Physics and Astronomy

Matthew A. Wood (Head)
Location: Science Building, Room 106, 903-886-5488
Physics and Astronomy Web Site:

The Department of Physics & Astronomy offers majors and minors for the Bachelor of Science and the Bachelor of Arts degrees. The programs have been designed for degrees with or without teacher certification. The department provides instruction in physics, applied physics, astronomy and astrophysics, and computational physics and astrophysics.

The degree programs are designed for students wishing continue their studies at the graduate level in for example physics, astronomy, engineering, or medicine, as well as for students who are seeking careers in the private sector that will utilize their analytical or problem solving skills. The teacher education curriculum is designed for pre-college teachers of science.  Secondary certification to teach 6-12 Physical Science or 7-12 Physics/Mathematics is achieved through completing the Broadfield Science with a Major in Physics program.

Students seeking a bachelor’s degree in one of these majors must complete:

  1. Degree requirements for a Bachelor of Arts or Science degree, and
  2. Core Curriculum Requirements (refer to those sections of this catalog).

ASTR 120 - Life in the Universe
Hours: 3
The basic science of the search for evidence of life in the universe, including the origin and evolution of life on the Earth, terrestrial extremophiles, the history of the search for life in the Universe, the search for habitable environments in the Solar System, and the search for habitable (exo-)planets and signs of life around other stars.

ASTR 260 - GLB/Archaeoastronomy
Hours: 3
A course designed to study specific ancient structures and their associations with astronomical events. Topics will include many ancient sites including Paleolithic structures like Stonehenge, Mayan, Aztec, Native American culture, and the pyramids of Egypt.

ASTR 310 - Observational Astronomy
Hours: 4
Astronomical observation techniques and analysis of data including practical experience with modern telescopes and imaging devices, computer-based reduction and analysis, and interpretation of astronomical data. Prerequisites: ASTR 1303 or ASTR 1304 or ASTR 120.

ASTR 337 - Contemporary Frontiers in Astronomy
Hours: 3
Current and engaging areas of astronomical research, including our Solar System, extra-solar planets, cosmology, dark matter, and dark energy. Students will engage in evidence-based discussions, explore up-to-the minute scholarly articles, and apply concepts of basic physics to illuminate the current limits of astronomical knowledge. Prerequisites: ASTR 1303 and (ASTR 1304 or ASTR 120) with consent of instructor.

ASTR 410 - Stellar Structure and Evolution
Hours: 3
The leading observational facts about stars as interpreted by current theories of stellar structure and evolution. Equations of stellar structure, energy generation and nucleosynthesis, opacity and equation of state, radiative and convective transport, stellar atmospheres and emergent spectra, stellar evolution and stellar end states. Prerequisites: PHYS 321.

ASTR 420 - Galaxies and Cosmology
Hours: 3
The basic observations, physical properties, and evolution of galaxies, active galactic nuclei, and large scale structure. Topics also include the Big Bang theory, basic equations of cosmology, inflation, dark matter and dark energy, and observational techniques used in testing these hypotheses. Prerequisites: PHYS 321.

ASTR 450 - Nuclear Astrophysics
Hours: 3
Nuclear astrophysics describes the elemental and energy production in stars via nuclear reactions. It explains the occurrence of all the naturally occurring chemical elements in the universe from the simplest elements to the most complex. It also explains how astrophysical neutrinos (from the sun, cosmic rays and supernovae) are produced and detected and what they have to say about both neutrinos and the universe. Nuclear astrophysics also describes how the structure of compact stars (e.g. neutron stars) arises due to the interactions of protons, neutrons, electrons, and quarks and gluons. The course will also explain how the Universe evolved from a primordial state to the present including a discussion of the abundances of the observed elements.

ASTR 489 - Independent Study
Hours: 1-4
Independent Study 1-4 hours.

ASTR 490 - Honors Thesis
Hours: 3
Honors Thesis.

ASTR 491 - H Ind Honors Readings
Hours: 3
H Ind Honors Readings.

ASTR 497 - Special Topics
Hours: 0-4
Special Topics. One to Four semester hours. Organized class. May be repeated when topics vary. Some sections are graded on a Satisfactory (S) or Unsatisfactory (U) basis.

