PHYS 504 :: Physics Illinois :: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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1. General Information


The course will be held in person in 158 Loomis Laboratory, on Mondays and Wednesdays, at 2:00 – 3:20 pm (US central time). The first week of classes will be fully online via Zoom (see the link on the course website).

Jorge’s Office Hours: My office hours will take place on Fridays, from 2 – 3 pm. Please use the same recurring link above. I strongly encourage you to use this opportunity to talk about physics with me (course topics, broader physics questions, you decide!). Feel free to contact me via email at other times as well, although an appointment will be probably needed given my other activities. In any case, remember that email is the best way to reach me.

TA Office Hours: Jordi San Martin = Thursdays 1 - 2 pm. Madeline Stover = Mondays 1 - 2 pm. Same Zoom link for the class. 

The lectures will be broadcast via Zoom and also recorded. All lectures will be available via MediaSpace. Homework assignments (GradeScope) will be available on the course website.


2. Course Grading

Homework: Assignments will be distributed at regular intervals as much as possible. The lowest grade of the homework assignments will be dropped. I strongly recommend that you develop a regular schedule for doing these assignments, and do not wait until the due date before attempting the problems. Some of the problems can be quite tricky.

The homework assignments should be submitted via GradeScope. We will not accept homework by email. Questions about the grading of homework assignments should be directed to the corresponding TA and, if necessary, to me. Each assignment will have a due date, with late work penalized (10% decrease per week). If you know that you will have a conflict with the due date for some reason, please let me and the TA know in advance.

The homework is an essential part of the course; you cannot learn physics from just the lectures. The solutions to the homework will not be distributed, but the TA will provide substantive comments on your work so that you may learn from your mistakes.

Final exam: There will be no midterm, but there will be a final exam in the form of a take-home final. 

1-hour research paper review: You will write a short review (which must not take you more than 60 minutes!) about some exciting paper you find on the web about statistical physics (you can search for papers using Google Scholar, iNSPIRE, or check APS journals, for instance). The detailed instructions for the review can be found here. Please follow the instructions so that you don't spend more than an hour doing this. The reviews will also be submitted via GradeScope. To get the full points, you have to submit 5 paper reviews throughout the course (you choose when you send them, but don't send more than one review per week). 

Please understand that you will not be graded for your understanding of the papers you review. Rather, you will get the points by making an honest effort to fulfill the instructions, which will teach you an important skill that all scientists must have: efficient paper reading.  

Grading: Final grade = 700 points from homework + 200 poionts from the final (take-home) exam + 100 points from the paper reviews.

Maximum = 1000 points.

A >= 900

900 < B <= 800

800 < C <=700

700 < D <=600

F < 600  


3. Pre-requisites

PHYS 504 is a self-contained course. Nevertheless, you are strongly encouraged to have first attended an undergraduate physics course in thermal physics and quantum mechanics. For instance, the official Physics Department course web site lists PHYS 427 (Thermal and Statistical Physics) and PHYS 486 (Quantum Physics I) as our pre-requisites. A reasonable textbook that covers elementary material is Thermal Physics by C. Kittel and H. Kroemer.


4. Textbooks

There is no official textbook for this course. However, you will have access to my (nicely done) handwritten notes right away on the course website. My notes are not meant to be a substitute for your own notes. Note-taking is a valuable and important skill to learn.

Here are some books that are traditionally recommended when it comes to a graduate level statistical mechanics course.

·      M. Kardar, Statistical Physics of Particles.

·      L. P. Kadanoff, Statistical Physics: Statics, Dynamics and Renormalization.

·      N. D. Goldenfeld, Lectures on Phase Transitions and the Renormalization Group (my personal favorite).  

·      L. D. Landau and E. M. Lifshitz, Statistical Mechanics (Part I and II); Physical Kinetics (classic, marvelous, mandatory books)

·      K. Huang, Statistical Mechanics.

·      R. Kubo, M. Toda and N. Hashitsume, Statistical Physics (Parts 1 and 2).

·      R. P. Feynman, Statistical Mechanics: A Set of Lectures.


5. Feedback

Please let me know if you have any suggestions or comments about the class, or if I mistakenly assume that you are familiar with some basic material. Your feedback is essential for this course - please enter in contact with me. There is no point in waiting until the end of the semester (or when you fill in an evaluation) because by then it is too late for me to consider acting on the feedback.


6. Course Outline

This is a basic course in the sense that we will only have time to discuss systems in equilibrium. We will see in this course the following topics: review of the basic concepts behind statistical mechanics, thermal equilibrium, laws of thermodynamics, microcanonical ensemble, statistical mechanics in phase space, ergodic hypothesis, canonical and grand canonical ensemble and their partition functions, free energies, virial theorem, ideal quantum gases with quantum statistics, density operators, typicality, interacting gases, virial coefficients, cluster expansion, Debye-Huckel model, phase transitions, liquid-gas phase transition (van der Waals), mean field theory and its critical exponents, Ising model in 1 and 2 dimensions, exact results, Krammers-Wannier duality, Landau-Ginzburg theory, phase transitions of n-th order, spontaneous symmetry breaking, Lee-Yang zeros, introduction to the renormalization group (if we have time). A continuation of this course would discuss in detail the renormalization group and also systems near and far from equilibrium. 


7. Academic Integrity

As a student it is your responsibility to refrain from infractions of academic integrity, from conduct that may lead to suspicion of such infractions, and from conduct that aids others in such infractions. A short guide to academic integrity issues may be found at . The authoritative source is the Student Code. I will enforce the University's standards of academic integrity. 


8. Disability Access

The Department of Physics is committed to being an open and welcoming environment for all of our students.  We are committed to helping all of our students succeed in our courses. 

To obtain disability-related academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids, students with disabilities must contact the course instructor and the Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) as soon as possible. To contact DRES, you may visit 1207 S. Oak St., Champaign, call 333-4603, e-mail or go to the DRES website.  If you are concerned you have a disability-related condition that is impacting your academic progress, there are academic screening appointments available on campus that can help diagnosis a previously undiagnosed disability by visiting the DRES website and selecting “Sign-Up for an Academic Screening” at the bottom of the page.


9. Assistance for Academically Related and Personal Problems

Most college offices and academic deans provide academic skills support and assistance for academically related and personal problems.  Links to the appropriate college contact can be found by going to this website and selecting your college or school:  

If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression or are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or in crisis, you can seek help through the following campus resources:

Counseling Center

206 Fred H. Turner Student Services Building

7:50 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday

Phone: 333-3704

McKinley Mental Health

313 McKinley Health Center

8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday

Phone: 333-2705

McKinley Health Education offers individual consultations for students interested in learning relaxation and other stress/time management skills, call 333-2714.