THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA GRADUATE CATALOG
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6.17 DEPARTMENT OF PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY (PH)

Chairperson: Professor Raymond E. White III, Office: 311-A Gallalee Hall

Graduate Director: Professor Gary Mankey, Office: 2049 Bevill Building

 

The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers programs leading to the master of science and the doctor of philosophy degrees. Research toward a degree may be conducted in either experimental or theoretical areas.

 

Experimental programs include magnetic materials, high-energy physics, materials science, observational extragalactic astronomy, and particle astrophysics. Theoretical programs include condensed matter, elementary particles, atomic and molecular physics, extragalactic astronomy, astrophysics and particle astrophysics.

 

 

Admission Requirements

A student who wishes to take graduate work leading to the MS or PhD degree should have the equivalent of an undergraduate major in physics, and mathematics through differential equations. Any undergraduate courses required to complete a student's preparation should be taken as soon as possible. A comprehensive background in general physics is considered as important as mastery of a specialized field. To be considered for regular admission, the GRE general test or the GRE subject test in Physics should have a score at the 50th percentile.

 

General requirements are stated in the Admission Criteria section of this catalog. Specific requirements in physics follow. Note that requirements for students specializing in astronomy differ from those for students in other physics areas.

 

Requirements for the MS Degree

 

M.S. in Physics (thesis option). A total of 24 semester hours of coursework is required (18 of which must be in physics and astronomy), in addition to 6 semester hours of research.  Physics students must take PH 501, PH 531, PH 541, PH 571, and 6 hours of PH 599. All full-time students must take one hour of seminar (PH 597) each semester. Up to three semester hours of pass/fail coursework (PH 597, PH 598) and up to three semester hours of PH 590 (Research Techniques) can count toward the 24 hour course requirement.  An oral examination covering coursework and the thesis is required for completion of the degree.  

 

M.S. in Physics (non-thesis option). A total of 30 hours of coursework is required, 24 of which must be in physics and astronomy.  Students must take PH 501, PH 531, PH 541, and PH 571.. All full-time students must take one hour of seminar (PH 597) each semester. Up to three semester hours of pass/fail coursework (PH 597, PH 598) and up to three semester hours of PH 590 (Research Techniques) can count toward the 30 hour course requirement. An oral examination covering coursework is required for completion of the degree.

 

M.S. in Physics with Astronomy Specialization (thesis option). A total of 24 semester hours of coursework is required (18 of which must be in physics and astronomy), in addition to 6 semester hours of research (PH 599).  Students must take PH 501, PH 531, PH 541, either AY 521 or AY 533, as well as 6-9 additional hours of graded Astronomy coursework.  All full-time students must take one hour of seminar (AY 597) each semester. Up to three semester hours of pass/fail coursework (AY 597, PH 598) and up to three semester hours of PH 590 (Research Techniques) can count toward the 24 hour course requirement.  An oral examination covering coursework and the thesis is required for completion of the degree.  

 

M.S. in Physics with Astronomy Specialization (non-thesis option). A total of 30 hours of coursework is required, 24 of which must be in physics and astronomy.  Students must take PH 501, PH 531, PH 541, and either AY 521 or AY 533, as well as 12-15 additional hours of graded Astronomy coursework. All full-time students must take one hour of seminar (AY 597) each semester. Up to three semester hours of pass/fail coursework (AY 597, PH 598) and up to three semester hours of PH 590 (Research Techniques) can count toward the 30 hour course requirement.  An oral examination covering coursework is required for completion of the degree.


 

Requirements for the PhD Degree
 
The student's PhD Plan of Study must be approved by the department and the Graduate School by the time the student completes 30 graduate semester hours of UA and/or transfer course work.

Courses
. A total of 48 hours of coursework is required, 36 of which must be in physics and astronomy.  All students are required to take PH 501, PH 531, PH 532, PH 541, PH 542, and PH 571, or relevant substitutions determined by their sub-area.  An additional 12 hours of graduate courses is required within the student's sub-area, and a further 18 should be determined in consultation with the student's advisor, at least 6 of which must be in physics or astronomy.  All full-time students must take one hour of seminar (PH 597 or AY 597) appropriate to their sub-area each semester.  A maximum of 9 hours of pass/fail coursework (PH 597, AY 597, PH 598, and PH 698) can be counted toward the 48-hour coursework requirement.
 