ASTR 1103 - Stars and the Universe Lab
Hours: 1
This lab course is designed to give students a hands-on approach to learning about stars and galaxies using techniques similar to those used by astronomers. Laboratory activities will include using the planetarium to learn the names and locations of stars and constellations, hands on experiments, and computer simulations.

ASTR 1104 - Solar System Lab
Hours: 1
This lab course is designed to give students a hands on approach to learning about the sun and planets using techniques similar to those used by astronomers. Laboratory activities will include using the planetarium to learn the names and locations of stars and constellations, hands on experiments, and computer simulations.

ASTR 1303 - Stars and the Universe
Hours: 3
A descriptive survey of astronomy with emphasis on modern developments in stellar and galactic astronomy and the role of physical science in the measurement and interpretation of astronomical data. Included are studies of structure and evolution of stars and galaxies and of current cosmological theories

ASTR 1304 - Solar System
Hours: 3
A descriptive survey of the solar system specifically including the sun, planets and their satellites, comets, and other members of the solar system. The course will also examine the history of astronomy and the development of scientific tools for understanding the nature of the solar system.

PHYS 101 - Physics and Astronomy Seminar
Hours: 1
Introduces some of the major contemporary problems and research areas in physics and astronomy.

PHYS 131 - Introduction to Musical Acoustics: The Science of Sound
Hours: 3
The course covers basic physical principles of waves required to understand the phenomenon of music, the characteristics of musical instruments and sound effects of rooms/halls for music majors and any one interested in the sciences behind the music, in musician-friendly format. Basic concepts such as frequency, harmonics, and pitch, physics-based questions on such topics as music acoustics, stringed instruments, wind instruments, singing and electronic instruments will be discussed in lectures. Hands on labs and web-based exercises will supplement the lectures. Prerequisites: MATH 131 or MATH 142 or MATH 176 or MATH 179 or MATH 2413.

PHYS 132 - Basic Electronics for Scientists and Engineers
Hours: 4
AC and DC circuits, semiconductor devices, and linear integrated circuits. Applications include voltage dividers, timing circuits, power supplies, amplifiers, oscillators, and filters. Laboratory stresses basic electronic measurements and circuit prototyping.

PHYS 201 - Problem Solving in Mechanics
Hours: 1
Extension of concepts developed in introductory mechanics with emphasis on problem solving techniques.

PHYS 202 - Problem Solving in Electricity & Magnetism
Hours: 1
Extension of concepts developed in introductory Electricity and Magnetism with emphasis on problem solving techniques.

PHYS 317 - Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering
Hours: 3
Mathematical techniques from the following areas: infinite series; integral transforming; applications of complex variables; vectors, matrices, and tensors; special functions; partial differential equations; Green's functions; perturbation theory; integral equations; calculus of variations; and groups and group representatives. Prerequisites: MATH 192, Corequisite MATH 314 or 315, or consent of instructor.

PHYS 319 - Computational Physics with Python
Hours: 3
This self-contained course introduces the student to the Python programming language before exploring applications including finite difference methods, solving linear and non-linear equations, Fourier transforms, simulating physical systems governed by ordinary and partial differential equations, random processes and the Monte Carlo method. No previous programming experience is required. Prerequisites: PHYS 2425 with a minimum grade of C.

PHYS 321 - Modern Physics
Hours: 3
An introduction to special relativity and elementary quantum mechanics. Topics include spacetime, relativistic energy and momentum, the uncertainty principle, Schrödinger’s equation, observables and operators, bound states, potential barriers, and the hydrogen atom. Prerequisites: PHYS 2426, MATH 314, or consent of instructor.

PHYS 332 - Digital Logic & Circuitry
Hours: 4
Boolean logic, digital circuits, digital integrated circuits, and programmable logic devices using VHDL. Laboratory instruction in basic digital instrumentation and circuit design tools. Prerequisites: PHYS 1402 or PHYS 2426.

PHYS 333 - Wave Motion, Acoustics, and Optics
Hours: 4
An introduction to vibrational and wave motion with applications to acoustics, optics, and electromagnetic phenomenon. Prerequisites: PHYS 2426 or consent of the instructor.

