Spring 2020 - PHYS 395 D100

Computational Physics (3)

Class Number: 3102

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 11:30 AM – 1:20 PM
    SSCP 9423, Burnaby

    Th 11:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    SSCP 9423, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 19, 2020
    3:30 PM – 6:30 PM
    AQ 5008, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    MATH 310, PHYS 255, CMPT 102, 120, or equivalent, with a minimum grade of C-. Recommended: PHYS 344 or equivalent.



Computer-based approaches to solving complex physical problems. Includes topics such as Monte-Carlo and molecular dynamics techniques applied to thermal properties of materials; dynamical behavior of systems, including chaotic motion; methods for ground state determination and optimization, including Newton-Raphson, simulated annealing, neural nets, and genetic algorithms: symplectic methods; and analysis of numerical data. Quantitative.


This course will cover the application of numerical methods to a range of physics problems.  Python will be the language of choice for the course.  The planned topics are:

·        Random number generation

·        Linear algebra (solving linear equations, least square fits, Cholesky and singular value decompositions)

·        Spectral methods

·        Root finding and optimization

·        Solving ordinary differential equations (integration methods, initial vs. boundary value problems)

·        Solving partial differential equations

·        Molecular dynamics

·        Monte Carlo simulations

·        Neural networks

·        Parallel computing and running on GPUs

·        Quantum computing and running on a QPU



Course work will be carried out in class by developing code to solve assigned problems for a given week’s topic.  These weekly assignments will constitute 50% of the grade.  The last 4 weeks of the course will be devoted to the investigation of two computational physics projects in depth.  These two projects will be worth 25% each.

·        Weekly assigned work  (50%)

·        2 projects (2 x 25% = 50%)

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Students who cannot write their exam during the course's scheduled exam time must request accommodation from their instructor in writing, clearly stating the reason for this request, before the end of the first week of classes.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html