Computers in Physics — PHYS 3730/6720

Fall 2014

Welcome to The U's Intro to Computing class offered by the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Here you will find information about the course and links to homework, exam materials and other resources.


Tuesdays and Thursdays 8:30-10:30am, BEH S 102 (lecture) and SP 205 (lab)
[PHYS 3730 and 6720 meet jointly; class convenes in the lecture room]


Ben Bromley
Hours: TTh noon-2pm bromley@physics

Teaching Assistant:

Song Haeng Lee
Office: INCSS 205
Hours: MW 3-5pm


course description and objectives

The goal of this course is to provide a brief introduction to computing tools for science and engineering work on modern workstations. Topics include Unix (file structures, commands, scripts, etc.), editing, technical document preparation, symbolic manipulation, use of library routines (LAPACK), programming in C++, and organizing large codes with makefiles. These tools will be illustrated by applying them to scientific and engineering problems.

Recommended prequisites: MATH 1220, 2270 or equivalent.

textbook and references

There is no required textbook for this course. Please note that extensive resources exist both in print and online, as will be discussed in lecture.

class format

Each class will consist of a lecture part and a lab component. The lecture part may vary in style from traditional lecture to discussion; the lab part will involve students solving lab exercises to be handed in for grading. The instructor and TA will be available to provide direction and answer questions as needed. In some cases, prelecture material will be available through the Canvas system, accessible through The U's main webpage. Homework assignments will be a major part of this course. There will be approximately one per week, and will be done primarily on the department computing system. Students also should prepare to take one in-class exam and a final.

computer access

All students will need a Physics and Astronomy computer account. If you do not already have one, an account will be created for you if you are enrolled by August 20, 2014. Otherwise, please see the instructor for help.

Much of the computing done for this course will require access to certain utilities. If you have difficulty, try looking for a file called ".customs.cshrc" in your home directory. If you do not have one, copy "~p6720/dotfiles/.customs.cshrc" into your home directory. Otherwise, please see the instructor.

You can access department computers in the room where the class meets, SP 205, the department Computer Lab. You may also access these computers remotely using ssh, PuTTY or WinSCP utilities. Other possibilities will be discussed in lecture.


One in-class midterm exam and a final exam will be given. The format and dates of these exams will be announced.

final project

PHYS 6720 students are required to submit a 3-5 page final report on one of several pre-assigned topics. This capstone project will help bring together much of the material discussed in this course. NOTE: This project is NOT REQUIRED for PHYS 3730.


Assessment will be based this distribution: lab exercises, 15 pts; homework, 45 pts; mid-term exam 15 pts; final exam 25 pts; and (for PHYS 6720 students) final project, 20 pts. Percentage grades will be based on totals of 100 and 120 points for PHYS 3730 and 6720 students, respectively. Note: The lowest homework score and the three lowest lab exercise scores will be dropped.

honor system and collaboration policy

You may collaborate with fellow students in this class on lab exercises, homework and project assignments. However, you may submit only your own work for grading and this work must be written solo, without copying from any other sources. All students are on their honor to adhere to this policy.

disability services

The University of Utah seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services and activities for people with disabilities. If you will need special accommodations in this class, reasonable prior notice needs to be given to the instructor and to the Center for Disability Services, 162 Olpin Union Bldg, 581-5020 (V/TDD) to make arrangements for accommodations.