A list of all Undergraduate courses in Physics and Astronomy. 

Prerequisite Grade

Any course listed in this department with a prerequisite assumes a grade of C- or better in the prerequisite course.

Lower Division

1 Introduction to Physics I

This course is the first in a two-part sequence and is designed for students majoring in physics, chemistry, and mathematics, and for students preparing for an engineering program. The sequence introduces students to topics in Newtonian mechanics, vibrations and oscillations, waves and sound, thermodynamics, electricity, magnetism, simple circuits, and optics (geometrical and wave). Four lectures weekly. Concurrent enrollment in Physics 2 (lab) is required. Prerequisite: Math 27 (may be taken concurrently).

2 Introduction to Physics I Laboratory (.25)

Students gain hands-on experience with the topics discussed in Physics I. Additionally, students are introduced to methods of experimentation in physics including good measurement techniques, simple data analysis, and scientific writing. Concurrent enrollment in Physics I is required. Laboratory fee required.

3 Introduction to Physics II

Continuation of Physics I. Four lectures weekly. Concurrent enrollment in Physics 4 (lab) is required. Prerequisites: Physics I and Math 28 (may be taken concurrently).

4 Introduction to Physics II Laboratory (.25)

Students explore the concepts of Physics 3 in a laboratory setting. Concurrent enrollment in Physics 3 is required. Laboratory fee required.

10 General Physics I

This course is the first in a two-part sequence. The sequence introduces the student to the conceptual framework of physics, and the phenomenology of mechanics, fluids, waves, thermal physics, electricity, magnetism, optics and modern physics. In comparison with the Introduction to Physics sequence this course chooses breadth over depth, and is expected to be more suited to needs of life science students. Three lecture hours and one lab per week. Laboratory fee required. Prerequisite: Math 27.

11 General Physics II

Continuation of Physics 10. Three lecture hours and one lab per week. Laboratory fee required. PrerequisitePhysics 10. Concurrent enrollment in Physics 21 is required.

20 General Physics I Laboratory (.25)

Laboratory to accompany Physics 10. Must be taken concurrently with that course. Laboratory fee required.

21 General Physics II Laboratory (.25)

Laboratory to accompany Physics 11. Must be taken concurrently with that course. Laboratory fee required.

40 Revolutions in Science

This course is intended to introduce the methods and ideas of science. Students gain an appreciation for the scientific “way of knowing,” by learning how phenomena in nature are observed and catalogued, and how general principles are deduced from observations. Concurrent enrollment in Physics 41 is required.

41 Revolutions in Science Laboratory

Laboratory to accompany Physics 40. Must be taken concurrently with that course. Meets every other week. Laboratory fee required.

60 Modern Physics

The discoveries and methods of physics developed in the 20th century will be studied. Relativity, statistical physics, and quantum mechanics are the main topics. Applications including molecular, condensed matter, nuclear and particle physics are stressed. Prerequisite: Physics 3.

90 Introduction to Astronomy

This introductory course presents a comprehensive and balanced view of what is known about the heavens. Aimed at the non-specialist, the course gives a description of astronomical phenomena using the laws of physics. The course treats many standard topics including planets, stars and galaxies to more esoteric questions concerning the origin of the universe and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Prerequisites: One year each of high school Algebra I, II, and geometry. Concurrent enrollment in Physics 91 is required.

91 Astronomy Laboratory (.25)

Laboratory to accompany Physics 90. Exercises include experiments in a laboratory setting, observations using the Campus Observatory and telescopes, and field trips to local observatories and/or planetariums. Laboratory fee required.

Upper Division

Physics 3 and Math 29 are prerequisites for all upper division physics courses.

105 Analytical Mechanics

This course covers the principles of particle dynamics. Topics include rigid body dynamics, Lagrange’s equations, Hamilton’s principle, wave propagation, and normal modes of vibration in oscillating systems.

110 Electricity and Magnetism

Electrical and magnetic concepts are studied using static and dynamical field concepts. Maxwell’s equations are emphasized. Topics include electrostatics, electrodynamics, magnetism, and electromagnetic waves.

115 Thermal and Statistical Physics

This course covers the laws of thermodynamics and statistical physics. Topics include temperature, work, heat transfer, entropy, phase transitions, Maxwell’s relations, the kinetic theory of gases, partition functions, and particle statistics.

125 Quantum Mechanics

Introduction to the theoretical foundations of quantum theory. Using the Schrodinger and Heisenberg formulations of the harmonic oscillator, the hydrogen atom, the theory of quantized angular momentum, and scattering are studied. The concepts of Hilbert space, operators, commutation relations, and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle are included. Prerequisites: Mathematics 134 and Physics 60.

140 Special Topics in Advanced Physics

Focus on variable topics such as particle physics, solid state physics or numerical methods of physics. May be repeated for credit as content varies.

170 Astrophysics

A study of the internal constitution of stars and stellar systems from the point of view of atomic and nuclear physics. The basic equations of Saha and Boltzman are used to solve the appearance of observed stellar spectra and the differential equations of continuity and state to interpret the physical properties of stellar structures.

173 Cosmology

Using an historical approach, this course studies how humankind has come to understand the origin and structure of the universe. The course begins with studies of ancient cosmologies, such as those from Egypt, Ancient Greece, Pre-Columbian America, and the Orient. This sets the stage for the revolution in understanding brought about by Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton. This fascinating journey is carried through to the present by studying modern astrophysics including topics such as relativity, black holes, stellar evolution, and the Big Bang.

180 Experiments in Modern Physics

Students discuss and perform the experiments which demonstrate and investigate the principles of twentieth century physics. Experimental topics include the photoelectric effect, the Franck-Hertz experiment, x-ray diffraction, solid state materials, nuclear spectroscopy, and holography. This course meets for 2 laboratory sessions and 1 lecture session each week. Prerequisite: Physics 60.

181 Electronics and Instrumentation

Students study the properties of various circuit components and use them in scientific applications. Topics include linear DC and AC circuits, diodes, transistors, operational amplifiers, and photoelectronic devices. Meets for 2 laboratory sessions and 1 lecture session each week.

185 Observational Astronomy and Astrophysics

A laboratory course based on the attempt to model, simulate and interpret observational data derived from astronomical observations. Included are interpretations of stellar photographs and spectra, measurements of various stellar parameters and quantities that give rise to our understanding of stars as physical systems. Lab fee is required.

196 Senior Essay (.25)

Independent study of a topic beyond the common course content. Open only to majors in the spring term of their junior year or fall term of their senior year. The essay is evaluated by a committee consisting of the faculty supervisor and 2 other faculty chosen in consultation with the student. Permission of the chairperson is required.

197 Special Study

Independent study or research of topics not covered in listed courses. Permission of the chairperson is required.

199 Honors Special Study

Independent study or research for majors with at least a B average in physics. Permission of the chairperson is required.

Maps & Directories

Mailing Address

Saint Mary's College of California
1928 Saint Mary's Road
Moraga, CA 94575
(925) 631-4000
Google Map | Campus Map | PO Boxes