Course Syllabus

PHY3101 - Intro to Modern Physics


Course Overview

Welcome to Modern Physics! PHY3101 is a one-semester course providing an introduction to the history, basic theoretical concepts and major experimental results from the physical theories that emerged starting in the early 20th century. We will explore theoretical ideas and measurable phenomena in special and general relativity, waves and particles, quantum mechanics, atoms and molecules, phenomena connected to the statistical distributions of photons, electrons and atoms, nuclear physics, particle physics and cosmology. Each of these topics could be a course by itself, so we will cover only the highlights.

As part of the course you will learn examples of “scientific theories” and why they are more than casual explanations for what we see in the world. Rather, you will see that a scientific theory is an explanatory framework, which, although provisional and evolving, involves an interplay between theoretical reasoning and experimental measurement. A successful scientific theory must be consistent with other theories while successfully passing experimental tests, some having incredibly high measurement precision.

Prerequisites: Introductory Physics 2 with Calculus (PHY 2049, or the equivalent), which includes the associated math requirements up through multivariable calculus (Calc 3). The course carries 3 credits and entails 3 contact hours.

Course Learning Goals: By the end of this course, students will have a solid foundation in the important concepts, principles, terminology, and methodologies used in modern physics, and an introduction to application of this foundation to selected topics in modern physics such as nuclear physics. Specifically, students will be able to:

  • Analyze particular physical situations such as a particle decay or a particle trapped in an atomic-sized box, and thus identify the fundamental principles pertinent to those situations,
  • Apply fundamental principles like those in special relativity and in quantum mechanics to formulate mathematical equations describing the relation between physical quantities in these particular situations,
  • Solve mathematical equations to find the values of physical quantities,
  • Communicate unambiguously both the principles that apply to a situation and the results of specific calculations resulting from the steps above, verbally and in written form.


COVID is still a thing

In response to COVID-19, the following recommendations are in place to maintain your learning environment, to enhance the safety of our in-classroom interactions, and to further the health and safety of ourselves, our neighbors, and our loved ones.


  • If you are not vaccinated, get vaccinated. Vaccines are readily available and have been demonstrated to be safe and effective against the COVID-19 virus. Visit one.uf for screening / testing and vaccination opportunities.


  • If you are sick, stay home. Please call your primary care provider if you are ill and need immediate care or the UF Student Health Care Center at 352-392-1161 to be evaluated.


Course Structure & Lectures

PHY3101 is split into two sections that meet at different times (P2, P4), but we use a single Canvas site for all course materials and employ the same exam dates, homework, grading scheme and office hours. We will lecture separately - because the material is fun to teach! - but will cover one another for travel, illness, etc.


Room locations are shown in the table below.

Day & Location  Period  Time Lecturer
MWF, NPB 1002 2 (Class #17820) 8:30 - 9:20 am Prof. Zhang 
MWF, NPB 1002 4 (Class #17845) 10:40 - 11:30 am Prof. Ray


Instructor and TA Information

Role Instructor Instructor Grader
Name Prof. Heather Ray Prof. Xiao-Xiao Zhang Tatia Kiliptari
Offices 2237 NPB 2259 NPB N/A
Office Hours F 12:00 pm -  2:00 pm MW 9:35-10:25 am N/A
Phone (352) 392-9717 (352) 392-5711 N/A

Communications: The instructors will communicate important announcements to the class using Canvas Announcements. However, please send all email to (Do not use Canvas mail as it causes problems for courses with multiple instructors.) Your email must come from your email address, otherwise it will be ignored.

Grader's Role: The assigned grader will grade the homework assignments for this course, and any other content the professor needs help with. You should contact the grader if you have any questions on those graded assignments.



Grade components are listed in the Assignments tab. Below are the detailed descriptions for each category:  

Exams (69%): There are three exams, worth 23+23+23=69 points total. For any missed exams (illness, family emergencies), a makeup will be administered (date/time to be determined). On each exam you will be allowed one handwritten  formula sheet (front and back). You should bring a calculator and extra scrap paper but work should be shown on the exam paper that we provide. We will provide a sheet with physical constants.

Homework (20%): Weekly homework assignments will be given, with each assignment typically being due approximately 1 week from the time it was issued, though some will be shorter. Homework is due at the start of class, in class. Homework begins to be late as soon as class ends.  Late homework must be placed in our respective mailboxes. Do not put HW under our office doors. Late submissions will receive points as follows: 50% of max points (1 day late), 25% (2 days late), 0 points (> 2 days late) . We will post solutions as soon as possible after the due time. The lowest HW grade will be dropped. See the Homework Information page for rules for carrying out the HW assignments.

Lecture Quizzes (11%): In-class quizzes using iClicker will be given in class throughout the semester, one per lecture. The lowest 6 quizzes will be dropped.

