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Department of Physics
Portland State University


University Curriculum

Official PSU course websites D2L


General Physics. Ph 203. Waves, Optics and Modern Physics
Course Description – This course covers: oscillation of a mass on a spring, periodic motion and pendulums; waves, sound, superposition and interference; electromagnetic radiation and waves; geometric optics, lenses, mirrors, optical instruments, and diffraction; introduction to quantum mechanics including particle-wave duality and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

Weather. Ph 333U/Geog 333U.
Course Description: Introductory course in the atmospheric environment providing a comprehensive understanding of atmospheric structure and the changes over time that result in the weather we experience. Topics include: atmospheric moisture (fog, rain, clouds), atmospheric stability and cloud development, air pressure and winds, air masses and fronts, and hurricanes and tornados.
University Studies Cluster: Global Environmental Change; Science in Social Context

Radiation in the Environment. PH 353. Sci 353U.
Course Description: Examines sources of radiation and the hazards they represent. Students will explore the interaction of radiation with matter, including living tissue, and examine dosage and risk assessment. Topics include: fundamentals of electromagnetic radiation, nuclei and radioactive decay; cosmic background radiation and radon gas; nuclear chain reactions, nuclear weapons and atomic bombs; nuclear power generation, waste disposal and nuclear disasters; medical x-rays and non-ionizing radiation from microwaves and cellular phones.
University Studies Cluster: Science in the Liberal Arts Cluster

Carbon Capstone. UNST 421.
Project Description The purpose of this Senior Capstone will be to evaluate the potential for Portland State University to become 'carbon neutral' and to involve students in energy and policy decisions with PSU administration to move toward this goal. Global climate change is a critical issue that has been identified by PSU students, faculty, staff, and administrators. Collectively the PSU community is committed to adopting strategies to mitigate the impact of campus activities on the Earth's climate. Through weekly readings and discussions, this course will also explore scientific, societal, economic, political, and ethical dimensions of global climate change.

Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics. Ph 426/526.
Course Description - Concepts of temperature, work, and heat; first and second laws of thermodynamics and applications; thermodynamic potentials; heat engines, Carnot cycle, and ideal gases; entropy and its statistical interpretation; kinetic theory of gases; classical and quantum statistics; introduction to statistical mechanical ensembles.

Methods of Mathematical Physics. Ph 434/534.
Course Description – A survey of methods of applied mathematics used in modern physics, to include: vectors, matrices, operators, and eigenvalues; tensors; complex variables and complex analysis; Delta function and Green's function; Fourier series; and Fourier transform.

Experimental Methods. PH 585.
Course Description. Introduction to modern instrumentation used in applied physics, focusing on nanoscience and materials, atmospheric physics, and biophysics, including theory and practice of the instruments.