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

A01 Fall 2017: Theoretical Astrophysics

This course is taught in 3 parts with different faculty members. This course surveys physics methods that are broadly applicable across nearly every astrophysics research domain, but are not contained in the standard physics curriculum: 

  • Radiative Transfer (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 (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.
  • Approximation Methods (Sivakoff) -- This course component will provide generic problem-solving skills, including the development of prototype solutions to unfamiliar problems (using e.g. dimensional analysis), and estimating the importance of different physical effects in various physical systems. These skills are essential for identifying relevant processes and effective solution strategies in research situations.

B02 Winter 2018: Physical Principle of Nanotech

Prof. Robert A Wolkow.
A broad range of topics will be studied in order to understand the principles and tools that we can deploy to create revolutionary nanotechnologies. For example, we will discuss many forms of bonding, how and when those act and also examples of how those might be harnessed to achieve designed properties. State of the art microscopes and manipulation tools and the key underlying physical principles of those will refine our insights. Likewise, we will consider diverse examples of electrical transport, how and why that is different at the nanoscale, when Ohm’s law doesn’t apply and how extraordinary new devices work. Cutting edge quantum computing designs will coalesce and enhance our discussions of the new marvels enabled by nano-scale physics.

Beyond the technical, real experiences of physicist entrepreneurs will be injected throughout to impart actual lab-to-market know how. Moreover, extra classes and question and answer sessions with successful CEOs and CTOs will be arranged to cover questions such as, how do I write a successful business plan? what are TRLs? when do I need a lawyer? And more, to match student’s interests.

B04 Winter 2018: Quantum Atomic and Optical Physics

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.

B05 Winter 2018: Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Thinking about pursuing a non-academic career path with your physics degree? In this class, we will explore physics in industry and the path of entrepreneurship. Topics will include a review of physics in modern technology, the technology readiness scale, levels of prototypes, the essentials of a business plan, incorporation, IP, and industrially relevant soft-skills such as writing and presenting.

B07 Winter 2018: Extragalactic Astrophysics

This course is taught in 3 parts with different faculty members. This course consists of a domain-specific exploration of astrophysical phenomenology in extragalactic systems:

  • High-Energy Astrophysics (Sivakoff) -- This component presents specific physical processes that produce X-ray and gamma-ray emission and the astrophysics of those systems for which this emission is common (e.g., accreting neutron stars and black holes).
  • Galaxy Evolution (Rosolowsky) -- This component surveys the processes by which the population of galaxies evolves through cosmic time, focusing in particular on galaxy collisions and on secular evolution through accretion and star formation.
  • Large Scale Structure (Pogosyan) -- This component addresses the origin of large scale structure in the Universe and how it governs the evolution of the galaxy population through the distribution of matter.