29::98 Undergraduate Seminar: Intro Computational Physics

Fall Semester 2006

                                                                              3:30P - 5:30P W 201 VAN.
                                                             Instructor: Prof. Yannick Meurice


Many fields of research are driven by fast progress in high-performance computing. Proficiency with computers is an important asset on a competitive job market. A course on computational physics was offered for the first time in Fall 2005. Unfortunately, we will not be able to offer this course before Fall 2007. Nevertheless, a seminar on computational physics will be offered this Fall.

The seminar is open to physics undergraduates who have already taken Introductory Physics I and II (29:27 and 29:28 or equivalent). The seminar meets every week and starts with a short presentation by the instructor or the students. The students will then work at their level and at their pace using the computers available in room 201.  A T.A. (Daping Du) will be available for help (office hours Th 10-11 AM). It is suitable for students who want to start using computers or students who are already familiar with programming and are interested to work on more advanced projects.

It will offer a hands-on experience with the contemporaryuse of computers. It emphasizes solving selected physics problems rather than learning systematically numerical methods or programming languages (this is offered in courses from other Departments). It assume no prior knowledge of programming languages. The course will start with the user friendly mathematical environment Mathematica.
Later in the class, we may introduce other programming language such as C++.  The course will also provide a practical introduction to the use of open source codes such as Linux. The course will be taught in front of computers. Due to the limited space in room 201, the enrollment will be limited to 16 students.

Physics topics that may be covered: numerical solutions of ordinary differential equations in classical mechanics, electrostatic problems, energy eigenvalues in quantum mechanics and Monte Carlo simulations in statistical mechanics.


Prof. Yannick Meurice


R. Zimmerman and F. Olness, Mathematica for Physics, Springer,  Second Edition 2001.
The  input  code used in that book is available at  http://www.physics.smu.edu/~olness/www/book/edition2/OlnessZimmermanBook/
D. Yevick, Computational Physics and Object-Oriented Programing with C++,  Cambridge 2005.
J.Newman,  Monte Carlo Methods in Statistical Physics, Oxford University Press, 1999.
W. Press, S. Teukolsky, W. Vetterling and B. Flannery, Numerical Recipes in C++,  Cambridge,  2003.

Opportunities to learn

Reading assignments, problem sets and sample work can be found  at http://www-hep.physics.uiowa.edu/~meurice/cp/todo5.html .

Final Grade

The course will be graded as S/F.  Active participation on a regular basis and individual progress is considered sufficient.

Computer Lab

Five computers will be available in VAN 407E. Part of the individual assignements will be to set up these computers with Linux and perform simple tasks.
If time permits at the end of the semester, these computers will be configured as a cluster and used for parallel programming.





A student suspected of plagiarism or cheating must inform the student in writing as soon as possible after the incident has been observed or discovered.  Instructors who detect cheating or plagiarism may decide, in consultation with the departmental executive officer, to reduce the student's grade on the assignment or the course, even to assign an F. The instructor writes an account of the chronology of the plagiarism or cheating incident for the DEO (Associate Chair), who sends an endorsement of the written report of the case to the Associate Dean for Academic Programs, CLAS. A copy of the report will be sent to the student.

A detailed policy is printed in the Schedule of Courses and the College's Student Academic Handbook.