Course Outline for Physics 880.05
I. A. Logistics of the Course
- Names and pictures
- We want to learn names and faces as quickly as possible
(even if you are auditing)
- Borrow Mike S.'s digital camera
- Take one or two pictures of each student
- Get names in same order
- Instructors (hand out info page [web page] with details)
- Dick Furnstahl
- Associate professor in nuclear theory
- Recently work focuses on "effective field theory" (next
- Office: Smith 4050
- Jim Steele
- Postdoc in nuclear theory, with expertise in relativistic
- Co-developer of the course
- Will give some lectures
- Office: Smith 4080
- Office hours
- Determine two regular hours during the week per instructor.
(Set this up as a web form, with preferred times?)
- Available by appointment (by email, or phone, or during class,
or in hallway or wherever)
- Very often available if you just drop by 4050 or 4080.
- Instructor out of town
- With two instructors we should be able to cover for each other
when one is out of town. If not, we need to make up any missed
lectures. Check later
for schedules. Try for Monday, Wednesday,
and/or Friday at the same time (9-10:30am).
- Problem sets / Exams
- No timed exams (not very relevant for research courses)
- Five problem sets, one due every two weeks
- Most important part of course; goal is to have everyone
complete them successfully
- Not necessarily on the first pass
- Multiple shots at completing both projects and
- Rather than have disconnected "show this" problems, we'll
have an integrated project
- Build essential skills and intuition for an important
part of the physics (but not everything!)
- Short answer articulation problems
- Be able to answer a selection of basic questions
- As if you were asked by a graduate student at a colloquium
- Strictly limited space to answer. That is, you will be
strictly limited to a small number of sentences. This makes
the assignment much harder! (It's easy to write a lot; it's
hard to pick out the essentials.)
- We'll practice these in class as well as on the problem
sets. They are good practice for talks and oral exams!
- We may need to adjust the length on the fly to make sure they
- Timing: Problem sets will be due initially on the
corresponding review / overview period.
- Grading policy
- Overview: We want to give an A or A- to everyone and will be
delighted to do so. But you have to complete the problem sets,
where "complete" means more than just handing them in.
- For those who put in enough effort to complete everything
successfully (but with as many passes as needed),
you will get an A- or an A. This small
distinction will be based on our assessment of the quality of the
- If you do not complete some fraction to our satisfaction, your
grade will be proportionately lower.
- Working together?
- Certainly talk about physics
- Everyone required to do his/her own work
- Class cycle
- Four period (more or less) cycle --> two week cycle
- last period is an overview / review / survey period
- First three periods focus in detail on some basic physics
that is deemed particularly important. Goal is understanding,
not breadth of knowledge.
- In-class philosophy (propaganda)
- Physics education research has demonstrated that alternatives
to straight lectures in traditional introductory physics courses (for
undergraduates) are more effective for student learning.
- How much transfers to graduate courses?
- A major goal of the changes made in introductory courses is to
be more effective in teaching a higher percentage of the class
rather than the top, but in graduate classes you have the top, so it
is not clear that one can just extrapolate the conclusions.
Lectures may be very effective at this level!
- However, past experience is that they are often ineffective,
so we will
experiment with some changes.
- "Active Learning"
- Various proposals from physics education research are
debatable, but this one seems solid at any level: students
learn more effectively when they are actively engaged in the
- This usually translates at the graduate level to the
observation that you learn most from doing the problem sets.
- Sitting listening to lectures is often unproductive; at
best you get a good set of notes. But even then you are most
likely to just learn to parrot buzz words.
Furthermore, it's better to learn to get your notes from the
literature (as you will in general) than from an instructor.
- We're going to try to do better in the lecture,
by stopping periodically and having you answer short questions.
They may be physics interpretation, short derivations, etc.
- This is an experiment at this level. As with any
experiment or theoretical investigation,
we won't get it correct the first time, so we'll
have to adjust as we go to hit the proper level.
- "Cooperative Learning"
- Basic idea: It is effective to talk to your colleagues
when learning physics.
- Collaboration is a critical part of theory research (and
experiment!). It is essential that you learn to communicate
with other physicists and to take advantage of interactions.
This is something you need to practice!
- We hope you'll discuss the physics with your classmates in
the course, other graduate students, your colleagues in your
- Here in class we will regularly take a break from the
lecture and ask you to discuss and debate short questions.
We call them "checkpoint" questions, since they check whether
you have assimilated the material.
- Must read ahead for this to be effective
- To make this easier we have structured the course around
the text, which is quite readable.
- Web page
- URL: (put a link)
- Tell students to
check regularly (look at "what's new" section)
for schedule changes, info and hints on problem sets,
references, relevent sections to read in the text, etc.
- Very important to keep us informed about what you understand
and what you don't.
- We like to think we're very approachable but if you'd feel
more comfortable with anonymous comments, use the web page.
- "Introduction to High-Energy Heavy-Ion Collisions," by C-Y Wong.
- How many have it already? If not, get it immediately!
(Available at Long's bookstore for about $35.)
- A good reference book and a good book to learn from.
- We will cover much of the material, but only a fraction in
Return to 880.05 home page
Copyright © 1997,1998 Richard Furnstahl and James Steele.