PHYS 401 -- Electromagnetic Theory

Spring Term 2008

Class: Monday, Wednesday & Friday 9:00-10:00 Henn 302
Professor: Janis McKenna
Office: Hennings-Physics 262
Phone: 822-4337
E-mail: My email most often gets answered evenings between 11pm and 1am.
Janis' Office Hours: Tuesdays 16:00-17:00, Thursdays 13:00-14:00 (Except not Jan.10) or by appointment.
TA: Patrick Bruskiewich (PhD Candidate who performs experiments at ISAC at TRIUMF).
Webpage: (this is it)
Text: Introduction to Electrodynamics, 3rd edition, by D. Griffiths
If you're looking for more:
  • Electricity and Magnetism , by E.M.Purcell (slightly lower level than Griffiths, very nicely done)
  • The Feynman Lectures on Physics Vol. 2 , by Feynman, Leighton & Sands (great book - one of my favourites)
  • Electromagnetic Fields and Waves by Lorrain and Corson (level similar to Griffiths)
  • Classical Electrodynamics , by J.D.Jackson (if you want something to sink your teeth into -- graduate level E&M - this is just a tad above our level)
  • Mathematical Methods for Physicists, by Arfken (great reference for mathematics, vector calculus, differential equations, tensors, special functions, coordinate systems, complex variable theory, Fourier analysis, and a wide variety of applications in all fields of physics, including E&M)

Outline of topics covered in the course:

You will find we will more or less cover all the material in Griffiths, Chapters 7-12, plus some additional outside material for applications.

Grading: 40% Final Exam
20% Assignments (11 will be assigned over the term, your best 10 will count)
15% Midterm Exam 1 -- Friday, February 15 --
15% Midterm Exam 2 -- Friday, March 28 --
10% Seminar Presentation and Writeup (5% for Seminar Presentation, 5% for Writeup)

There is no tolerance for late assignments without medical or tragic reason, as solutions will be usually be available the day after due date.

You are encouraged to seek help from each other in doing the homework, discussing the problems in a study group is a great way to learn, but I expect each student to write up (and understand!) his/her own solutions handed in for grading. I have requested a WEBCT setup for this class, you can discuss E&M, homework problems, graduation, careers and anything relevant to this course or upper level physics on the class bulletin board which will only be accessible by students registered in the course and me.

Lecture Notes

Lecture notes are in


Homework Assignments are in


The final exam for PHYS 401 is scheduled for Tuesday April 15, noon-3pm in room 260 of the Barber Learning Center. Our exam ends up on the first day of the final exam period.

Forms of Solutions to Laplace's Equation

Student Presentations

The student seminar is a chance for you to investigate and share with your classmates a topic of your choice. Check out My List of Suggested Topics if you are looking for ideas. You may select any electromagnetism topic of your choice, and there are many cool/interesting ones that aren't on my suggestion list, provided the professor (that's me) agrees that your choice is appropriate for this course.

The oral report will be a short 8-10-minute seminar-type presentation to the class, followed by 3-5 minutes of discussion and questions. All students will participate in evaluations (marks) for all presentations (including your own: reflecting on what worked well in your talk and what you'd do differently and the Q&A will will help you when you write it up). The oral presentations will be either 1 or 2 per class, during the last 14 or 28 minutes of each class starting in mid-February.

The writeup will be a short 4-6 page report/write-up based on your presentation. This is often how things are done for conference talks. I would like to gather and distribute a copy of all writeups (ie the PHYS 401 Seminar Proceedings), which will be a collection of all your reports, so I'd ask each of you to please include a statement at the end of your report, giving me permission to distribute your essay to all students in the class (I will not put any essays online, they will only be distributed to registered classmates). Some of these materials may show up on the final exam. Anyone who doesn't give permission won't have their report circulated and included in the proceedings.

A statement of your topic choice is due with your second assignment. The report is due Friday April 11, 2008. I will have the Proceedings available for you to pick up (come to my office) on Monday April 14, 2008.

List of Student Presentations, Topics and Dates are in

Cool E&M applets:

Please let me know if you find some more that might be of interest to the class

Some cool E&M websites:

Lighter E&M stuff

Janis McKenna, UBC Department of Physics and Astronomy, January 6, 2008

email me at