Statistical Thermophysics

General: This course is part one of a two-term course on Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics. The first term (PH 641, this course) provides a thorough introduction to thermodynamics and both classical and quantum statistical mechanics.  The pace will be brisk, but no prior exposure to thermophysics topics are assumed as student backgrounds vary greatly. Examples will be taken from a broad range of topics and disciplines: physics, chemistry, biology, cosmology, materials science and more.

The second part (Spring 2021) will cover both foundations and advanced topics: examples of possible topics are critical phenomena, correlations and fluctuations, non-equilibrium statistical mechanics, and renormalization group theory.

Class times: MWF 11:00 - 11:50
Locations: MF in 212 Weniger, W in 328

Course Credits

PH 641: Electronics meets 3 hours per week (MWF for 1 hours) for 10 weeks for a total of 3 credits.

Prerequisites, Co-requisites and Enforced Prerequisites

Recommended: An undergraduate thermodynamics and statistical mechanics course like PH 441 Thermal and Statistical Methods or instructor's consent. Some have no prior experience in Thermophysics and manage just fine.

Office Hours

Hours: Th 2:30-3:30, F 12-1
Matt W. Grahm,  Weniger 375
Phone: 541-737-4386

 Learning Resources:

 You may also need a basic reference for thermodynamics. Prof. Sethna's book assumes a high-level undergraduate background with an emphasis on modern applications. PH 641 does not make any such assumptions. As such it is recommended you have a conventional graduate or undergraduate textbook for PH 641. A few recommendations include:

Undergraduate Level:

  • Daniel V. Schroeder, Thermal Physics.
  • Charles Kittel and Herbert Kroemer, Thermal Physics.

Graduate Level:

  • F. Reif, Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics.

Course Work

PH 641, this course provides a thorough introduction to thermodynamics and classical and quantum statistical mechanics. Examples will be taken from a broad range of topics and disciplines: physics, chemistry, biology, cosmology, and more.

Evaluation of Student Performance

  • Problem sets 30%
  • Quizzes 10% (roughly weekly, for your benefit)
  • Midterm exam 20%
  • Final exam 40%

The final exam is comprehensive and covers material from the entire course.
Short in-class quizzes (approx. 5-10 min) will be given approximately most weeks on the day problem sets are due (announced in advance).

Statement of Expectations for Student Conduct

Students are expected to abide by all university rules regarding student conduct and academic honesty:

Statement Regarding Students with Disabilities

Accommodations for students with disabilities are determined and approved by Disability Access Services (DAS). If you, as a student, believe you are eligible for accommodations but have not obtained approval please contact DAS immediately at 541-737-4098 or at DAS notifies students and faculty members of approved academic accommodations and coordinates implementation of those accommodations.  While not required, students and faculty members are encouraged to discuss details of the implementation of individual accommodations.

Reach Out for Student Success

Reach Out for Success: University students encounter setbacks from time to time. If you encounter difficulties and need assistance, it’s important to reach out. Consider discussing the situation with an instructor or academic advisor. Learn about resources that assist with wellness and academic success at If you are in immediate crisis, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting OREGON to 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)