Bard College Catalogue

The Bard College Catalogue contains detailed descriptions of the College's undergraduate programs and courses, curriculum, admission and financial aid procedures, student activities and services, history, campus facilities, affiliated institutions including graduate programs, and faculty and administration.

Bard College Catalogue 2016-17

Bard College Catalogue 2016-17



Matthew Deady (director), Paul Cadden-Zimansky, Joshua H. Cooperman, Hal Haggard, Eleni-Alexandra Kontou, Simeen Sattar


The Physics Program provides a firm foundation for work in a variety of areas, including graduate work in physics and allied fields. A student usually takes the core courses listed below, although in some cases the student and faculty may decide that not all the courses are appropriate because of advanced preparation or the particular focus of the student’s work. The student also chooses a number of electives according to personal interests. Students are expected to follow the standard divisional procedure for Moderation and to fulfill the collegewide distribution and First-Year Seminar requirements.


Prior to Moderation, a student has usually completed Physics 141 and 142, Introduction to Physics I and II; Mathematics 141 and 142, Calculus I and II; and Physics 241, Modern Physics. Majors are required to complete the courses listed above plus Physics 303, Mechanics; Physics 312, Electricity and Magnetism; Physics 314, Thermal Physics; Physics 321, Quantum Mechanics; Mathematics 213, Linear Algebra with Ordinary Differential Equations; Mathematics 241, Vector Calculus; and the Senior Project.

Recent Senior Projects in Physics 

  • “Construction of a Nuclear Shell Model”
  • “Photoconductivity of Graphene in a Magnetic Field”
  • “Quantum Optical Coherence Tomography with Polarization Sensitivity”
  • “A Study of Charge Transport Properties of Single-Molecule Junctions Using Density Functional Theory”


In addition to the core required courses, electives include mathematical courses (e.g., Mathematical Methods of Physics I and II), advanced laboratory and theoretical courses, tutorials on such subjects as general relativity, condensed matter physics, and nuclear and particle physics, and advanced studies in acoustics, optics, electronics, quantum mechanics, and electromagnetism.

The following descriptions represent a sampling of courses from the past four years.

Physics 116
An introduction to the phenomena of acoustics, particularly aspects that are important in the production and perception of music. The physics of sound is covered in depth, and characteristics of acoustic and electronic instruments are discussed. Mathe­matical and laboratory techniques are ­introduced as needed.

Global Energy
Physics 120
cross-listed: eus
A laboratory-based course designed to introduce nonscience majors to different types of energy (mechanical, thermal, electromagnetic, chemical, nuclear); the methods by which modern societies produce, transmit, and convert between these types; how different demand sectors (electricity, heating, transportation) shape our energy production infrastructure; the promises of future energy technology and the insurmountable physical constraints on them; and the environmental and economic costs associated with different types of energy production.

Climate Change
Physics 124
cross-listed: eus
This lab course explores the physical principles underlying climate and anthropogenic climate change. It surveys the most compelling lines of evidence for climate change and studies current observations in the broader context of past climates. Policy mitigation efforts and obstacles to their implementation are also discussed. While not technical per se, the course requires that students have the ability to solve linear algebraic equations and perform basic manipulation of data.

Introduction to Physics I 
Physics 141
A calculus-based survey of physics. The first semester covers topics in mechanics, heat and thermodynamics, and wave motion. The course stresses ideas—the unifying principles and characteristic models of physics. Labs develop the critical ability to elicit understanding of the physical world. Corequisite: Mathematics 141.

Introduction to Physics II
Physics 142
This is the second part of a calculus-based survey course, continuing with electricity and magnetism, light, and basic atomic and modern physics.

Introduction to Electronics
Physics 210
This course explores analog electronics and concludes with a brief introduction to digital electronics. Beginning with Kirchhoff’s Laws, voltage dividers, and filters, the class proceeds to power supplies, amplifiers, oscillators, operational amplifiers, timers, and ICs. Students employ semiconductor diodes, bipolar and field-effect transistors, and ICs. The course consists of equal parts lecture and lab. Corequisites: at least one physics course and one mathematics course numbered above 140.

Mathematical Methods of Physics I
Physics 221
This course presents methods of mathematics that are useful in the physical sciences. While some proofs and demonstrations are given, the emphasis is on the applications. Topics include: power series, probability and statistics, multivariable differentiation and integration, and curvilinear coordinate systems. Prerequisites: Mathematics 141 and 142, or the equivalent.

Mathematical Methods of Physics II
Physics 222
Topics include vector calculus, complex numbers and functions, Fourier series, and orthogonal functions.

Computational Physics
Physics 225
This course addresses computational techniques that can be used to solve problems in the sciences, generally in physics and engineering. Students program specific physical problems and learn the theory behind the phenomena being modeled. They are also introduced to the Python programming language and its visual capabilities through VPython, as well as Structured Query Language (SQL) and MATLAB. Topics include Newtonian mechanics, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, and astronomy. Prerequisites: Mathematics 141 and 142.

Modern Physics
Physics 241
An extension of introductory physics that concentrates on developments stemming from the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics. While a major focus is on understanding classical and quantum waves, discussions also include particle physics, nuclear physics, optical and molecular physics, condensed matter physics, astronomy, and cosmology. Prerequisites: Physics 141 and 142; Mathematics 141 and 142.

Physics 303
This course in particle kinematics and dynamics in one, two, and three dimensions covers conservation laws, coordinate transformations, and problem-solving techniques in differential equations, vector calculus, and linear algebra. Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations are also studied. Prerequisites: Physics 141 and 142; Mathematics 141 and 142.

Electricity and Magnetism
Physics 312
Topics covered include electrostatics, conductors, and dielectrics; Laplace’s equation and characteristic fields; magnetostatics, magnetodynamics, and the magnetic properties of matter; flow of charge and circuit theory; and Maxwell’s equa­tions and the energy-momentum transfer of electromagnetic radiation. Prerequisites: Physics 141 and 142 and Mathematics 213.

Thermal Physics
Physics 314
An introduction to the elements of thermodynamics, kinetic theory, and statistical mechanics; equations of state; first and second laws; distribution functions; the partition function; and quantum statistics. Prerequisites: Physics 141 and 142 and Mathematics 142.

Quantum Mechanics
Physics 321
This course introduces the Hilbert space formalism of quantum mechanics and uses it to examine simple quantum systems, including objects in potential wells, hydrogen atom electronic states, and the quantum harmonic oscillator. Additional material includes perturbation theory, quantized angular momentum, and particle scattering. Prerequisites: Physics 241, Mathematics 213.

General Relativity
Physics 327
An introduction to Einstein’s theory of gravity. Beginning with a discussion of special relativity, this course teaches the mathematics of differential geometry in order to describe the formulation of gravity as the curvature of space and time. Experimental verifications of the theory, such as the variability of the rate of the flow of time with height and the bending of starlight, are also discussed. Applications covered may include calibration of the Global Positioning System (GPS), black holes, cosmology, and gravitational waves.

Condensed Matter Physics
Physics 418
An overview of the physics of the solid and liquid states of matter. Possible topics include crystalline structure of solids; X-ray scattering; lattice vibrations; elasticity; band structure; electrical and optical properties of metals, semiconductors, and insulators; magnetism and Hall effect; superfluidity and superconductivity; polymers; and “soft matter.” Prerequisites: Physics 141, 142, and 241.