certification. Therefore, it is essential that students in this program work closely with advisors in both the Physics and Education Departments when choosing courses.

The physics education majors program consists of 73 or 74 credits
distributed as follows:

Physics Courses (32 credits)

  • PHYS 105 Ideas in Astronomy
    OR
  • PHYS106 Introduction to Astrobiology
  • PHYS 121 Introductory Physics I
  • PHYS 122 Introductory Physics II
  • PHYS 122L Introductory Physics Laboratory
  • PHYS 220 Introduction to Computational Physics
  • PHYS 224 Introductory Physics III
  • PHYS 303 Thermal and Statistical Physics
  • PHYS 321 Intermediate Mechanics
  • PHYS 324 Modern Physics
  • PHYS 330L Optics Laboratory

Education Courses (33 credits)

  • EDUC 310 Inquiry into Education
  • EDUC 311 Psychological Foundations of Education
  • EDUC 388 Inclusion and Instruction
  • EDUC 410 Secondary Reading in the Content Areas: The Teaching of
    Reading in Secondary Schools. Prerequisites: Admission to teacher
    education and permission of the department
  • EDUC 411 Secondary Reading in the Content Area – Part II
  • EDUC 412 Analysis of Teaching and Learning
  • EDUC 427 Teaching Science in the Secondary School
  • EDUC 456 Internship in Secondary Education
  • EDUC 457 Internship Seminar in Secondary

Other Courses (42 credits)

  • BIOL141 Foundations of Biology
  • CHEM 101 Principles of Chemistry I
  • CMSC 104 Problem Solving and Computer Programming or CMSC 201 Computer Science I for Majors
  • MATH 151 Calculus I
  • MATH 152 Calculus II
  • MATH 251 Multivariable Calculus
  • MATH 221 Linear Algebra
  • MATH 225 Differential Equations
  • HIST 445 History of Science to 1700 or HIST 446 History of Science Since 1700
  • PSYC 100 Introduction to Psychology

At least two three credit courses with the Arts and Humanities (AH) designation.

Physics and mathematics courses that serve as prerequisites to other required courses must be satisfied with a grade of no less than “C.”

The cumulative GPA of physics courses at the 300 level required for the physics education major must be at least 2.0

First Year

MATH 151, MATH 152, CMSC 104, PHYS 121, PHYS 105 or PHYS106, CHEM 101,
PSYC 100 and suitable elective courses chosen in consultation with an
advisor.

Sophomore Year

BIOL101, EDUC 310, MATH 251, MATH 221 or MATH 225, PHYS 122, PHYS 122L,
PHYS 224, PHYS 324 and suitable elective courses chosen in consultation
with an advisor.

Junior Year

CHEM 101, EDUC 311, EDUC 410, EDUC 412, HIST 445 or 446, MATH 221 or
225, PHYS 220, PHYS 321, PHYS 330L and suitable elective courses chosen
in consultation with an advisor.

Senior Year

EDUC 388, EDUC 411, EDUC 427, EDUC 456, EDUC 457, PHYS 303 and suitable
elective courses chosen in consultation with an advisor.

Physics Minor

To obtain a minor in physics, a student must complete PHYS 121, 122, 224, and four upper-division (300+) lecture or laboratory courses chosen by the student with the consent of the Physics Department Undergraduate Program Director. PHYS 122L may be chosen as a substitute for one of the upper-division courses. Students interested in the physics minor should contact the Physics Department for details.

Astronomy Minor Program

A minor in astronomy is offered to students who are preparing for a career in astronomy or astrophysics or to those who are interested in an in-depth survey of modern astronomy. The minor is open to students with a major in any discipline. The minor consists of 20 credits: PHYS 121, 122, 304 and any three courses from PHYS 315, 405, 415, 416, 425 and (permission required) PHYS499H. PHYS 122 is a prerequisite for PHYS 304, and PHYS 304 is the prerequisite for PHYS 415 and PHYS 416. In PHYS 415 and 499H, students will gain some hands-on experience with real data extracted from recently-archived data, or obtained using the department’s 0.8 meter Cassegrain telescope. Students pursuing the astronomy minor will be assigned an astronomy advisor in the Department of Physics.

Honors Program

Students must apply for admission to the departmental honors program by the end of the first semester of their junior year. There is a university requirement of a GPA of 3.5 or better in the major and at least nine credits of honors course work. For physics majors, these requirements are met by taking PHYS 490 (Senior Seminar), PHYS 499H (Senior Research Physics) and nine credits of upper-level elective courses, six of which must be lecture-type courses.

Combined B.S./M.S. Program

This program is open to highly qualified advanced undergraduate students majoring in physics. UMBC Graduate School regulations allow nine graduate-qualified credits to be taken as an undergraduate and applied toward the M.S. degree. For the combined B.S./M.S. program in physics, these may include PHYS 407, 424 and other approved 400-level electives such as 403, 408, 425 or 430. The subsequent 21 graduate credits are taken as a graduate student and are selected according to the individual student’s interests with the approval of a graduate advisor, but they must include PHYS 605 or, with approval, PHYS705. Students wishing to participate in the B.S./M.S. program must apply before the end of the junior year. Application to the Graduate School for admission to the program must be made at least one semester prior to completion of the requirements for the B.S. degree. Graduate School regulations require the maintenance of a 3.0 GPA in courses taken for the M.S. degree.

Student Organizations

UMBC’s chapter of the Society of Physics Students is open to all students. In 1999, it received an “Outstanding Chapter” award from the national office of the society. The chapter has its own study room in the Physics Building and sponsors activities such as on-campus speakers and social events. In addition, UMBC has a chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma, the national honor society in physics.

Special Opportunities

Undergraduates have the opportunity to participate in faculty research programs for credit or as paid student assistants. Academically strong undergraduate students can assist in teaching the introductory physics courses as Learning Assistants.  This is excellent experience for future graduate students and for those students in the B.A. program in Physics Education.  The department also employs students as tutors and laboratory assistants.