Physics 495 Special Topics

PHYS 495 is a "Variable Title" Special Topics course which means that each section covers different topic and those topics change on a yearly basis. PHYS 495 is intended for fourth year students in Specialization or Honors programs. Although there are no set pre-requisites for most of the topics, the department recommends that students should have finished all third year PHYS and MATH courses required by their program.


Because PHYS 495 is closed to web registration, you must contact the Department Undergraduate Advisor to be registered. If you have any questions about PHYS 495, please do contact the Undergraduate Advisor.

List of Possible Topics

Fall 2019: Theoretical Astrophysics

This course, taught in two parts with different faculty members, surveys physics methods that are broadly applicable across nearly every astrophysics research domain, but are not contained in the standard physics curriculum.

  • Radiative Transfer (Dr. Heinke): This is the process by which radiation is generated in and propagates through astrophysical systems. Since nearly every astrophysical observation is electromagnetic in nature, it also represents the key physics for understanding data.
  • Astrophysical Fluids (Dr. Ivanova): Astrophysical fluids span a wider range of physical conditions than are found in terrestrial applications. This component would present an introduction to the hydrodynamic equations and numerical methods used to solve those systems.

Winter 2020: Quantum Atomic and Optical Physics

(Dr. Lindsay LeBlanc) Introduction to quantum atomic and optical physics, with a focus on the quantum light-matter interaction. Topics include: a detailed study of the two-level problem using both semiclassical and quantum optics (Rabi flopping, AC Stark shift, optical Bloch equations); the fundamentals of atomic structure (fine, hyperfine, Zeeman interactions); quantization of the electromagnetic field (Jaynes-Cummings model, quantum states of light); applications to current research topics (laser cooling and trapping, cavity QED, quantum information). Prerequisite: Phys 472 or Phys 511 or equivalent. A detailed syllabus could be accessed from here.

Winter 2020: Biophysics

(Dr. Daniel Charlebois) This course will give an overview of the physics of living systems, with an emphasis on molecular and cellular biophysics. General physics ideas and approaches will be described in a biological context and applied to specific problems in biology. There will be an emphasis on the unifying concepts and approximations of biophysics and how to construct physical models of living systems. Topics to be covered include: sequences and genetic information, gene regulatory networks, diffusion and random searches, complexity science/origins of life, synthetic organisms, molecular motors, folding of protein and RNA molecules, evolution, and drug resistance/discovery. Prior knowledge of undergraduate statistical mechanics/thermodynamics, electrostatics, linear algebra and basic calculus will be assumed.