PHYS 335 - Advanced Physics Laboratory
Hours: 3
An introduction to the equipment and techniques of experimental physics. Experiments are selected from a wide range of fields in physics. Research grade equipment is used in many experiments. Prerequisites: PHYS 2426.

PHYS 345 - Teaching and Learning Physics
Hours: 3
How people teach, learn, and understand key concepts in physics. This course is a survey of physics education research. Topics include constructivism, student conceptions, the hidden curriculum, identity and assessment. Prerequisites: PHYS 2425 and PHYS 2426.

PHYS 371 - Science and Math Education Theory and Practice
Hours: 1
Learning theory and teaching practices for science and math learning assistants. Topics include advanced questioning strategies, conceptual development, formative assessment, argumentation, metacognition, and nature of science. Prerequisites: Instructor approval.

PHYS 389 - Independent Study
Hours: 3
Individual study of specific problems in physics. Prerequisites: Department head approval.

PHYS 401 - Current Topics in Physics and Astronomy
Hours: 1
Current problems or topics in research, employment, and trends in physics are considered. Prerequisites: Junior standing.

PHYS 407 - Science and Society: Contemporary Issues
Hours: 3
In this University Capstone science course, two or three contemporary science issues of importance to global society will be studied from various points of view including scientific, political, and economic. This course cannot be used for a major or minor in science.

PHYS 411 - Classical Mechanics
Hours: 3
A mathematical treatment of the fundamentals of classical mechanics. Topics include particle dynamics in one, two and three dimensions; conservation laws; dynamics of a system of particles; motion of rigid bodies; central force problems; central force problems; accelerating coordinate systems; gravitation; Lagrange’s equations and Hamilton’s equations. Prerequisites: PHYS 2426, Corequisite MATH 314 or 315.

PHYS 412 - Electricity and Magnetism
Hours: 3
An advanced undergraduate course in theoretical electricity and magnetism. Geometry of static electric and magnetic fields, electric charges and currents, calculating electric and magnetic fields from potentials, fields inside matter, Maxwell's equations, and EM waves. Prerequisites: PHYS 2426, Co/Pre req MATH 314 or 315.

PHYS 414 - Thermodynamics and Kinetic Theory
Hours: 3
Introduction to the kinetic theory of matter and to thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, with applications to physical and chemical systems. Prerequisites: PHYS 317 or consent of instructor.

PHYS 418 - Undergraduate Research
Hours: 3
Individual research related to physics, directed by a faculty member. Prerequisites: Department head approval.

PHYS 420 - Quantum Mechanics
Hours: 3
The Schrödinger equation; one dimensional systems; the Heisenberg uncertainty principle; magnetic moments and angular momentum; two and three dimensional systems; approximation methods; scattering theory. Prerequisites: PHYS 317 or consent of instructor.

PHYS 421 - Materials Science
Hours: 3
The physical, chemical and electrical properties of metals and semi-conductors and the relationship between these properties and the electronic and crystal structures of these materials is studied. Prerequisites: PHYS 321 and PHYS 333.

PHYS 430 - Optics
Hours: 3
Fundamentals of geometrical and physical optics and applications to optical instrumentation. Prerequisites: PHYS 333 or consent of the instructor.

PHYS 432 - Advanced Electronics
Hours: 3
Embedded system design and programming. Topics include microcontroller selection, peripheral interfacing, low and high-level programming languages, and microcontroller development tools. Prerequisites: (PHYS 132 or PHYS 332) and (CSCI 151 or PHYS 319 or CSCI 319).

PHYS 437 - Nuclear Physics
Hours: 3
The study of nuclear phenomena and properties including mass, stability, magnetic moment, radioactive decay processes and nuclear reactions. The application of nuclear principles to other fields such as astronomy, engineering, manufacturing, and medicine. Prerequisites: PHYS 321.

PHYS 451 - The Historical Development of Great Ideas in Science
Hours: 3
Major people, discoveries, and the evolution of fundamental concepts and theories through time are examined through literature, research, and hands-on inquiry based investigations. Science topics and themes are chosen to emphasize broad concepts in the Texas and national science standards. This course is designed for students pursuing the degree Physics B.A./B.S. w/6-12 Physical Science Certification. Students pursuing the traditional Physics B.S. degree may not apply this course to their degree program.

