Physics 210: Intro Computational Physics: Term Project Ideas

This document will be updated during the first few weeks of class.

  • All term project topics must be approved by the instructor
  • Topics should be chosen by October 15, and term project proposals will be presented on October 20 and 22
  • Final project presentations will be held December 1 and 3
  • Project writeups are due Dec 4, 11:59 PM

Projects from previous offerings of PHYS 210 are available HERE, and may provide you with some ideas for your own projects.  Note, however, that my expectations for your project are somewhat different from the previous instructor's.  In particular, as described in the main course page, there should be a significant programming aspect to all projects (i.e. something that goes beyond the use of built-in facilities to perform the bulk of your calculations), and a full writeup must be included in all cases.


One suggestion for getting going on your choice of term project is to try to decide what sub-field(s) of physics (or related disciplines)  most interest you.  Once that is done, it will be easier for me to suggest possible projects if necessary. Note that the following list is by no means exhaustive, and you are certainly encouraged to come up with your own area/ideas provided that I feel that the topic & proposed project are suitable
  • Acoustic Physics
  • Astronomy
  • Astrophysics
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics
  • Biophysics
  • Classical Mechanics & Dynamics (including N-body particle simulations [e.g. with gravitational or electromagnetic interactions], chaotic systems)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Cosmology
  • Electromagnetism
  • Genetic Algorithms
  • Geophysics
  • General Relativistic Physics
  • Neural Networks
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Optics
  • Particle Physics
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Plasma Physics
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Special Relativistic Physics
  • Thermodynamics


  • Non-linear dynamical systems
    • Simple models for chaos using continuous equations (ordinary differential equations (ODEs))
    • Simple models for chaos using discrete equations
    • Predator-prey models, and other biologically-motivated systems
  • Simulation of the motion of N interacting particles in two dimensions using finite difference approximations (FDAs)
    • Gravitational interactions (positive mass only)
    • Electrostatic interactions (postive and negative charges)
    • General potentials and types of "charge"
    • Simple molecular dynamics calculations
  • Simulation of the motion of N interacting particles in three dimensions using finite difference approximations (FDAs)
    • Toomre model of galaxy collisions
    • Equilibrium configuration of N identical charges on the surface of a sphere
  • Simulation of simple time-dependent partial differential equations (PDEs) using FDAs
    • One or two dimensional wave equations, possibly non-linear
    • One or two dimensional diffusion equations, possible non-linear
    • One dimensional time-dependent Schrodinger equation
  • Solution of time-independent partial differential equations (PDEs) using FDAs
    • Two dimensional Laplace / Poisson equations
  • Cellular automata
    • Traffic simulations
  • Neural Networks
    • Simulation of simple neural network, including training for specific task
  • Genetic Algorithms
    • Implementation of a basic genetic algorithm and application to a test problem
  • Particle Physics
    • Simulation of basic features of a particle detector including event generation and event reconstruction
  • Optics
    • Ray tracing through series of lenses, prisms, mirrors etc.
  • Pedagogy
    • Interactive demonstration of some physical process / phenomena that allows user to experiment with parameters, initial conditions etc.
  • Stochastic (random) processes
    • Generalizations of diffusion limited aggregation
    • Monte Carlo integration, with application to some physical problem
    • Simulated annealing, with application to some physical problem

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