ASTRO/PHYS 495 Special Topics

ASTRO/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. ASTRO/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.

NOTE: Check back regularly on the list of topics, because it will be updated periodically as more topics are submitted.

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

List of Topics

Fall 2023: PHYS 495/PHYS 595 A01 - Monte Carlo Methods in Statistical Physics - Boninsegni

An introduction to computer simulations of solids, liquids and gases. This course will introduce students to the use of computer simulations as a tool to gain both quantitative knowledge and qualitative insight into large physical assemblies of interacting particles, i.e., matter in its different thermodynamic equilibrium phases. The general Monte Carlo strategy will be described, and subsequently various techniques to predict the physical properties of different classical and quantum solids, liquids and gases will be presented.

Special emphasis will be placed on the kind of physical questions (both of fundamental character and experimental relevance) that can be meaningfully addressed by simulations, and on the analysis and interpretation of data generated by the computer. At the end of the course, students will possess a foundation enabling them to assess critically work done by others and/or upon which to develop their own individual research.

Enrolment Guidance for Undergrads: No programming knowledge is required, nor is prior experience with numerical methods assumed. Pre-requisites: third-year undergraduate statistical and quantum mechanics (PHYS 311 and 372).

Winter 2024:  ASTRO 495/595 B01 - Astrophysical Fluids and Radiation - Ivanova/Fernández

This course will cover two important topics in theoretical astrophysics. Astrophysical Fluids span a wider range of physical conditions than are found in terrestrial applications. This course component will present an introduction to the hydrodynamic equations, considering analytic solutions to classic astrophysical problems (stellar wind, supernova explosion, shocks, and more) and discussing numerical methods invented to solve those problems in detail. The Radiative Processes component discusses the processes by which electromagnetic 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 astronomical data.

Enrolment Guidance for Undergrads: prerequisites are PHYS 311, PHYS 372, and PHYS 381. A student should be very comfortable with vector calculus and partial differential equations (MA PH 251 and MA PH 351 or their equivalents), and have some basic programming skills. The Radiative Processes component also involves Special Relativity at the undergraduate level. Astrophysical knowledge is optional, but useful.

Winter 2024: PHYS 495/595 B01 - Quantum Atomic and Optical Physics - Leblanc

This course is an introduction to quantum atomic and optical physics, with a focus on the quantum light-matter interaction. Along with developing an in-depth understanding of the theory behind these phenomena, we will explore contemporary research topics that rely on these principles, including laser cooling and trapping, cavity QED, quantum information.

Specific 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, selection rules); quantization of the electromagnetic field (nature of photons, Jaynes-Cummings model, quantum states of light). 

Enrolment Guidance for Undergrads: Undergraduate students should have completed the series of quantum mechanics courses, including both Phys 372 and 472.  Background in optics (Phys 362) is recommended but not required.

Winter 2024: PHYS 495/595 B04 - Dark Matter - Piro/Bozorgnia

This course will introduce students to one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of our Universe: dark matter. Dark matter is an invisible form of matter which makes up 85% of our Universe, but its nature is still unknown. We can only infer its presence from its gravitational interaction with ordinary matter. The course will present an introduction to the astrophysical and cosmological signatures of dark matter as well as methods to search for it in underground experiments. Topics that will be covered include evidence for dark matter from cosmology and astrophysics, dark matter candidates, galactic distribution of dark matter, dark matter searches, and dark matter detection techniques with a review of technologies. Experimental constraints on the properties of dark matter and the interpretation of the results will also be discussed. 

Enrolment Guidance for Undergrads: PHYS 372 is a prerequisite. PHYS 310 or PHYS 311 are recommended, but not required. Background in cosmology (ASTRO 430) is optional.