Goucher College
Department of Physics

Statistical Physics and Thermodynamics
Fall 2016

Class Schedule


· Instructor

Dr. Sasha Dukan
Office: JR111
phone: 410-337-6323
e-mail: sdukan@goucher.edu
Office Hours
M: 12:30 pm -1:30 pm  Tu: 12:30 pm -1:30 pm, Th: 12:00 pm -1:00 pm  and F 12:30 pm -1:30 pm or by appointment. Please respect this schedule and make an appointment (by email) to see me at other times. 


· Textbook


Daniel V. Schroeder: An Introduction to Thermal Physics, Addison-Wesley, 2000. (http://physics.weber.edu/thermal/)

Other books of possible use for this course:

1. Your PHY125/126 textbook.

2. Your PHY220 textbook.

3. M. Boas, "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences"  (or any other undergraduate Mathematical Methods   (PHY280) textbook,  very useful for mathematical tricks and techniques you may have forgotten)



· Course Description

Statistical Physics and Thermodynamics is a course designed for physics majors and minors and upper-level chemistry majors. Statistical Physics (together with the Quantum Physics) is one of the fundamental disciplines on which modern physics research (in condensed matter physics, nuclear physics, astrophysics, biophysics, physical chemistry, materials science and engineering) relies. This course is devoted to the discussions of some of the basic physical concepts and methods appropriate for description of the systems involving very many particles (gases, liquids, crystals). It is intended, in particular, to present thermodynamics and statistical physics from unified and modern point of view.


· Lectures

Substantial amount of time will be devoted to the problem solving sessions and discussions. Students will be asked to present on various topics during a course of the semester. Occasionally, computer simulations will be used to aid in understanding of concepts.


· Instructional Methods

In PHY300 students have an opportunity to learn in depth the undergraduate-level statistical physics and thermodynamics from a variety of sources during the semester, including:

Ž Assigned textbook readings

Ž Classroom lectures and discussions

Ž Frequent computer demonstrations and simulations

Ž Homework assignments and GoucherLearn presentation of the solutions

Ž On-line reading quizzes

Ž In-class review quizzes

Ž In-class problem solving exercises 

Ž In-class discussions of conceptual questions aided by  Socrative (www.socrative.com)

Ž In-class tests

Ž Discussions with the instructor and the assistants during  their office hours or by an appointment.

Classroom time will be mostly centered around the discussions and student participation is required. GoucherLearn will serve as an on-line board where you can find updated information related to the course as well as your weekly homework assignments and quizzes. I do not keep attendance but unexcused absence will be noticed.  If you regularly cut class I reserve the right to lower your grade accordingly.


· How to Succeed in this Course

As a great physics educator  and author David J. Griffiths says  “You can perform very well in this class if you follow this time-tested system “ :

Ž Read the text section before lecture. If you read it first, it’ll sink in faster during lecture.

Ž Take detailed notes on your reading and write down questions so you can ask them in class.

Ž Come to class and stay involved. Come to office hours with questions.

Ž Start the homework early. Give yourself time to work and understand. No one is smart enough to do the homework in the last hour before class, and no one is smart enough to learn the material without working problems.

Ž Work together. Do your own thinking, but talking to others is a great way to get unstuck.

Ž Don’t get behind. It’s very hard to catch up.


I would also add to Griffiths’ suggestions:

Ž Read the homework solutions and use the opportunity to improve your homework grade by presenting a correct solution orally.

Ž Make your work neat and carefully organized.  If I can’t follow your solution then you will not receive a full credit.

Ž Come talk to me outside of the class frequently. Asking for help or hints with solving problems, or asking for clarification of the lectures or the textbook demonstrates your interest in the subject.



· Responsibilities of Students

In order to get the most out of this course:

Ž Attend each class, arrive on time and come prepared .  Read an assigned sections of the textbook before coming to the class to familiarize yourself with notation and topic. Read the relevant section of the textbook with comprehension before attempting to solve homework problems.

Ž Participate in class by paying close attention to what is presented and offering suggestions or corrections when you think something that is presented is incorrect or confusing.

Ž Work on and try to complete all homework problems on time. You are encouraged to discuss problems with your peers but, if at all possible, complete these problems without assistance from anyone else.  This way  you will truly understand the problem and will be prepared for the exams.

Ž Read the homework solutions and use the opportunity to improve your homework grade by presenting a correct solution orally.

Ž Make your work neat and carefully organized.  If I can’t follow your solution then you will not receive a full credit.

Ž Come talk to me outside of the class frequently. Asking for help or hints with solving problems, or asking for clarification of the lectures or the textbook demonstrates your interest in the subject.


