Department of Physics

Acting Chair: Joel W. Walker  (936) 294-4803

Website: Department of Physics

Physics is the study of how nature behaves. It is concerned with the basic principles of the universe and is one of the foundations on which other physical sciences are based. The beauty of physics is exhibited by the simplicity of its fundamental theories and in the way a small number of basic concepts, equations and assumptions can expand the students’ understanding of the world.

Mission

The mission of the Department of Physics is to promulgate the ability to critically think about nature through teaching and to develop the inquisitiveness to seek additional knowledge by research. In conducting this mission, the Department of Physics will provide capable scientists that can make positive contributions to our society. In order to accomplish this mission, the Department of Physics will take the following steps:

  • Improve success in learning and research among all students in the department.
  • Develop additional methods to plan and assess the program in the department.
  • Recruit and retain qualified, motivated students.
  • Promote diversity in the faculty and students.
  • Collaborate with other institutions and departments to enhance education opportunities.
  • Develop and implement additional educational services to off-campus audiences.
  • Provide assistance to teachers in the schools preparing the future students for the institution.

Academic Programs

Physics students may pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics or a dual degree consisting of a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Sam Houston State University and a Bachelor’s degree in a chosen engineering field at a university with an accredited degree program. Students also may enroll in a two-year pre-engineering program. The Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Science with Secondary Certification is available to students seeking careers in secondary education.

Career Opportunities

Graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree either pursue further education at the graduate level or enter the workforce. Approximately one-half of the graduates pursue graduate study seeking either the Master of Science or Ph.D. degree. The remainder primarily enter the engineering profession but may also enter the fields of computer science and education.

Program Specific Requirements

Physics students will learn the simplicity of nature and the unifying aspects of the laws of physics. This is accomplished by recognizing physical problems, developing a hypothesis and predicting the consequences of it, performing experiments to test the predictions, and formulating the results into a theory. The skills of inquiry, observation, and experimentation are used in all scientific careers including engineering, business, teaching, and administration. The Physics Department has basic research laboratories in selected fields and provides opportunities for advanced students to be involved in research projects. The University operates computer laboratories containing desktop computers, and work stations at several locations on campus.

Curriculum

Required Courses For Major

The Bachelor of Science degree requires at least 38 hours in Physics as follows:

Course Requirements
PHYS 1401Physics Boot Camp4
PHYS 1411Introduction To Physics I4
PHYS 1422Introduction To Physics II4
PHYS 3370
PHYS 4110
Intro To Theoretical Physics
and Adv Undergrad Laboratory I
4
PHYS 3391
PHYS 3111
Modern Physics I
and Modern Physics Laboratory I
4
PHYS 4366Intro Quantum Mechanics3
PHYS 4368Electricity And Magnetism3
PHYS 4370Classical Mechanics3
PHYS 4371Thermodynamcs & Statistcl Mech3
PHYS 4395Undergraduate Research3
Select 1 or more advanced electives:3-12
Electronics & Circuit Analysis
and Electronic & Circuit Anlys Lab
Light And Optics
and Light And Optics
Intro To Solid State Physics
Selected Topics In Physics
Life in the Universe
Cosmic Catastrophes
Total Hours38-47

All Physics majors meet the requirements for a minor in mathematics.

Student Organizations

Society of Physics - The Society of Physics is a nationally recognized organization. The society sponsors field trips, campus visits by potential students, and attendance at professional meetings.

Scholarships

The Physics Department awards scholarships on a competitive basis. Students with GPA of 3.0 or higher should inquire about the Burroughs Scholarship (awards average $3,000 to $4,000 per semester) to the department chair (936) 294-1601.  Other general scholarships are available from the University. Information on University scholarships may be obtained at Office of Academic Scholarships or by telephone (936) 294-1672. Prospective students should contact the chair of the Physics Department, Box 2267, Huntsville, Texas 77341 or the website.

ASTR 3303. Life in the Universe. 3 Hours.

Students explore the evolution of life on Earth from an astronomical perspective and investigate the likelihood that this could happen elsewhere in the universe. This course also explores the possibility of communicating with intelligent species elsewhere in our galaxy and how humanity could best go about doing so. This course is typically taught every other year.
Prerequisite: PHYS 1403 and PHYS 1404.

