Course Information


This course provides an introduction to the physics of condensed matter for graduate students in physics, chemistry and engineering areas in which materials science is important. Senior undergraduates in physics will also find the course accessible. Topics include the theoretical basis of the electronic structure of solids, viewed from the real-space perspective of the interactions between atoms; the free electron description and physical properties of electrically conducting materials; semiconductors; optical properties of materials; the origins of magnetism; lattice excitations (phonons), and nanoscience. The goal is to understand the concepts underlying modern condensed matter physics and to become familiar with some of the experimental and computational techniques available to test those concepts. A major project is the computation of the band structure of a real material using density functional theory.

Key information

  • Instructor (Spring 2015): Prof. Ethan Minot, Office: Weniger 417
  • TA (Spring 2015): Kyle Vogt
  • Text: See below
  • Class Meetings: MWF 3.00pm - 3.50pm, Weniger 304

Course Evaluation

  • Homework - 15%
  • Midterm - 25%
  • Paper & poster - 30%; (see Papers/Posters link)
  • Final exam - 30%; comprehensive, but with emphasis on the second part of the course

Exam and midterm topics may be discussed in lectures, assigned for homework, or for reading. Each student is responsible for compiling their own equation sheet (“cheat sheet”) for the midterm and final. The cheat sheet is one side of an 8.5 x 11 inch page.


Older editions of listed textbooks are usually OK (check with instructor), but the reading lists and homework assignments may not correspond to the syllabus.

  • REQUIRED: (S) Sutton, A.P., Electronic Structure of Materials, Oxford, 1993. ISBN 0-19-851754-8 (Required)
  • RECOMMENDED: either (K) Kittel, C., Introduction to Solid State Physics, Wiley, 2004,8e, (earlier editions OK) or (AM) Ashcroft and Mermin, Solid State Physics, Brooks Cole, 1976 (used for PH671 etc.)
  • ALSO RELEVANT: (Mc) McIntyre, D. H., Quantum Mechanics, Addison Wesley, 2012. Chapter 15.

If you choose not to purchase Kittel or Aschroft, some other equivalent text must be used. Talk to me to see if the one you have in mind is suitable.

Some other text books where the instructor finds relevant material:

  • (H) Harrison, W.A., Electronic Structure and the properties of solids, QC176.8.E4 H37 (Graduate level)
  • (M) Marder, M. P., Condensed Matter Physics (graduate, more modern than Ashcroft and Mermin)
  • (YV) Yves, J and Voltatron, F (translated by J. Burdett), An introduction to molecular orbitals, QD461 .J4313 1993
  • (R) Rosenberg, H., The Solid State, QC176 .R67 1988 (Undergraduate level)
  • (RH) Hoffman, Roald, Solids and surfaces : a chemist's view of bonding in extended structures, QD471 .H83 1988

The required text book (Sutton) has a good chapter about DFT theory. For students who want to go deeper than Sutton's overview, I suggest trying “Computational Physics” by J. M. Thijssen which has a strong emphasis on explaining the nuts and bolts of DFT calculations.


There will be about 6 homework sets, due roughly every 1-2 weeks. Problems will include text-book type problems, and also reading assignments from the current literature. Check the main page for assignments and due dates. Assignments turned in after solutions are posted will earn less than full credit. Turn in partially completed assignments by the due date and the rest later for partial credit. Pay attention to your presentation - physical insight and clear explanations are as important than the mathematical manipulation. Clarity, logical structure, spelling, grammar, and neatness contribute to the overall assessment. Make your solutions a model that a student entering PH575 could work from.

Please make a copy of your solution for your own use before you turn it in. This will allow you to compare to the posted solutions immediately.


A free download of Mathematica is available for OSU students: OSU Software services

Course Outcomes

Upon completion of PH575, students are expected to be able to:

  1. Calculate the band structure of simple structures analytically, and interpret the band structure of more complex structures, based on a thorough understanding of bonding in a solid.
  2. Compute the band structure of a real material using modern software.
  3. State and predict the responses of metals, semiconductors and insulators to electrical and optical influences.
  4. Describe magnetism and phonon processes in solids.
  5. Apply band structure knowledge to understand nanostructures.
  6. Have a good general knowledge of important properties and materials parameters of metals and semiconductors, including the approximate scales of relevant properties (e.g. band gap, resistivity, frequencies, lattice parameters, and so on.)

OSU Library

The library is a vital resource - use it! Alternative text books, journals, and more are housed in the shelves or are available online if you use your account. The reference section is a helpful starting point.

Add-Drop, Withdraw & Final Exam dates

Normal OSU add/drop and final exam procedures apply in this class. Click on the links to access the official university webpages for the dates.

Students with special needs

Students with documented disabilities who may need accommodation, who have any medical information which the instructor should know of, or who need special arrangements in the event of evacuation, should make an appointment to discuss their needs with the instructor as early as possible, and no later than the first week of the term.

Accommodations are collaborative efforts between students, faculty and Disability Access Services (DAS). Students with accommodations approved through DAS are responsible for contacting the faculty member in charge of the course prior to or during the first week of the term to discuss accommodations. Students who believe they are eligible for accommodations but who have not yet obtained approval through DAS should contact DAS immediately at 541-737-4098.

Ground Rules

Science is inherently a social and collaborative effort, each scientist building on the work of others. Nevertheless, each student must ultimately be responsible for his or her own education. Therefore, you are expected to abide by a number of ground rules:

  • We encourage students to work with classmates, other students, and the faculty. However, you are expected to do this in a professional and responsible fashion. Each student is expected to turn in assignments that have been independently synthesized and written. This applies also to, and especially to, computer assignments. Ask questions and discuss, but never simply copy answer without providing your own synthesis and interpretation. Likewise, help your peers by discussing and explaining, not simply providing an answer to be copied.
  • Homework solutions from previous years are very strictly off-limits. You are on your honor not to use them, and never to share your homework solutions with other students, now or in the future. Likewise, the solutions are for your personal use only. You may keep one copy in your personal files.
  • Sources must be appropriately documented. If you follow a line of reasoning from another text, reference it properly (it will help you locate the resource later, too). If someone else helps you solve a problem, reference that too. In a research paper, the appropriate reference would be: Jane Doe, (private communication).
  • Plagiarism - representing someone else's work as your own - is unethical, but collaboration and exchange of ideas is healthy. You can avoid collaborative efforts taking on the look of plagiarism by acknowledging sources and by writing up your work independently.
  • It is very important to be constantly aware that your behavior is in strict compliance with the letter and the spirit of the rules concerning professional conduct. OSU has a webpage devoted to the topic of student conduct and you should in particular pay attention to the sub-link on academic dishonesty and hold yourself to even higher standards than listed there.

link for instructors