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PHYS 423 A: Contemporary Condensed Matter Physics

Meeting Time: 
TTh 9:00am - 10:20am
* *
Kai-Mei Fu

Syllabus Description:


T/Th 9:00-10:20 a.m. 

  • Lectures will be live and automatically recorded during this time. 
  • Group activities/breakout sessions will be cut from posted recordings. 
  • Log in through Zoom using your UW NetID. Please practice this in advance. 

Zoom class: 915 3860 2340 link

Zoom Password: SS4U


This class covers an introduction to solid state physics.  The course starts with the thermal and electrical properties that are consequences of the existence of atoms and electrons in the solid, and then adds crystalline periodicity for the development of band structure in metals, semiconductors and insulators.  The course finishes with applications of this general material to the specific cases of semiconductor devices and advanced topics presented by your classmates.

The goal is to introduce students to the basic concepts of condensed matter physics and to give them enough vocabulary to read an article of interest in the current literature.


Instructor: Professor Kai-Mei Fu


Pronouns: she/her  (they/them is OK too!)

Office hours on Zoom class: after class and by appointment (not recorded)


Zeeshawn Kazi: (HW 1, 3, 5, 7)

Ryan Lanzetta: (HW 2, 4, 6)

Office hours on Zoom collaborative work session:

Zoom link (different from Lecture link, not recorded)

Time: Mondays 4-6 p.m. 


PHYS 324


Required: Oxford Solid State Basics, by Stephen Simon (Oxford Univ. Press, 2013)

Simon's list of typos in his text

Optional texts: If you have interest in pursuing condensed matter physics beyond this class, you should get a copy of the more comprehensive texts. I like Solid State Physics [1976] by Ashcroft and Mermin. A list of other texts can be found at A more updated undergraduate text is Solid State Physics by Charles Kittel (in its 8th edition)- but the text is terse.


Some problems in the homework my either require or be significantly easier if solved using mathematical software. The suggested software is Mathematica, which is free for UW students.  Use of other software (i.e. Python, Matlab) is acceptable but TA support may not be provided for troubleshooting. 

Coursework and grading:

Class participation: 1%

OLO's: (best 11/14) 4%

HW: (best 6 out of 7) 30%

Midterms: 40%

Final Presentation: 10%

Final Paper: 15%

HW: Late policy for HW, -10% per day.   No submissions will be accepted after solutions have been posted (as soon as 48 hours after submission). If you need additional time, please contact the TA in advance of the due date. Due to limited TA support, 1-2 questions will be be chosen for in depth grading with the other questions spot-checked. Homework is submitted via Gradescope.  You should have received an e-mail on how to set up your account. 

Class participation: There are several ways to get class participation points.  You can post to the discussion board (ask or answer), you can ask or answer a question during class. You can be an active member during TA help sessions. I do ask questions directly to specific students during class.

OLOs: A short "on-line learning opportunity" will be due on Canvas (Quizzes) each day there is a lecture asking for (a) what do you think the main point of the reading is (in 2-3 sentences), (b) a technical question (e.g. usually order of magnitude estimate), (c) what aspects do/don't need further clarification in lecture, (d) (optional) any questions or comments on the previous lecture's material and/or the homework assignments. The two primary purposes of these OLOs are (1) to help/guide my lecturing about what is/is not covered well in the text and (2) to help you learn the material by being prepared for class. Full credit is given for a thoughtful response. 

Midterms: More information will be posted about the midterms in the coming weeks. I am currently planning for an in-class, open book/open problem set exam but the technology is still being worked out.

Final paper and presentations: More information will be posted in the coming weeks. Preparation for the final paper/presentations will begin in week 5 of the course.

Academic Misconduct:

The University takes academic integrity very seriously. Behaving with integrity is part of our responsibility to our shared learning community. If you’re uncertain about if something is academic misconduct, ask me. Acts of academic misconduct may include but are not limited to: 

Cheating: Working together and exchanging ideas on problem sets is encouraged but copying solutions is cheating.

Plagiarism: Representing the work of others as your own without giving appropriate credit to

the original authors. This is relevant for the final presentations.

Students shall adhere to the University of Washington’s Student Code of Conduct

Concerns about behaviors prohibited by the Student Conduct Code will be referred for investigation and adjudication by the College of Engineering Dean’s Office and the University’s Office of Community Standards and Student conduct.