ASTR 3383. Cosmic Catastrophes. 3 Hours.

Students build on knowledge of basic astronomical concepts discussed in previous coursework. Topics may include supernovae, neutron stars, black holes, gamma-ray bursts, worm holes, extra dimensions, and determination of the origin, state, and fate of the universe. This course is typically taught every other year.
Prerequisite: PHYS 1403 with a C or better.

PHYS 1101. General Physics Laboratory I. 1 Hour.

Credit 1
Prerequisite: MATH 1410 or MATH 1316 or MATH 1420 .

PHYS 1102. General Physics Laboratory II. 1 Hour.

Credit 1 .

PHYS 1105. Class Phy & Thermodynamics Lab. 1 Hour.

Credit 1 .

PHYS 1301. General Phy-Mechanics & Heat. 3 Hours.

A modern treatment is made of the laws and principles of motion. This course is intended for science majors whose degree plan does not require a calculus-based treatment. The PHYS 1101 experimental laboratory course should be taken concurrently.
Prerequisite: MATH 1410 or MATH 1316 or MATH 1420 with a grade of C or better.

PHYS 1302. Gen Phy-Snd,Lght, Elec, & Mag. 3 Hours.

The course is a continuation of PHYS 1301, covering the subjects of electricity and magnetism. The course is intended for science majors whose degree plan does not require a calculus-based treatment. The PHYS 1102 experimental laboratory course should be taken concurrently.
Prerequisite: PHYS 1301 and MATH 1316 or MATH 1410 or MATH 1420 with a C or better.

PHYS 1305. Classical Physics & Thermdynmc. 3 Hours.

Students study the fundamentals of motion, forces and heat at a conceptual level. The course is intended for students who are not science majors, including those on primary and middle school education tracks.

PHYS 1401. Physics Boot Camp. 4 Hours.

Students engage in a review of the essential survival-level skills of problem analysis required for the first two years of the pre-engineering and physics curricula. The course provides familiarity with the core problem-solving tools required for the first two years of work in these majors. All students considering a physics major should enroll in the Bootcamp during their first semester on campus. A weekly problem recitation session is integrated.
Prerequisite: Departmental approval.

PHYS 1403. Stars & Galaxies. 4 Hours.

Students study the universe beyond the solar system. Topics may include the nature of stars, stellar evolution, galaxies, quasars, cosmology, the universe as a whole, and theories about the origin and fate of the universe. Along the way, students are introduced to tools astronomers use to determine such properties as temperatures, compositions, motions, masses, and evolution of astronomical objects. Note: PHYS 1403 and PHYS 1404 may be taken in either order.

PHYS 1404. Solar System Astronomy. 4 Hours.

Students study the solar system as well as other planetary systems. Topics may include the nature of science, apparent motions in the sky, the historical development of the laws governing the solar system, the structure and membership of solar system objects, the formation of the solar system, and extrasolar planets and our understanding of other solar systems. Note: PHYS 1403 and PHYS 1404 may be taken in either order.

PHYS 1411. Introduction To Physics I. 4 Hours.

Students are introduced to the topics of classical mechanics, including linear motion, forces, rotation, and conservation laws. Considerable attention is given to the solution of problems with the emphasis placed on fundamental concepts. Students must register concurrently for the integrated weekly laboratory problem-solving session. Prerequisites MATH 1420 with a C or better.

PHYS 1422. Introduction To Physics II. 4 Hours.

Students are introduced to the topics of electricity and magnetism, including Maxwell?s equations, the Lorentz force, and basic electrical circuits. Considerable attention is given to the solution of problems with the emphasis placed on fundamental concepts. Students must register for the integrated weekly laboratory problem-solving session.
Prerequisite: PHYS 1411 and MATH 1430 with a C or better.

PHYS 2426. Heat, Waves & Modern Physics. 4 Hours.

An introduction to topics in heat and wave motion including sound and light. The quantitative description of phenomena is emphasized. The laboratory continues as an integral part of the course.
Prerequisite: PHYS 1411 and MATH 1420.

PHYS 3111. Modern Physics Laboratory I. 1 Hour.

Laboratory taken in conjunction with PHYS 3391. Students reproduce key experimental outcomes underlying 20th century physics.
Prerequisite: Grade of C or better in PHYS 1422.

