PH420 Mathematical Methods of Physics I (Fall, 2020)

Last modified on August 27, 2020

Messages from Instructor:

  • [8/17] Class will meet on Aug 25 at 11:00am in ZOOM.

Course Format: Remote
This course is based on the mixture of prereorded video lectures and online live meetings. There is no in-person component.

Study cycle

  1. Read a lecture note and corresponding sections of the textbook
  2. Watch the corresponding video lecture.
  3. Attend the corresponding Q&A session.
  4. Solve homework problems.

Video Lectures: Asynchronous
All lectures are given in prerecorded videos streamed from the course web site
Students are required to watch all video lectures by the specified dates.

Q&A session, Exercise, and Discussion: Online Live Meeting
Students are required to attend online discussion and question sessions held during the regular class hours (Tue. & Thu. 11:00am -- 12:15am). Topics of the discussion are listed in the course schedule. The discussion will be recorded and the videos are available if you should miss the sessions. Please try to attend the live meeting as much as possible.

Course Description:
Through this course students will learn mathematical methods necessary in physics core courses such as classical mechanics, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics. The mathematical methods covered in this course include complex analysis, linear algebra, vector calculus, series expansions, ordinary differential equations including special functions, and partial differential equations. Students successfully completing this course will develop sufficient mathematical skills necessary to complete the physics core courses.  In addition to basic mathematical skills,  various mathematical tools such as Mathematica are intensively used in this course.

Suggested Textbook

Mathematical Methods in Physical Sciences, 3rd Ed.
by Mary L. Boas.
Wiley, 2006
ISBN: 978-0-471-19826-0


Past Exams

Learning Objectives:

Biophysical processes involved in the following biological processes

  • Differential and integral calculus
  • Series expansions including Taylor, Fourier, and Laurent expansions.
  • Complex variables, functions of complex variables, residue theorem and contour integrals
  • Matrices, linear algebra, and eigenvalue problems
  • Vector calculus
  • Ordinary differential equations, special functions
  • Partial differential equations
  • Calculus of Variation


The use of Mathetmatica is required in this course. Mathematica 10 is installed on all computers in the classroom. However, it is highly desirable for you to have your own Mathematica on your personal computer. It is free for UAB students. This web page will explain how to get your own copy of Mathematica. Free online tutorials are also available.


At the end of each lecture note, homework problems are assigned. Homework must be turned in electronically by email.  Allowed formats are PDF (.pdf) and Mathematica notebook (.nb). Hand written pages should be scanned in PDF. Do not send picture taken by a cellphone camera app. Use scanner app instead. Microsoft Office Lens (a free app for Android and iPhone) is recommended.


Three midterm exams and a final comprehensive exam will be given. Students must take all four exams. Make-up exam is allowed only when reasonable excuse is presented.


Exams and assignments carry the following maximum possible points. Midterm exams (15 pts. each), Final exam (30 pts.), Homework and other assignments (25 pts.). The total maximum possible points is 100. The default grading method for the Fall 2020 semester will be the normal letter grade method, and UAB is encouraging students to continue taking courses for a letter grade where possible. Letter grades are determined by the rule given in the table.

Grade Total Score
A 85 or above
B 75 or above
C 60 or above
D 50 or above
F Otherwise

Where the university can, it is providing a Pass/Fail option in case there are circumstances and/or challenges students are encountering related to the ongoing pandemic that might make a Pass/Fail option a better option. If students are not remaining with the default letter grade method for any of their courses, they must select the Pass/Fail grading method for each course individually. This selection is made toward the end of the semester. Once a student selects the option for a Pass/Fail grading method for a particular course, that decision is not reversible regardless of their performance on remaining assignments or final exams.

About Instructor

I am available to meet with you virtually via Zoom by appointment during my virtual office hours shown below. Please make an appointment via email.

Dr. Ryoichi Kawai

Virtual Office Hour: Tue. 1-2pm, Thu. 3-4pm
Tel: (205) 934-3931
Fax: (205) 934-8042
(My PGP public key)


Campbell Hall 309
Department of Physics
University of Alabama at Birmingham
1300 University Blvd.
Birmingham, AL 35294

© Dr. Ryoichi Kawai, 2020 All Rights Reserved. No part of this website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author, unless otherwise indicated for stand-alone materials.