PHYS 516: Mathematical Methods


This is a course "about mathematics, for physicists". Topics will be selected from the textbook Mathematical Methods of Physics by Mathews and Walker. This textbook presents methods that are chosen for their usefulness in physics, and the book is written very clearly and at a level of rigor which is tailored to physicists. The course will emphasize analytic methods, and in this respect it differs from and complements other mathematical methods courses which emphasize numerical methods and/or computer programming.

The primary goal of this course is for the students to acquire a set of analytic tools which will help them to solve problems in physics and to understand and evaluate current research in theoretical physics. The level of presentation will be at the first-year graduate level, but the course is intended for graduate students of all levels and senior undergraduates.

Course Credit: 3 semester hours
Meeting Times: Tuesday, Thursday; 2:30pm-3:50pm
Classroom: Herman Brown 427

Format: A lecture course with problem sets and a final exam.

Required Text: Mathematical Methods of Physics, second edition, Jon Matthews and R. L. Walker. Addison-Wesley, 1970.

Recommended Text: Mathematical Methods for Physicists, George B. Arfken and Hans J. Weber. Academic Press. (Most recent edition.)

Course web page:

Course Instructor

Anthony Chan
Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Office: Herman Brown 364
Phone: 713-348-2531

Office Hours: Monday 3-4pm, Wednesday 3-4pm, or by (email) appointment.

Homework and Grades

I plan to assign about one homework set per week, usually due at the beginning of class one week later. Homework sets will be distributed in class and they will also be available from the course web page.

Homework Policy: You are encouraged to discuss the homework problems with your PHYS 516 classmates and with the instructor and the grader(s), but you must write up your solutions independently. Of course, you must not copy from anyone else's solutions.

Late Policy: The grade for late homework will be multiplied by a decaying exponential with a time constant of five days. Late homework must be given directly to the grader and the student must write "Late" and the date and time on the front page. Homework later than 7 days will not be accepted.

Homework Grader:

Mr. Han Wu
Graduate student, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Phone: 713-348-3358
Office: Herman Brown 334

Grading Weights: Homework: 70%
Final Exam: 30%

Course Content

I plan to cover the following topics, at a rate of approximately one topic per week, as follows:

1. Complex Variables
2. Ordinary Differential Equations
3. Evaluation of Integrals
4. Integral Transforms
5. Vectors and Matrices
6. Special Functions
7. Partial Differenntial Equations
8. Eigenfunctions, Eigenvalues, and Green's Functions
9. Asymptotic Methods and Perturbation Theory
10. Calculus of Variations

Any student with a disability requiring accomodations in this class is encouraged to contact the instructor after class. Additionally, students should contact the Disabled Student Services office in the Ley Student Center.

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