PHYS 2620
Topic: Modern Physics
Course is offered every summer from mid-May to early August

This physics course is designed for undergraduates who would like to complete a course in between regular semesters or in the summer. Some advantages of this course include

  • You may take it from anywhere in the world.
  • It is an acceptable science/technical elective for engineers.
  • You must meet the assigned deadlines, but you are free to work at a faster pace to complete the course in less than the allowed time.

Course description: Physics 2620 is a comprehensive study of modern physics that emphasizes concepts and problem solving. We are offering this distance learning course so you can take it from anywhere in the world where you have an Internet connection and a computer. This particular course offering is particularly appropriate for engineering students who have completed PHYS 1425 and 2415 and can be taken by science majors (including physics majors) who have taken various physics sequences: 2310-20, or 1610-20 and 2610, or possibly 2010-20 (with instructor permission). This course serves as a science/technical elective for engineering students.

This distance-learning course can be taken from your home, vacation place, Charlottesville or anywhere in the world. It is structured to allow you to complete all of the assignments without traveling to Charlottesville. Although there are completion deadlines, you may work at a faster pace and complete the course in a few weeks or few months. The organization of the course is based on the textbook. The website supplements the required textbook readings. See for more information about the course.

This distance-learning course will include

  • relativity
  • particle and wave properties of matter
  • atomic structure and the quantum mechanical model of the atom
  • solid state devices including transistors, solar cells, etc.
  • nuclear physics including reactors
  • cosmology and the origin of the universe.

Instructor: Stephen T. Thornton, Professor of Physics.

Dates: This is a distance-learning course taught entirely via the Internet. There is considerable flexibility for when the work is done, but it generally needs to be done between mid May and the first week in August. Students may start the class as late as June 1 with permission from Professor Thornton. Flexibility will be allowed for those going on vacation, having jobs/internships, or taking other workshops/courses during the summer. The Instructor can change the assignment deadlines for individual students who have a varied summer schedule. All assignments will be posted at the beginning of the course.

Tuition/Credit: Four undergraduate credits. Please contact the appropriate registration office about tuition and fees..

Registration: All undergraduate students, including those from the University of Virgiinia and elsewhere, should register for this course through SIS.

Students from outside the University of Virginia, either undergraduate or those needing the course for any other reason, should contact Professor Thornton for instructor permission to take this course. We want to make sure you have the appropriate background. Teachers should register for PHYS 6330. Please contact Professor Thornton (email:; phone: 434-924-6808) to first obtain permission. The prerequisites are the first two semesters of calculus-based introductory physics. Teachers register through SCPS . Call one of the following numbers for more information: 434-982-5252, 434-982-5316, 434-982-2779.


Grades will be determined by the following (subject to change):

  • Homework problems: 20%
  • Chapter tests: 40%
  • Final Exam: 40%


Modern Physics for Scientists and Engineers, 4/e
Author: Stephen T. Thornton & Andrew Rex
Publisher: Brooks/Cole (Cengage Learning) Publishing
ISBN#: 978-1-133-10372-1 or 1-133-10372-3
See for textbook purchase information.