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Applications of Modern Physics: A Sophomore-level Physics Course and Laboratory for Electrical Engineering Students

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching and Research in Physics or Engineering Physics I

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.198.1 - 25.198.13

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Paper Authors


Marie Lopez del Puerto University of Saint Thomas

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Marie Lopez del Puerto completed her B.S. in physics at Universidad de las Americas, Puebla in Puebla, Mexico, and her Ph.D. in physics at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in Minneapolis, Minn. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Physics Department at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. Her research interests include the structural, optical, and electronic properties of nanoscale systems, computational physics, and physics and engineering education.

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Applications of Modern Physics: a sophomore-level physics course and laboratory for electrical engineering studentsThe transition from lower-level to upper-level physics courses is difficult for manystudents as the course material becomes more abstract, and the mathematics moresophisticated. In this paper, we describe the development of a sophomore-levelApplications of Modern Physics course that bridges the lower-level and upper-levelcurriculum for electrical engineering and physics students. The course starts from theatom and quantum mechanics, building up to nano-scale systems, and finally solids anddevices. Applications, such as lasers, quantum dots, diodes, and superconductors, areinterwoven throughout.The laboratory for the course is closely tied to the class and illustrates complex conceptssuch as quantized energy levels and probabilities in classical and quantum physics. Itfollows the theme of “particles in a box.” Laboratories, which are under development,consist of tutorials using simulations, computational modeling using Matlab, and brief,illustrative experiments. Our primary goal in this course is not to develop strongexperimental skills, as this is addressed in several other courses in the curriculum, butrather to use experiments to engage students with the material as they test the validity ofthe computational models they develop. The laboratories will feature the interplaybetween modeling and experiment that is central to the advancement of scientificknowledge, and they will give students the theoretical background, mathematical andcomputational skills they need. Course development will be guided by established best-practices in Physics Education Research.Our goals in presenting this paper are to receive feedback from the engineering educationcommunity on the design and development of this course, and to inform the engineeringeducation community of this effort, as we hope elements of this course can be adapted foruse at other institutions.
Project Summary 1

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