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Using Mathematica in Advanced Undergraduate Physics and Astrophysics Instruction and Research

David D. Meisel

Wolfram Technology Conference 2013
Conference location

Champaign, Illinois, USA

According to the American Institute of Physics, the physics department at SUNY-Geneseo is ranked 2nd in the nation in terms of the number of Bachelor's physics degrees produced by an undergraduate department (average of 26 majors per year from 2008-2010). Because a large fraction of our graduating students are bound for graduate and professional schools, the upper division physics instruction is particularly rigorous and includes a large component of graduate level research activity cleverly disguised as "undergraduate". Within this context, it has been difficult to support these activities with the usual programming courses and computational packages that are typical of liberal arts colleges. About 5 years ago, we started using Mathematica as the sole computational support in several of our advanced undergraduate courses (statistical thermodynamics, advanced mechanics, and advanced electricity and magnetism) with great success. Since then we have managed to convince the entire department to switch to Mathematica instead of MathCad. This was brought about largely through student pressure on the faculty as many students were already making extensive use of Wolfram/Alpha on their own. This activity has already led to one textbook "Astrophysics Through Computation with Mathematica Suppport", Koberlein and Meisel (Cambridge,2013). Mathematica use now explicitly includes four upper division physics courses, advanced laboratories and research. We will describe the progress and future plans for campus-wide deployment including gateway access to cluster and off-campus supercomputing. Examples of some individual notebooks as developed locally will be shown and made available for distribution.

*Wolfram Technology

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Meisel_et_al._readme_.pdf (46.5 KB) - PDF Document
MFAiMac.nb (12.8 MB) - Mathematica Notebook
MeiselFreemanAnne.nb (12.6 MB) - Mathematica Notebook