Examinations. There are two separate examinations each prospective PhD candidate must pass: the qualifying exam and the preliminary exam. The qualifying exam consists of a written exam on advanced undergraduate physics. Financial support may be withdrawn if a student does not pass the exam by the end of his or her second year at the University. Passing the qualifying exam is a requirement for acceptance into the PhD program.

The preliminary exam is an oral exam on the student's research plan and on courses in the student's area of specialization. Passing the preliminary exam is a requirement for admission to candidacy for the PhD and allows the student to commence dissertation research. More detailed information regarding physics PhD examination policies is available in the office of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Time Limit.  All requirements must be completed in the seven years (21 fall, spring and summer semesters) following admission to the program.More-detailed information is in the Degree Requirements section of this catalog.

Course Descriptions

Graduate credit will not be granted to physics students for 400-level physics or astronomy courses. Graduate students enrolled in 500-level courses that are also offered at the 400 level are expected to perform extra work of an appropriate nature.

Physics (PH)

PH 501 Classical Dynamics. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 301.
Variational principles and Lagrange's equations; two-body central-force problems; kinematics of rigid-body motion; rigid-body equations of motion; special relativity; Hamilton's equations of motion; and canonical transformations.

PH 505 Physics for Science Teachers. Three hours.
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.
Selected topics in contemporary physics for high school and post-secondary science teachers.

PH 511 Biophysics. Three hours.
Physics of biological systems: proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, supramolecular structures, and molecular motors; structure, function, energetics, thermodynamics, bionanotechnology. Emphasis on systems that are best understood in physical and molecular detail.

PH 523 Relativity. Three hours.
Special relativity, equivalence principle, tensor analysis, gravitational effects, curvature, Einstein's field equations, action principle, classic tests of Einstein's theory.

PH 531 Electromagnetic Theory. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 332.
Electric and magnetic fields, Green's functions, and Maxwell's equations.

PH 532 Electromagnetic Theory. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 531.
Electromagnetic waves, relativity, and selected topics.

PH 534 Digital Electronics and Computer Interfacing. Three hours. Two three-hour laboratories. Prerequisite: PH 334 or permission of the instructor.
Theory and practical application of digital integrated circuits, including gates, flip flops, counters, latches, and displays. Computer data acquisition and control using LabView, A/D and D/A fundamentals. Digital communications.

PH 541 Quantum Mechanics. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 442.
Solution of the Schroedinger equation, matrix methods, angular momentum, and approximation methods.

PH 542 Quantum Mechanics. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 541.
Time-dependent perturbation theory, scattering theory, radiation, identical particles, and spin.

PH 551 Atomic and Molecular Physics. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 441.
A detailed study of the structure of simple atomic and molecular systems, perturbation theory, the hydrogen and helium atoms, the hydrogen molecular ion, the hydrogen molecule, and introduction to mathematical methods of molecular physics.

PH 561 Nuclear and Elementary Particle Physics. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 441.
Structure and properties of nuclear and subnuclear matter; conservation laws; scattering and decay processes; and fundamental interactions.

PH 571 Statistical Physics. Three hours.
Prerequisites: PH 441 and PH 471.
Ensembles, partition function, quantum statistics, Bose and Fermi systems, phase transitions and critical phenomena, and applications.

PH 581 Solid-State Physics. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 441.
Structure of simple crystals; thermal, electrical, and magnetic properties of solids; the free-electron model and the band approximation; and semiconductors.

PH 582 Selected Topics in Physics and Astronomy. One to three hours.
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.
May deal with any physics or astronomy topic not covered by existing courses. The course title is added at the time the course is taught. Repeat credit is allowed for different course titles.

PH 583 Magnetic Resonance. Three hours.
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.
Classical and quantum mechanical descriptions of nuclear magnetic resonance and electron spin resonance; experimental techniques; and applications to physical, chemical, and biological problems. Offered according to demand.

PH 585 Physical Principles of Magnetism. Three hours.
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.
Phenomenological properties of magnetic materials including anisotropies, magnetostriction, domain walls, coercivity, reversal mechanisms, superparamagnetism, and dynamics.

PH 586 Magnetic Materials and Devices. Three hours.
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.
The relationships between the properties of magnetic materials and their applications; an understanding of the wide range of properties in paramagnetic, ferromagnetic, ferrimagnetic, and antiferromagnetic materials is developed and discussed in relation to a variety of devices from transformers to spin valve heads.