The TAs are instructed to alert me on any suspicion for academic misconduct- and I will take it from there. Typically when I teach I do end up having to make a referral. 

How to ask a question when not in class:

  • First, carefully reread this syllabus and any relevant assignment instructions to see if the answer to your question lies there.
  • If you can't find an answer to your question after rereading the syllabus and any relevant instructions, post your question in the Discussion Board (see link in the Course Navigation Menu on the left). Posting your question here means that it can be answered by any member of the 423 community and that the question and its answer will be visible to other learners who may have the same question. You can expect responses to questions posted in the by the next week day.
  • If you have a question or issue of a personal nature, please don't hesitate to contact me or the TA by email. We will try to respond within 24 hrs. 

On-line learning:

It will help you if you have access to the following for this class. 

  • A way to scan your homework to a pdf
    • Genius Scan (recommended by Gradescope): Free
    • Scannable (recommended by Gradescope): Free
    • Scanner Pro $3.99 (I have used this in the past and like it.)  
    • Camscanner: Free (What I have had students use in the past that was free.)
  • A computer with 
    • You can share calculations with classmates, me, and TAs and actually write in real time showing writing (in front of camera) without needing an expensive device.
    • You can show your face during lectures so I and others more easily connect. I realize not everyone can do this due to bandwidth limitations, but if 50% can, this makes a HUGE difference for everyone and the quality of my lectures. 
    • a microphone/speaker or headphones with microphone functionality
    • webcam or using your phone as a webcam as a 2nd sign in to the class.  Video enables two functionalities
    • a second monitor or device. This is not necessary but will allow you to see video, expand my notes, take your own notes (if you are doing this digitally). Sometimes, an inexpensive 2nd monitor can be purchased at UW surplus.
    • If you don’t have access to a reliable computer, there is a UW student loan program:

Netiquette guidelines:

    • Be supportive and provide others with constructive feedback. Aspire to contribute posts that push past “I agree.” or “that isn’t correct.” Share why you agree or disagree. 
    • Share your knowledge. Learning happens when people share experiences, knowledge, and ideas.
    • Avoid using all lower-case letters or “texting” language. (ex. BRB, IMHO).
    • We’re not all online 24/7. Replies to your posts/questions may not be instantaneous.
    • Be mindful of word choice and tone. Written language can blur intent – even if you were trying to be funny, your post may not read as funny. Before posting, ensure your comments are clear and cannot be taken in the wrong context. Use emoticons (sparingly) to help express intent.
  • Messages of a personal nature should be emailed privately.
  • Harassment in any form is unacceptable and violates the university's student code of conduct This includes taking screenshots of other students or the instructor in a virtual environment without their consent.
  • Remember, we’re all human. Although you’re learning at a distance, your peers and instructor are still human and have feelings. If you wouldn’t make the comment in a face-to-face environment, don’t post it. 
  • Honor diversity and aspire to be inclusive. At UW, diversity and inclusion are core values and priorities. We accept and celebrate the differences that are represented through the many diverse and minoritized communities in our community. Be aware of and sensitive to the diversity of your classmates and instructors. Ensure your comments are inclusive to all participants.
  • Ask for help. Not sure if your post is appropriate? Ask another participant or your instructor to review it before you post.

If you feel that someone in this course is violating basic netiquette, please contact the instructor.

Diversity and Inclusion

I am committed to creating an inclusive environment in which all students are respected and valued. I will not tolerate disrespect or discrimination on the basis of age, ability, ethnicity, race, gender identity or expression, marital or parental status, military or veteran status, national origin, political affiliation, religious or spiritual beliefs, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or other visible or non-visible differences. We will endeavor to refer to each other by our preferred names and pronouns for instance, I am Professor Fu, or Kai-Mei (since this is an advanced undergraduate class) and use she/her pronouns. 

Disability and Access:

Link to UW Disability and Access:

Your experience in this class is important to me. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law. If you have arranged accommodations through Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate those accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs and appropriate arrangements in this course. If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or.

Religious Accommodations:

Link to Religious Accommodations Policy:

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.


Catalog Description: 
Survey of the principal phenomena of solid-state physics. Prerequisite: a minimum 2.0 grade in either PHYS 324 or B PHYS 324. Offered: W.
GE Requirements: 
Natural World (NW)
Section Type: 
Last updated: 
October 13, 2020 - 2:20am