Statistical Mechanics as an Undergrad??

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Statistical Mechanics as an Undergrad??

Post by ualritemate » Sat Jan 13, 2007 4:19 am

I have heard it a lot that no too many undergrads get the right amount of statistical mechanics before startin' graduate school;.......How many of you took a full semester (or a year) course in Stat. Mech (Not Thermodynamics & Stat Mech but just Statistical Mechanics)??

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Post by Richter » Sat Jan 13, 2007 1:32 pm

Your question is not clear. A one-year course on Stat. Mech may have different course content in different schools.
In my university, the stat. mech. course teaches up to ideal quantum gas using the grand partition function.

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Post by rjharris » Sat Jan 13, 2007 4:49 pm

at MIT, all physics undergrads must take 1 semester of basic stat mech. when I took it, we didn't get to the grand canonical ensemble. but, the next semester of it, stat mech 2, did, and we did a lot of extra stuff. here is a link to the syllabus if you are interested.

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Post by schmit.paul » Sat Jan 13, 2007 5:13 pm

yeah, at my (large state) university we are required to take one semester of upper division statmech/thermo...we covered most of Baierlein's "Thermal Physics". The end of the course took us through phase equilibrium and critical phenomena (the Ising model, MFT, an intro to renormalization groups, and phase transitions). A second semester of undergrad stat mech isn't offered, but I'm auditing a graduate stat mech class this semester, and the course uses the stat mech book by Pathria. I thought the undergraduate course was a good intro, but I've also heard what ualritemate alludes to, namely that the statmech preparation in most undergrad curricula is insufficient. The most interesting stuff I learned about statmech was actually in our program's third semester QM class when we covered path integrals and density matrices, and I subsequently opted to do my end-of-semester project deriving the path integral and density matrix formulations and then applying them to solve the thermal QHO. powerful stuff...

btw, my undergrad class mentioned and made limited use of but didn't derive the grand canonical ensemble...anyone know of a good, rigorous derivation and where to find it? The grad class will probably cover it, but I remember having some reservations about learning it and using it without seeing its justification last semester...

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Post by JackSkellington » Sat Jan 13, 2007 7:33 pm

Yeh- "Fundamentals of Statistical Mechanics" by John D. Walecka based on Felix Bloch's notes; great rigorous derivation of canonical/ grand canonical partition functions. Starting from Hamilton's equations (and continuing through Liouville's theorem) he derives all of the basic principles based on one or two reasonable assumptions; then, in the second half, he does essentially the same thing for QM, and ends w/ Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein statistics.

I think thermodynamics wouldnt have made any sense to me w/o this book!

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Post by bookworm » Fri Feb 23, 2007 8:02 am

In my school, we have one semester of Thermodynamics and one semester of Statistical Physics... However I am not a student in US and we usually have more classes than you... We used the Statistical Physics book by F. Mandl, which was quite good...

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