E&M II Course Syllabus - FA11, SP12

(See below)
    Course goals (intro/outline)
    Texts and course prerequisites
    Reading, homework, and help sessions
    Exams and grading
    Important comment on expectations

You can download an abbreviated pdf version here.


Principles of Electricity and Magnetism 2, is the second semester of our two-semester sequence of junior-level classical electromagnetism. It uses the tools of vector calculus to analyze the dynamic properties of electromagnetic fields. The topics we will cover include non-static electric and magnetic fields (the complete Maxwell equations), induction, momentum and energy of the fields, electromagnetic waves, radiation, full potential treatment of time-dependent fields, and the relativistic formulation of electromagnetism. We have many learning goals in this course, which include content and mathematical skill mastery, high level problem-solving skills, physical sense-making, deepened conceptual understanding, communication skills, and connection to other courses and to the real world.

Here are more details about our course goals.

Required PrerequisitesE&M 1 (electro- and magnetostatics). 

Required purchases:
1) David Griffiths,  Introduction to Electromagnetism, 3rd Edition (Prentice Hall; New Jersey; 1999). 
Pedagogically excellent, this is a favorite undergrad textbook of many people!
2) iClickers, available at the bookstore, will be used every lecture. (See web for details)

Here are suggestions for other texts, in case you decide you need/want a different perspective

Reading is an essential part of E&M 2! Reading the text before class is very important.  Lecture is to clarify your understanding, to help you make sense of the material. I will assume you have done the required readings in advance! Griffiths is one of the best (and most readable) texts we know of - it will make a huge difference if you spend the time and effort to carefully read and follow the text.

Classroom Etiquette: Please turn off all cell phones and pagers when entering any classroom. Please do not throw vegetables at the instructors. Private chatter during lecture is very distracting, but it is perfectly OK to interrupt the lecture by yelling “Question!” Questions in lecture are always good, and are strongly encouraged!

Homework: There will be a homework assignment due every Wed (except exam weeks) at the start of class. Late homework can't be accepted once solutions are posted -  but, your lowest score will be dropped.  Homework is exceedingly important for developing an understanding of the course material, not to mention building skills in complex physical and mathematical problem solving. They will require considerable time and personal effort this term

Online preflights ("participation") There will be a short online reading survey due every Monday at 10 AM. This is for credit, but we will not grade you for correctness, just for participation. It's easy to forget about this (coming after the weekend), please make an effort to get this in every week. (We can excuse one or two if need be). These give you a chance to provide feedback and ask us questions. It lets us gauge what's confusing and what needs extra attention in the coming week's lectures!

We strongly encourage collaboration, an essential skill in science and engineering (and highly valued by employers!) Social interactions are critical to scientists' success - most good ideas grow out of discussions with colleagues, and essentially all physicists work as part of a group. Find partners and work on homework together.  However, it is also important that you OWN the material. I strongly suggest you start homework by yourself (and that means really making an extended effort on every problem) Then work with a group, and finally, finish up on your own -  write up your own work, in your own way. There will also be time for peer discussion during classes - as you work together, try to help your partners get over confusions, listen to them, ask each other questions, critique, teach each other. You will learn a lot this way! 
Note: While collaboration is the rule in technical work, evaluations of individuals also play an important role. Exams will be done without help from others. For all assignments, the work you turn in must in the end be your own: in your own words, reflecting your own understanding.
(If, at any time, for any reason, you feel disadvantaged or isolated, contact me and I can discretely try to help arrange study groups.) 

Help Sessions: The twice-weekly help sessions/office hours are to facilitate your learning. I encourage attendance - plan on working in small groups, our role will be as learning coach. Sessions (Mon/Tues) will be focused on homework material, but we will not be explicitly telling anyone how to do the problems (how would that help you learn?) We strongly encourage you to start all problems on your own.  If you come to help sessions "cold", the value of homework to you will be greatly reduced. 

Grading and exams:Your course grade is largely determined by a combination of your performance on exams and homework.

Exam 1

Tues Oct 4,
7:00-9 PM, G125

16% of course grade

Exam 2

Tues Nov 1
7:00-9 PM, G125


Final Exam

Tues Dec 13 , 1:30-4:00 PM



Due Wed at start of class


Preflights Due Mon by 10 AM (!!)

Clickers and optional online participation: These activities will be pure extra credit: they REDUCE total midterm weights up to 10% of exam total (i.e. 6.4% of your grade).

Exams: There are no makeups. You may not miss any exam except for reasons beyond your control, approved by the course instructor (usually a confirmed medical problem with written documentation.) In the unusual case of an (at most, single) excused absence from midterms, we'll use an average of your other exams. Calculators with scientific notation are allowed (but usually not needed); however, no devices with wireless access may be used.

Important comment on expectations: E&M 2 covers material you have seen before (Many of the topics stem from introductory material) but at a higher level of conceptual and mathematical sophistication. Therefore you should expect:

  • a large amount of material covered quickly.
  • no recitations, and few examples covered in lecture. Most homework problems are not similar to examples from class.
  • long, hard homework problems that usually cannot be completed by one individual alone.
  • challenging exams.

E&M 2 is a challenging, upper-division physics course. Unlike more introductory courses, you are fully responsible for your own learning. In particular, you control the pace of the course by asking questions in class. We professors tend to speak quickly, and questions are important to slow down the  lecture. This means that if you don’t understand something, it is your responsibility to ask questions. Attending class and the homework help sessions gives you an opportunity to ask questions.  We are here to help you as much as possible, but we need your questions to know what you don’t understand.

E&M 2 covers some of the most important physics and mathematical methods in the field. Your reward for the hard work and effort will be learning important and elegant material that you will use over and over as a physics major. Here is what we have experienced, and heard from other faculty teaching upper division physics in the past:

  • most students reported spending a minimum of 10 hours per week on the homework (!!)
  • students who didn’t attend the homework help sessions often did poorly in the class.
  • students reported learning a tremendous amount in this class.

The course topics that we will cover in E&M 2 are among the greatest intellectual achievements of humans. Don’t be surprised if you have to think hard and work hard to master the material.