PHYS 461 - Physics Research Project
Hours: 3
This is the first part of a two-semester course sequence. Each participating student will conduct literature surveys on a research topic agreed to between him/her and their local advisor. The research problem must be approved through the Texas Physics Consortium. Completion of the research will be consummated during the second semester. Areas of research will primarily be in those areas represented by the Consortium which include nuclear physics, high energy particle physics, medical/health physics, computational and mathematical physics, atomic and molecular physics, astrophysics, and other forefront areas. Prerequisites: PHYS 321 and department head approval.

PHYS 462 - Physics Research Seminar
Hours: 3
An experimental or theoretical project will be continued by the student and the results reported in a seminar. Students who have not yet taken the ETS Major Field Test in Physics are required to do so while enrolled in Seminar. Prerequisites: PHYS 461 and department head approval.

PHYS 489 - Independent Study
Hours: 1-4
Individualized instruction/research at an advanced level in a specialized content area under the direction of a faculty member. May be repeated when the topic varies. Prerequisites: Department head approval.

PHYS 490 - Honors Thesis
Hours: 3
Individualized instruction/research at an advanced level in a specialized content area under the direction of a faculty member. Note May be repeated when the topic varies. Prerequisites: Department head approval.

PHYS 491 - Individualized Honors Readings
Hours: 3
Individualized instruction/research at an advanced level in a specialized content area under the direction of a faculty member. Prerequisites: Department head approval.

PHYS 492 - Instrumentation and Control
Hours: 3
Sensors and actuators in real-time systems. Topics include the physics of sensors and actuators, sensor signal conditioning, real-time data acquisition, elementary signal processing, motion control, and software for instrumentation and control. Prerequisites: PHYS 2426.

PHYS 497 - Special Topics
Hours: 1-4
Organized class. May be repeated when topics vary.

PHYS 1401 - College Physics I
Hours: 4
Topics include vectors, mechanics, Newton's laws of motion, work, energy, power, impulse and momentum, conservation laws, heat and thermodynamics. Prerequisites: MATH 141 or 1314 or MATH 142 or MATH 176 or MATH 2413.

PHYS 1402 - College Physics II
Hours: 4
Topics include electric charges and fields, DC circuits, magnetic fields, fields due to currents. Prerequisites: MATH 131 or MATH 142 or MATH 176 or MATH 2413.

PHYS 2425 - University Physics I
Hours: 0-4
Calculus based physics course in mechanics for science, mathematics and engineering students. Prerequisites: MATH 2413 with a minimum grade of C or concurrent enrollment.

PHYS 2426 - University Physics II
Hours: 4
Second semester of calculus based physics with topics in electricity and magnetism for science, mathematics, and engineering students. Prerequisites: PHYS 2425 with a minimum grade of C, MATH 2413. Additionally, MATH 192 or concurrent enrollment.

Carlos Bertulani
B.S., M.S., University of Rio de Janeiro; Ph.D., University of Bonn.

Anil Chourasia
B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Nagpur University.

Cheri Davis
Assistant Professional Track and Assistant Planetarium Director
B.S., M.S., Ed.D, Texas A&M University-Commerce

Bao-An Li
Regents Professor
B.S., Lanzhou University; Ph.D., Michigan State University.

Robynne Lock
Assistant Professor
B.S., University of Texas at Austin; Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder

Kent Montgomery
Senior Professional Track Faculty and Planetarium Director
B.S., Montana State University; M.S., San Diego State University;Ph.D., Boston University

William Newton
Associate Professor
M.Phys., University of Oxford; M.Sc. in.Phys., University of Tennessee; D.Phil. in Physics, University of Oxford

Heungman Park
Assistant Professor
B.S., Hanyang University; M.S., Oregon State University; Ph.D., Vanderbilt University

Kurtis Williams
Associate Professor
B.S., The Pennsylvania State University; M.S., Ph.D., University of California Santa Cruz.

Matthew A. Wood
Professor and Department Head
B.S., Iowa State University; M.A., The University of Texas at Austin; Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin