Course
Philosophy
The New Model Course in Applied
Quantum Physics has been designed to help students ranging
from introductory nonphysics students to advanced physics majors.
Quantum physics is a huge subject.
Students first approaching the subject need to focus not only
on the new mathematics but also on the conceptual issues that
underlie the physics. For many students, the mathematical treatment
normally offered to physicists can be discouraging and may keep
them from committing to further study in quantum physics. Other
students will take only a single quantum physics course. Students
in a predominantly mathematical course may need additional activities
to come to a better understanding of the new concepts and representations.
Getting to
the "good stuff"...
We have designed the course to focus
on specific topics that are of interest to our chosen population.
We believe that an integrated course of qualitative, mathematical,
conceptual, and applicationdriven instruction can be of value
to all students.
Realistic treatments of relevant examples
tend to require the full toolbox of quantum mechanics  atomic
and molecular wavefunctions, band structures, complex Fermi surfaces,
entangled states for quantum computing, etc. To teach these examples
at an early stage of learning quantum physics requires a new
approach to instruction.
... by designing
courses to match the population
In this project, we propose that onesemester
quantum physics courses can be designed to match specific populations.
Instead of demanding a realistic treatment of the relevant phenomena,
the course is designed to focus on conceptual development (with
appropriate mathematics) leading to simplified models. These
models can
 be conceptually realistic,
 rely on the fundamentals of quantum
physics for their description, and
 be mathematically appropriate for their
audience.
In addition, these models allow early
analysis of devices that are of interest to the population in
our classrooms.
Example: electrical
engineers
Many of the materials in this CD have
been developed in the context of a onesemester quantum physics
course for junior and senior electrical engineers. By picking
and choosing an appropriate and coherent subset of quantum topics,
it remains an "honest" quantum course while "impedance
matching" to the mathematical strengths of the population.
The focus is on onedimensional Schrödinger
quantum mechanics and relies heavily on the mathematics of ordinary
differential equations and Fourier expansions, topics in which
the electrical engineers tend to be strong. It suppresses the
matrix and state methods, eliminating linear algebra and partial
differential equations, topics in which the electrical engineers
are often weaker.
By eliminating most threedimensional
quantum problems (particularly, angular momentum and related
issues) and relativity, time remains for a serious treatment
of tunneling, conductivity, and semiconductors, with a basic
introduction to the quantum mechanics underlying such devices
as the STM, diode, and transistor.
Example: physics
majors
The materials on this CD match well to
physics majors taking either their first modern physics course
or taking more advanced quantum mechanics courses. While covering
more mathematical topics in lecture, the students have the opportunity
to discuss conceptual topics in interesting and novel settings.
Other populations
For other populations, one might well
want to choose differently. For example, for computer science
students interested in quantum computing, one might want to focus
on spin, matrix methods, and entangled state issues. For biologists
and chemists, one might want to assume that the students have
had a rather extensive introduction to the qualitative quantum
mechanics of atoms and molecules in a chemistry course. Even
for instructors of these populations, the contents of this CD
(including those not related to specific classroom materials)
may of value in helping design courses better matched to specific
populations.
As an example of how a course might be
designed for electrical engineers, click on the Example
Course Outline. For a summary of course materials that can
be used more generally with many different populations, click
on the Summary of Course Materials.
