Computational Physics in the Undergraduate Curriculum

Viewgraphs from the
2000 Physics Department Chairs Conference
April 15, 2000
Harvey Gould
Clark University

collaborator: Jan Tobochnik, Kalamazoo College

support: National Science Foundation

Viewgraphs: Punchlines, Computer Simulation Laboratory, Which Programming Language?, Gordon Research Conference, Statistical and Thermal Physics Curriculum Development Project, Resources


The question that we ask is

How can we teach students to "teach" the computer?

rather than

How can computer be used to teach physics?

Example of a course that emphasizes simulation:

Computer Simulation Laboratory

Disadvantages of such a course

Which Programming Language?

Desirable features
Our choice used to be True Basic, but now it is Java. Also encourage use of Linux in the laboratory to reduce costs and encourage students to learn more about operating systems.

Gordon Research Conference on Physics Research and Education:
Thermal and Statistical Physics

Statistical and Thermal Physics Curriculum Development Project

Of course, it is not sufficient to only teach a separate course on computational physics, and we need to also start changing our upper level courses. Statistical and thermal physics is a natural area in which to incorporate integrate computation.

Advertisement: Gould and Tobochnik NSF sponsored project to enhance the upper division curriculum in thermal and statistical physics.

Most important goal: Develop a community of teachers and students to generate course materials and exchange ideas in an open source environment. Examples of topics:


Please send comments, additions, and corrections to Harvey Gould,

Updated 21 April 2000.