· Homework Assignments

Homework is due every Wednesday at the start of class. Late homework can't be accepted once solutions are posted. Homework is crucial for developing  understanding of course material, not to mention building skills in physical and mathematical problem solving. They will require considerable time and personal effort this term. I strongly encourage collaboration, an essential skill in science and engineering (and highly valued by employers!) Social interactions are critical to scientists' success - most good ideas grow out of discussions with colleagues; essentially all physicists work as part of a group. Find partners and work together.  However, it is also important that you OWN the material. I reserve the right to verbally check your understanding of the solved problems. Limit yourself to verbal help; don't take written information from others (don’t take written notes when you talk to others) This will ensure that you think things through independently after you get help. If you do well on homework and poorly on exams, you are probably getting too much help.  In general, no credit will be given for a correct answer, unless accompanied by a complete derivation. The point is not to find the answer, but to find out how to construct the answer. There will be time for peer discussion during classes: try to help your partners get over confusions, listen to them, ask each other questions, critique, teach each other. You will learn a lot this way!  Use of internet search for the answers, chegg.com and similar sites, pirated online/print copies of the solution manuals are not allowed.  All students are bound by the standards of the Academic Honor Code and suspected violators will be sent to the Honors Board.

Note: Students can improve a homework grade, within one week after the homework has been graded and solutions have been posted, by demonstrating an understanding of a correct solution on a whiteboard in my office


· Exams

There will be two in-class midterm exams and a comprehensive final exam at the end.  There are no makeups. You may not miss any exam except for reasons beyond your control, approved by me (usually a confirmed medical problem with written documentation.) You may bring one side of a single sheet of 8.5 in. x 11 in. paper for each exam, with your own handwritten notes. Calculators with scientific notation are allowed and sometimes needed. More details will be announced at the time of the midterms.



· Final Project

Your final project should illustrate  experimental applications of the concepts discussed in lecture and/or  further developments of the theoretical ideas introduced. Suggested topics are:

Suggested Topic

Suggested Initial Reference

Entropy, Arrow of Time (Direction of Time) and  Universe

American Journal of Physics,  December 1999

The Cosmic Origins of Time's Arrow. By: Carroll, Sean M., Scientific American, 00368733, June 2008, Vol. 298, Issue 6

Stars and Statistical Physics: White Dwarfs and  Neutron Stars

American Journal of Physics,  December 1999


Brownian Motion and Applications

American Journal of Physics,  December 1999
Physics Today, February 1996 or on the Nucleus at

Experimental Studies of Bose-Einstein Condensation

Phys. Today, December 1999 (review issue), Phys. Today 64, 7, 16 (2011)Phys. Today 57, 10, 74 (2004), Phys. Today 56, 6, 62 (2003)
Serway, Modern Physics, Chapter 10

Real Heat Engines

Textbook, Chapter 4

Real Refrigerators/Heat Pumps/AC Units

Textbook, Chapter 4

Financial Market and Statistical Physics

Bouchand, Theory of Financial Risk and Derivative Pricing: From Statistical Physics to Risk Management, Cambridge Press, 2003


Statistical Physics in Biology

Blomberg, Physics of Life

Nelson, Biological Physics

Statistical Physics of Phase Transformations: Chemical Mixtures

Textbook, Chapter 5

The Ising Model of a Ferromagnet

Textbook, Chapter 8

Semiconductor Statistics

Kittel: Thermal Physics, Chapter 13

Debye Theory of Solids

Textbook, Chapter 7

If you would like to pick you own topic you must get my approval before starting a project. Projects should utilize literature and web-based research. I expect a 15-min long presentation. 


· Grades

Your grade will be based upon exams, in-class quizzes, homework and presentation. Grade breakdown is as follows:

· Homework:                                     20%

· Two exams:                                     40%

· Quizzes                                              5%

· Presentation:                                    15%  

· Final Exam                                       20%


The grade distribution will be as follows:

· numerical grade larger than 90.1% is A

· numerical grade between 87.1% and 90% is A-

· numerical grade between 83.1% and 87% is B+

· numerical grade between 73.1% and 83% is B

· numerical grade between 70.1% and 73% is B-

· numerical grade between 67.1% and 70% is C+

· numerical grade between 63.1% and 67% is C

· numerical grade between 60.1% and 63% is C-

· numerical grade between 57.1% and 60% is D+

· numerical grade between  53.1% and 57% is D

· numerical grade between  50.1% and 53% is D-

· numerical grade below 50% is F



· Academic Ethics

All students are bound by the standards of the Academic Honor Code, found at






book cover