PHYS 312 Introduction to Mathematical Physics Syllabus

Fall 2021

Calendar Description

The application of ordinary and partial differential equations to physical problems; boundary and initial value problems associated with heat, wave and Laplace equations. Fourier analysis; expansions in Bessel and Legendre functions. Credit will be granted for only one of PHYS 312 and MATH 316.
This course is eligible for Credit/D/Fail grading. To determine whether you can take this course for Credit/D/Fail grading, visit the Credit/D/Fail website. You must register in the course before you can select the Credit/D/Fail grading option.
Credits: 3
Pre-reqs: MATH 215.


Lectures: Tue and Thu, 14:00 - 15:30, in Hebb 114.
Office Hours: see below for instructor and TA office hours.


Professor: Joanna Karczmarek
  • Email: joanna AT
  • Homepage
  • Office: Hennings 400
  • Office Phone: 604-822-2929
  • PHYS 312 Office Hours: Monday 9:30-11am, via Zoom
  • Outside of lectures and office hours, reach me via email, or ask questions Piazza.

    Teaching Assistants: Nassim Derriche (nderriche) and Tristan Pinsonneault-Marotte (tristpinsm), both (emails) AT
    Office hours: Tue 10:30-11:30 (you can talk to the TA in person in Hebb 112, or use Zoom) + on test weeks, Wed 4:30-5:30pm (Hebb 112 or Zoom)

    Learning sources and References

    There is no required textbook for the course. The following is a list of resources you might chose to use to complement, clarify and extend material presented in lectures. When appropriate, lecture notes might refer to one of these resources
    1. Math 257 and 316 cover a lot of the same material as Phys 312. A set of notes for Math 316 is available from Professor Richard Froese's website.
    2. "Elementary Differential Equations with Boundary Value Problems" by William F. Trench is one of the books recommended for Math 316, available for free here.
    3. For a book with a very physics-driven approach, check out "Applied Partial Differential Equations" by J David Logan. I especially like Chapter 1 (The Physical Origins of Partial Differential Equations) for its conservation law based approach. SpringerLink.
    4. Another on-line reference is Notes on Diffy Qs: Differential Equations for Engineers by Jiri Lebl. This book covers ODEs and PDEs; you might have used it for Math 215.
    5. For Linear Algebra, I will mainly use "Linear Algebra Done Right" by Sheldon Axler. You can find there additional discussions, proofs and examples of the definitions we made in class. SpringerLink.
    6. For vector calculus, you can look ahead in your math 317 textbook, CLP-4.
    7. For a more physicsy approach on vector calculus, as related to heat flow, check out The Feynman Lectures on Physics. The complete e-book is available from Caltech. Have a look at Volume II, sections 2-3, 2-4, 2-6, 3-3 and 3-4.
    8. A more advanced book on PDEs is "Introduction to Partial Differential Equations" by Peter J. Olver. In particular, chapter 9 (A General Framework for Linear Partial Differential Equations) fits very well with my philosophy of the course. SpringerLink.
    9. If you are looking for extra practice problems or examples, I suggest books from the Schaum's Outlines series. Relevant to this course are "Fourier Analysis with applications to boundary value problems" and "Differential Equations". The only non-free resource on this list, these are inexpensive paperbacks which contain summary notes of the relevant material, solved problems and supplementary problems with answers.
    About SpringerLink: it's an online library that UBC subscribes to. When using UBCSecure, or when logged in through a UBC VPN, you will be able to download full PDF copies of the books mentioned. It's a great resource, and a good place to look for textbooks on many subjects.

    Grading scheme and policies

    Participation in class is expected. Material might be covered that is not available anywhere else. In-class worksheets will be used extensively. Participation grades will be given for in-class worksheet completion and other activities such as reflections. However, I want to encourage you to stay home when sick (as is required, see below). To this end, I will be posting lecture notes, answering Piazza questions and scheduling online office hours as needed. In addition, you will want to make a connection early in the term to another student or a group of students in the class. You can help each other by sharing notes, as well as discussing lecture material and homework. If you don't yet know anyone in the class, post on Piazza to connect with other students.

    If you are unable to attend class, please email me before class starts. I will arrange for you to be able to hand in your work online within 24 hours of the lecture (when appropriate). See below for the rules around missed tests.

    Each lecture will have an in-class work and discussion component, usually centered around a worksheet. This work will be graded mostly on completion rather than correctness, unless otherwise indicated. If you are unable to attend, email me ahead of class to obtain a 24 hour extension on this work.

    Late participation work will not be accepted.
    Weekly Homework
    The weekly Homework will be posted by Thursday and due the following Tuesday, after class (ie, you will have 5 days to complete it). Two lowest homework grades will be dropped from the final course grade. For long term absences, when further accomodation is warranted, the weight of those HWs might be moved to the final exam, or make-up work could be assigned.

    Homework solutions should be handed in on paper, or uploaded via Canvas (in PDF format). If you experience technical problems, you can email the solutions to me instead.

    Homework that is late (even by an hour) might not be accepted for credit, since solutions will be posted immediately after deadline.

    Group discussion of Homework is encouraged, but the solutions you hand in must be your own work. This means you should not be looking at anybody else's notes or assignment while writing up your solutions. If asked questions, you may share your thinking with classmates, but not your completed work. Both copying from another student's completed work and sharing your completed work with another student will be considered academic misconduct.
    Tests and Final exam
    There will be five tests, administered during class time, each worth each worth one 'exam unit'. The final exam will be worth three 'exam units' (each assigned the same grade). Questions on these tests will be very similar to those on Homework.

    Of these eight units, your best six will count toward your final grade. Tests and final exam will constitute 75% of the course grade, so each unit is worth 75/6 = 12.5%.