PHYS 3115. Electronic & Circuit Anlys Lab. 1 Hour.

Laboratory taken in conjunction with PHYS 3395. Students construct and analyze advanced circuits including both classical and digital components.
Prerequisite: Minimum grade of C in PHYS 1422.

PHYS 3117. Astronomy Laboratory. 1 Hour.

1 Credit.

PHYS 3360. Statics And Dynamics. 3 Hours.

Students study equilibrium, using concepts of force and torque. Vectors, calculus and differential equations are used.
Prerequisite: PHYS 1411 and MATH 2440.

PHYS 3370. Intro To Theoretical Physics. 3 Hours.

Students are introduced to essential quantitative analysis tools of theoretical physics. The course focuses on physics applications of series (Taylor, Fourier, Laurent), vector differential equations, and complex analysis. Students register concurrently for the PHYS 4110 laboratory, which introduces technologies such as Python (programming), Mathematica (computer algebra), Linux (operating system) and LaTeX (typesetting) commonly used in research applications.
Prerequisite: PHYS 1422 and MATH 2440 with a grade of C or better.

PHYS 3391. Modern Physics I. 3 Hours.

Students explore the historical breakdown of classical physics that occurred at the beginning of the 20th century, presaging the introduction of Relativity Theory and Quantum Mechanics. Significant treatment of probability and statistics is integral to the understanding of these topics. The PHYS 3111 laboratory must be taken concurrently. PHYS 3111 must be taken concurrently.
Prerequisite: Minmum grade of C in MATH 2440 and PHYS 1422.

PHYS 3395. Electronics & Circuit Analysis. 3 Hours.

Students study advanced circuit analysis, including analog and digital integrated circuits, selected discrete components, and applications to various digital and analog systems. The PHYS 3115 laboratory must be taken concurrently.
Prerequisite: Grade of C or better in PHYS 1422.

PHYS 3397. Astronomy. 3 Hours.

Students study the solar system, sun, stars, and stellar systems, their motions, structure, energy sources and evolution, star clusters, interstellar matter, galaxies, and cosmology. The PHYS 3117 laboratory must be taken concurrently.
Prerequisite: PHYS 3117 must be taken concurrently.

PHYS 3398. Astronomy-Honors. 3 Hours.

PHYS 4110. Adv Undergrad Laboratory I. 1 Hour.

This laboratory course provides additional, in-depth hands-on experience designed to complement course work.

PHYS 4113. Light And Optics. 1 Hour.

Laboratory taken in conjunction with PHYS 4333. Students reproduce key experimental outcomes with lensing, reflection, interference and diffraction. Credit 1.

PHYS 4331. Physics For Forensic Sciences. 3 Hours.

Forensic science makes use of a number of physical techniques. Students are provided with an understanding of the physics used in forensic science that enhances the standard introductory physics course. Topics covered may include interior and exterior ballistics, optics, stress and strain, elementary fluid mechanics.

PHYS 4333. Light And Optics. 3 Hours.

The wave theory of light is emphasized. Phenomena such as interference, diffraction and polarization are treated with quantitative detail. The PHYS 4113 laboratory must be taken concurrently.
Prerequisite: PHYS 1422 with a C or better.

PHYS 4366. Intro Quantum Mechanics. 3 Hours.

The subject of quantum mechanics describes the wave nature of matter, which is relevant at atomic scales. Topics may include the harmonic oscillator, potentials, symmetries, rotation and spin, the hydrogen atom, and atomic spectra.
Prerequisite: PHYS 3391, MATH 3376 and MATH 3391 with a grade of C or better.

PHYS 4367. Intro To Solid State Physics. 3 Hours.

Students are introduced to the concepts of crystal structure, crystal diffraction, reciprocal lattices, crystal binding, phonons, the free electron Fermi gas, semi-conductors, energy bands, Fermi surfaces, point defects, and optical properties of crystals.
Prerequisite: Minimum grade of C in PHYS 3391.

PHYS 4368. Electricity And Magnetism. 3 Hours.