Requirements for class attendance and make-up exams, assignments, and other work in this course are consistent with university policies. Click here to read the university attendance policies (Links to an external site.) .

Grading scale (not curved)

Letter grade Points required
< 38


Required Materials: Textbook, iClicker, Lecture Notes

Course lecture notes: We have written extensive lecture notes in pdf form that discuss Modern physics concepts using many examples. They are posted in Canvas->Files->Lecture materials and are organized by chapter.

Required textbook: Modern Physics, 4th edition

   Author: Kenneth Krane
   ISBN: 978-1-119-49546-8


eBook access : The discounted eBook version can be purchased through UF All Access via Redshelf. If you wish to go with the eBook version, follow the detailed instructions at UF All access.


Clickers: Each lecture will have an in-lecture quiz which must be answered using iClicker.  UF has purchased a site-wide license to the iClicker system. 

Use only your email address when registering; if you use a different account we will not be able to match you to the gradebook and you will not be awarded any points you may earn.

Additional reading materials: We recommend looking at online reference books which have a wealth of material. Please give us feedback on these texts.

  • University Physics 3. This is the third volume in the Openstax open source physics series, covering optics and modern physics. It is continually updated to correct errors. You can read it directly online or download the pdf to your computer.
  • The Physics Hypertextbook. This is a basic online reference book for all basic physics, including several topics in modern physics.
  • Modern Physics course at UVA (Michael Fowler). This online course has a lot of historical description as well as mathematics.


Weekly Schedule

This schedule shows approximately when we will cover certain topics. We expect to modify this schedule as the semester progresses. After every lecture the daily course schedule will be updated with the topic description.  Final slides annotated during lecture will be posted in Files -> Lecture materials, under the appropriate sub-folder.

Topic Week (approx)
Physics in 1900: Brief summary of the state of physics and important unanswered questions just before the great discoveries of the 20th century. 1
Special Relativity: Lorentz Trans., violation of simultaneity, effects on space-time & momentum-energy, LT invariants 1-4
Waves as particles: Photon theory of EM radiation (Planck radiation law), photoelectric effect, Compton scattering, X-ray emission, e+e- production 4-5
Particles as waves: deBroglie wavelength, wave packets, uncertainty principle 5-6
Schrodinger equation: wavefunctions and probabilities, operators, SE in 1D, particle in infinite box, harmonic oscillator, potential barriers, tunneling 6-7
Bohr-Rutherford atom: Nuclear atom and Rutherford scattering, Bohr atomic model & energy levels, prediction of isotope effect 8
Hydrogen atom: 3-D Schr. eqn,, 3-D wavefunctions, energy levels and degenerate states, radial wavefunctions, energy levels, angular momentum 8-9
Multi-electron atoms: Exclusion principle, electron shells, rules for filling shells 10
Statistical physics: Identical particles and spin (fermions, bosons), examples of 2-particle wavefunctions of identical particles 10-11
Solid state physics: Crystal structures, electronic bands, semiconductors  11
Nuclear physics: Structure of nucleus, binding energy, radioactive decay (alpha, beta, gamma emission), nuclear reactions, how the sun shines 12-13
Particle physics: Quarks, gluons, leptons, hadrons as quark composites, particle interactions and conservation laws 14-15
General Relativity & cosmology: predictions of GR, precise experimental tests of GR, neutron stars, black holes, gravitational waves 16?


Diversity and Inclusion

Physics is practiced and advanced by a scientific community of individuals with diverse backgrounds and identities and is open and welcoming to everyone. We recognize the value in diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of this course. This includes, but is not limited to differences in race, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, religion and disability. Students may have opportunities to work together in this course. We expect respectful student collaborations such as attentive listening and responding to the contributions of all teammates.

Physics, like all human endeavors, is something that is learned. Our aim is to foster an atmosphere of learning that is based on inclusion, transparency and respect for all participants.  We acknowledge the different needs and perspectives we bring to our common learning space and strive to provide everyone with equal access. All students meeting the course prerequisites belong here and are well positioned for success.


Online course evaluation

Students are expected to provide professional and respectful feedback on the quality of instruction in this course by completing course evaluations online via GatorEvals.

Guidance on how to give feedback in a professional and respectful manner is available at  (Links to an external site.) . Students will be notified when the evaluation period opens, and can complete evaluations through the email they receive from GatorEvals, in their Canvas course menu under GatorEvals, or via  (Links to an external site.) . Summaries of course evaluation results are available to
students at  (Links to an external site.) .


Accommodations for students with disabilities

Students with disabilities who experience learning barriers and would like to request academic accommodations should connect with the disability Resource Center. Click here to get started with  the Disability Resource Center.   (Links to an external site.)

It is important for students to share their accommodation letter with their instructor and discuss their access needs, as early as possible in the semester.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due