PH 587 The Physics and Materials of Magnetic Recording. Three hours.
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.
Principles of magnetic recording, write and read processes, particulate and thin film recording media, write and read heads, including magnetoresistive (AMR and GMR) heads. Emphasis will be placed on the key technologies critical to high-density recording.
 

PH 591 Advanced Laboratory. Three hours. Two three-hour laboratories weekly.
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.
Experimental work in modern physics at an advanced level.

PH 597 Physics Seminar. One hour.
Prerequisite: Admission into physics graduate program.
Required of all full-time physics graduate students each semester in residence. (Students specializing in astronomy must take AY 597.) Students are required to attend at least 10 department colloquia and/or specialty research seminars. Students in their second year and beyond are required to give one oral research presentation.

PH 598 Nonthesis Research. Variable credit.

PH 599 Thesis Research. Variable credit.

PH 641 Relativistic Quantum Mechanics. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 542.
The Dirac equation, Lorentz covariance, free-particle solutions of the Dirac equation, Foldy-Wouthuysen transformation, propagator theory, and applications to quantum electrodynamics.

PH 642 Quantum Field Theory. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 641.
Classical field theory, quantization of free fields, interacting fields, the scattering matrix, Feynman rules and diagrams, evaluation of integrals and divergences, and electroweak and strong
interactions. Offered according to demand.

PH 651 Advanced Atomic and Molecular Physics. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 551.
Special topics course in atomic and molecular physics for advanced graduate students. Detailed coverage of topics that are arranged with the instructor. Offered according to demand.

PH 661 High-Energy Physics. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 642.
Gauge invariance, non-Abelian gauge theories, hidden symmetries, electroweak interactions of leptons and quarks, strong interactions among quarks, string theories, and phenomenology of high-energy interactions. Offered according to demand.

PH 681 Advanced Solid-State Physics. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 581.
Computational methods in solid-state physics are explored in more detail than in PH 581. Band structure calculations, Green's functions, density-functional methods, superconductivity, and disordered materials. Offered according to demand.

PH 682 Selected Topics in Physics. One to three hours.
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.
May deal with any physics topic not covered by existing courses. The course title is added at the time each course is taught. Repeat credit is allowed for different course titles.

PH 698 Nondissertation Research. Variable credit.

PH 699 Dissertation Research. Variable credit. Three-hour minimum.

 



Astronomy (AY)*
*All courses are offered according to demand.

AY 501 Celestial Mechanics and Astrodynamics. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 301.
Dynamics of space probes; solar system objects; stars and clusters; and galaxies and galaxy clusters.

AY 521 Theoretical Astrophysics. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 332.
Introduction to astrophysical processes in stars and the interstellar medium.

AY 533 Observational Techniques. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 333.
Theoretical and practical aspects of modern astronomical observational techniques. Photometry, spectroscopy, interferometry, and optical and radio data reduction and image processing.

AY 550 Stars and Stellar Evolution. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 442.
Photospheric structure, radiative processes, spectral lines, and interpretation of stellar spectra; and internal structure, evolution, nucleosynthesis, and the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram.

AY 570 Galaxy and Interstellar Medium. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 441.
Dynamics and evolution, stellar populations, star formation, physical processes in the interstellar medium, and spectral lines.

AY 597 Astrophysics Seminar. One hour.
Prerequisite: Admission into physics graduate program.
Required of all full-time physics graduate students specializing in astronomy each semester in residence. Students must attend weekly seminars and make one oral presentation.

AY 620 Extragalactic Astronomy. Three hours.
Prerequisite: PH 441.
Galaxies, clusters, active galaxies, quasars, distance scale, and physical processes.

AY 640 Radiation Processes in Astrophysics. Three hours.
Prerequisite: AY 521 or equivalent.
Radiation processes of importance in high-energy radio, UV-optical-IR astronomy. Emphasis is on continuum processes.

AY 650 Special Topics in Astronomy and Astrophysics. One to three hours.
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.
May deal with any topic in astronomy or astrophysics not covered by existing courses. The course title is added at the time each course is taught. Repeat credit is allowed for different course titles.

AY 660 Astrophysical Plasmas and Magnetodynamics. Three hours.
Prerequisites: PH 301 and PH 332.
Includes particle orbit theory, hydromagnetics, shock waves in plasmas, waves in plasmas, and macroscopic and microscopic stability of astrophysical plasmas.
 


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