Student engage in a more advanced treatment of the classical theory of Electricity and Magnetism which extends the material covered in PHYS 1422. Maxwell?s equations are studied in integral and differential form. Topics may include electro- and magneto-statics and dynamics, potentials, fields, waves, and applications to materials.
Prerequisite: Minimum grade of C in MATH 3376 and PHYS 1422.

PHYS 4370. Classical Mechanics. 3 Hours.

Students engage in a more advanced treatment of the classical theory of Mechanics which extends the material covered in PHYS 1411. Newton?s second law is treated as a differential equation to study kinematics, oscillations, and conservation laws. Lagrangian dynamics are introduced, along with generalized coordinates. Additional topics may include orbital motion, rigid bodies, coupled systems, and effective potentials.
Prerequisite: MATH 3376.

PHYS 4371. Thermodynamcs & Statistcl Mech. 3 Hours.

Students study the statistical basis of the behavior of materials at finite temperatures and densities, deriving basic concepts of classical thermodynamics, including the first and second laws, properties of gases, entropy, and thermodynamic functions from their origins in statistical mechanics.
Prerequisite: PHYS 3391 and MATH 3376.

PHYS 4395. Undergraduate Research. 3 Hours.

Students conduct original research under the direct supervision of a faculty member. Projects may be supervised by non-physics faculty with departmental approval. Each student is expected to demonstrate initiative in planning, performing, and reporting work done on the selected topic. The course may be repeated for up to a total of 6 credit hours with departmental approval. The course may be repeated for an additional three semester hours credit with consent of Department Chair. This course should be taken in addition to hours required for physics major or minor and may be taken for Academic Distinction Credit. See Academic Distinction Program in this catalog.
Prerequisite: Consent of Department Chair.

PHYS 4396. Selected Topics In Physics. 3 Hours.

Students study various advanced topics of contemporary interest in physics. The course is offered upon demand, and content is dependent upon faculty availability and student interest. May be repeated for additional credit with distinct course content. May be repeated for additional credit.
Prerequisite: Consent of the instructor.

PHYS 4398. Senior Thesis. 3 Hours.

This is a directed elective for senior students majoring in physics seeking additional experience in a sophisticated research project. This research is conducted under the supervision of a member of the physics faculty and the results is presented in an organized written form of suitable length with appropriate attention to scholarly norms, including citation of prior works.

Faculty

Director/Chair: Joel W Walker

James Blackman Dent, PHD, Assistant Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, PHD, Texas A&M University; BS, Univ of Missouri-Rolla

Hui Fang, PHD, Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, PHD, Univ of Houston-Main; ME, Univ of Houston-Main; MS, Zhejiang University; BS, Zhejiang University

Barry Friedman, PHD, Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, PHD, Univ of Illinois-Urbana; MS, Univ of Illinois-Urbana; BA, Rice University

Carol Renee James, PHD, Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, PHD, Univ of Texas At Austin; MA, Univ of Texas At Austin; BA, Rice University

Gan Liang, PHD, Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, PHD, Rutgers University; BS, Beijing University

Charles R. Meitzler, PHD, Associate Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, PHD, Rutgers University; BS, Penn State Un-Univ Park

Scott T Miller, PHD, Associate Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, PHD, Univ of Maryland-College Park; MS, Univ of Maryland-College Park; BA, Rutgers University; BS, Rutgers University

William Madsen Shepherd, PHD, Assistant Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, PHD, Univ of Calif-Irvine; MS, Northwestern University; MS, Northwestern University; BA, Northwestern University; BA, Northwestern University; BA, Northwestern University

Joel W Walker, PHD, Associate Professor and Chair of Physics, Department of Physics, PHD, Texas A&M University; PHD, Texas A&M University; BS, Harding University; BS, Harding University

Interim Faculty

Binyang Hou, PHD, Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, PHD, Univ of Illinois-Chicago; MS, Univ of Illinois-Chicago; BS, Univ of Sci & Tech of China

Christian Seberino, PHD, Lecturer of Physics, Department of Physics, PHD, Univ of Calif-San Diego; MS, Univ of Calif-San Diego; BS, Univ of Calif-San Diego

John F Wilson, PHD, Lecturer of Physics, Department of Physics, PHD, Univ of Houston-Main; MTS, Southern Methodist University; MS, Drexel University; MS, Purdue University; BSEE, Univ of Tennessee-Chattanooga