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Spring 2018 – Syllabus / Course Information

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Instructor: Dr Luca Bombelli
E-mail: <bombelli at>; Phone: (662) 915-5319
Fax: (662) 915-5045; Website:
Office hours: Wednesdays 1:00–3:00 pm in Lewis 104.

Class Location and Time: 104 Lewis Hall, MWF 9:00–9:50 am

Required Textbook: R K Pathria & P D Beale, Statistical Mechanics, 3rd edition
(Elsevier / Butterworth-Heinemann 2011); See also the Elsevier companion website at, where you will find Mathematica files for the 2D Ising model and an errata file.
Other Useful Books: See the list here.

Course Description: This is a one-semester introduction to the fundamentals of statistical mechanics for graduate students in physics and related disciplines. We begin with a quick review of thermodynamics and an overview of general concepts of probability and statistics. The main part of the course covers classical and quantum equilibrium statistical mechanics and its application to the main examples of interest in physics, such as ideal gases of bosons and fermions, photons, and simple models for electrons in metals, phonons in solids, and paramagnetic and ferromagnetic materials. Special topics to be covered will include phase transitions, with some numerical Monte Carlo calculations. If there is enough time, the last part of the course will be devoted to an introduction to fluctuations in statistical mechanics and their consequences.

Assignments: Homework assignments will be given, approximately one every week. Homework will be graded both for correctness of the technical content and for completeness and clarity of the explanation.

Quizzes and Tests: There will be several 10-minute quizzes (with short questions and very simple calculations), and two 50-minute tests (including both short problems and questions). I will expect you to be familiar with all of the material covered in the lectures. This means knowing the definitions and physical meaning of the terms and concepts discussed (even if not explicitly written down in the lecture notes) and being able to provide short derivations and solve short problems based on the same material. You do not need to remember all the equations, but you should know the general statistical mechanics relationships and the Hamiltonians used as starting points for the derivations. You are not responsible for knowing the material in the suggested references that we did not cover in class, but reading those is likely to help you.

Term Project: Each student will pick a topic from a list I will provide, and give a presentation on it at the end of the course.

Grading Scheme

Homework ....... 20 %
Quizzes (1 drop) 20 %
Test 1 ......... 20 %
Test 2 ......... 20 %
Presentation ... 20 %

(may change if a graded computational component is added to the course)

Grading Scale

87%-100% .......... A
75%-86% ........... B
60%-74% ........... C
40%-59% ........... D
less than 40% ..... F

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page by luca bombelli <bombelli at>, modified 21 jan 2018