    In other words, if your grade on the final exam is better than your two lowest test grades, those test grades will be dropped and the exam will be worth 37.5%. If your grade on the exam is better than just the lowest test grade, this lowest grade will be dropped and the exam will be worth 25%. Finally, if your grade on the exam is lower than all your test grades, all the tests will count and the exam will contribute just 12.5% to your course grade.

    Tests will be held in class and cannot be taken online. Test dates: Sept 23, Oct 14, Oct 28, Nov 18, Dec 2. Depending on the length of the test, we will hold class in the remaining time. If you require extra time accomodations (through CfA), please try to start early rather than end late so you are not missing class.

    If you miss a test (for a valid reason), you will have two choices of accomodations:
    • the weight of the test will be moved to the exam and exam will be worth four units instead of three, or
    • you can request an oral exam on the material (in person or via Zoom).
    Please do not come to the tests while sick. Please email me for one of the alternative arrangements above (no doctor's note is required). If you do show up to a test and are clearly ill, I will ask you to go home and you will not be able to write the test.

    If you are sick on a final exam day, do not attend the exam. You must apply for deferred standing (an academic concession) through Science Advising no later than 48 hours after the missed final exam/assignment. Students who are granted deferred standing write the final exam/assignment at a later date. Learn more and find the application online:

    For additional information about academic concessions, see the UBC policy here:,329,0,0.

    Top level learning goals

    In this course, you will learn to:

    Covid-related information

    Covid Safety in the Classroom


    Masks are required for all indoor classes, as per the BC Public Health Officer orders. For our in-person meetings in this class, it is important that all of us feel as comfortable as possible engaging in class activities while sharing an indoor space. For the purposes of this order, the term 'masks' refers to medical and non-medical masks that cover our noses and mouths. Masks are a primary tool to make it harder for Covid-19 to find a new host. You will need to wear a medical or non-medical mask for the duration of our class meetings, for your own protection, and the safety and comfort of everyone else in the class. You may be asked to remove your mask briefly for an ID check for an exam, but otherwise, your mask should cover your nose and mouth. Please do not eat in class. If you need to drink water/coffee/tea/etc, please keep your mask on between sips. Please note that there are some people who cannot wear a mask. These individuals are equally welcome in our class.


    If you have not yet had a chance to get vaccinated against Covid-19, free vaccines are available to you, on campus (link) or in the community (link). The higher the rate of vaccination in our community overall, the lower the chance of spreading this virus. You are an important part of the UBC community. Please arrange to get vaccinated if you have not already done so.

    Seating in class

    To reduce the risk of Covid transmission, please sit in a consistent area of the classroom each day and keep your group for in-class work consistent. This will minimize your contacts and will still allow for the pedagogical methods planned for this class to help your learning.

    Your personal health

    If you are sick, it is important that you stay home no matter what you think you may be sick with (flu, cold, covid, etc...). This is a University-wide requirement which applies to all students, staff and faculty:

    Instructor health

    I will do my best to stay well, but if I am ill, develop Covid symptoms, test positive for Covid, or are required to isolate while waiting for a Covid test result due to exposure, then I will not come to class. If that happens, and if I am well enough to teach, we may have a synchronous online session or two. If this happens, you will receive a Canvas announcement telling you how to join the class via Zoom. You can anticipate that this would very likely be a last minute email. Our classroom will still be available for you to sit and attend an online session, in this (hopefully rare) instance. If possible, I will arrange for a TA in our regular classroom to support you during worksheet activities. If I am not well enough to teach, I will arrange for a substitute or record a catch-up lecture.

    UBC provides resources to support student learning and to maintain healthy lifestyles but recognizes that sometimes crises arise and so there are additional resources to access including those for survivors of sexual violence. UBC values respect for the person and ideas of all members of the academic community. Harassment and discrimination are not tolerated nor is suppression of academic freedom. UBC provides appropriate accommodation for students with disabilities and for religious, spiritual and cultural observances. UBC values academic honesty and students ae expected to acknowledge the ideas generated by others and to uphold the highest academic standards in all of their actions. Details of the policies and how to access support are available here.

    UBC takes academic misconduct (this includes copying of homework, cheating on exams and plagiarism) very seriously, and the penalties are stiff. See sections on Academic Honesty and Standards and Academic Misconduct in the UBC Academic Calendar.

    During this pandemic, the shift to online learning has greatly altered teaching and studying at UBC, including changes to health and safety considerations. Keep in mind that some UBC courses might cover topics that are censored or considered illegal by non-Canadian governments. This may include, but is not limited to, human rights, representative government, defamation, obscenity, gender or sexuality, and historical or current geopolitical controversies. If you are a student living abroad, you will be subject to the laws of your local jurisdiction, and your local authorities might limit your access to course material or take punitive action against you. UBC is strongly committed to academic freedom, but has no control over foreign authorities (please visit,33,86,0 for an articulation of the values of the University conveyed in the Senate Statement on Academic Freedom). Thus, we recognize that students will have legitimate reason to exercise caution in studying certain subjects. If you have concerns regarding your personal situation, consider postponing taking a course with manifest risks, until you are back on campus or reach out to your academic advisor to find substitute courses. For further information and support, please visit:

    Copyright notice: all material in this course is copyrighted by Joanna Karczmarek (the instructor). It is provided online to you, the students registered in the course. You may not post, share or publish any of the course materials without explicit permission from the instructor (Joanna Karczmarek). This applies even to those portions of the course materials that are shared with the public by the instructor or other authorized agents. Moreover, sharing exam, test and/or quiz questions, or solutions to any questions posed in the course (including those in worsheets, homework, quizzes, tests, exams and any practice materials) might constitute academic misconduct.