PHYS 40: Introduction to Computational Physics, Fall 2015

Time: Tuesdays, Thursdays, 2:00-4:30pm

Location: Incubator Classroom, Clark 111

Supplemental URL:


This course provides an introduction to computing skills for physics majors who have no previous programming experience. The material includes problem solving, data visualization, statistics, and analysis using computational methods. The primary emphasis is on learning to program with Python, and on computer-driven communication and problem solving in general, including use of Unix and LaTeX.

This semester the course meets in the Incubator Classroom, which provides a state-of-the-art technology-assisted, flexible learning environment, with facilities such as screensharing, multiple projectors, smart boards, and lecture capture. For further information, see

The course is required for physics majors. The first semester of the calculus-based introductory physics sequence is a prerequisite.

Course Goals and Learning Outcomes

The critical goals of this course are to (1) gain basic competency with a widely used computer language, Python, for both general and scientific programming, (2) become familiar with other standard scientific software tools, (3) practice independent investigation and problem-solving, and (4) improve skills in scientific communication.

After this course, the students will (1) be capable of writing a Python program to solve a research problem, (2) be able to navigate basic Unix commands, and (3) produce scientific reports with LaTeX.