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PHYS 309 – Fall 2011

Instructor: Dr Luca Bombelli
E-mail: bombelli"at"
Office: Lewis Hall 105
Office Hours: MW 3:00 – 4:00 pm, or by appointment
Phone: (662) 915-5319; Fax: (662) 915-5045

Lecture: Lewis 109, MWF 2:00 – 2:50 pm

Required Text:
Daniel V Schroeder
An Introduction to Thermal Physics
Addison Wesley Longman 2000
(textbook website at Weber State University)


The subject of this course is the physics of systems of many particles, in particular the thermodynamic properties of equilibrium systems. The content can be divided into three main parts: Fundamentals (main concepts of thermodynamics, such as work, heat, temperature and entropy, and the most important examples of systems); Thermodynamical processes and phases; and Statistical mechanics (partition functions and types of statistics, and additional examples of systems). The emphasis will be on understanding the basis of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics.

Significant goals of the course are for students to improve their analytical reasoning and problem solving skills. Part of this consists in "applying equations" and "getting the right result", but students will be evaluated on a broader set of skills, including the way they analyze a problem and place it in context, and the way they write about it and about general concepts.

Studying for the Course: It is recommended that you read the sections to be covered in a lecture before attending that lecture. This will allow you to better follow the lecture and to take notes more effectively, since you will know which parts of what I say are already in the text and which ones are not. In any case, make sure you read the appropriate sections of the text carefully before attempting the homework problems. After doing the homework, read and think about problems that have not been assigned. In class, ask questions to clarify any doubts you may have about the previous lecture and the homework.



Homework .... 15%
Quizzes ..... 15%
Test 1 ...... 10%
Test 2 ...... 10%
Test 3 ...... 10%
Project ..... 15%
Final Exam .. 25%

Grade Ranges
(may change, but final values
will not be higher than these)

A: ... 88% and up
B: ....... 75-87%
C: ....... 60-74%
D: ....... 40-59%
F: ........ < 40%


Homework: Homework problems will be assigned, and assignments will be due on most lecture days; announcements will be made in class and posted on this website. Homework turned in after the time it is due may be accepted, with a grade penalty, but only up to when the corresponding graded assignment is returned to the rest of the class. Students may be excused from turning in an assignment if there is a valid reason.

Homework must be easy to read. Pages must be stapled together, and have smooth (not torn) edges. Answers to questions and problems must always include explanations, and the grade will reflect content, presentation, and English. The lowest homework grade will be dropped.

Quizzes: On most Fridays there will be a short quiz at the beginning of the class, consisting of a few conceptual questions and exercises to be answered in writing. During quizzes, students will not be allowed to use a calculator, equation sheets, books or notes. The lowest quiz grade will be dropped.

Tests: There will be three midterm tests plus a final exam, consisting of problems to be worked out as well as conceptual questions to be answered in writing. Students will be allowed to use a calculator, but no equation sheets, books or notes during the tests. The final will be comprehensive.

Projects: Each student is asked to complete an independent project. This may involve an investigation of a special result or technique mentioned in the book, or an in-depth study of some problem or topic in the book. Written versions of the work will be provided to the other class members, and oral versions presented on the last day of classes. I will point out possible topics during lecture but you are free to volunteer for any investigation you are interested in. Please check with me first, however.

Academic Integrity: Academic integrity is essential to all the values upon which the university is founded. A student with a documented case of plagiarism or academic cheating will face the possibility of receiving the grade of F for the course.

Attendance Policy: An attendance policy for this course will not be enforced, other than the fact that absences on quiz and test days will result in missed points towards the students' evaluation, but students are requested to show up for class on time. There will normally be no make-ups for missed quizzes or tests, but in some circumstances one midterm test grade may be dropped.

Note: If a change in the class policies became necessary during the semester, it would be discussed in class before being implemented. After this discussion, the change would be posted on this website.

website by luca bombelli <bombelli"at">; content of this page last modified on 20 aug 2011