Theoretical Neuroscience

Introductory course on theoretical neuroscience. Neuronal biophysics: ions, membranes, channels. Single neuron models: Hodgkin-Huxley, 2D reductions, phase plane analysis. Leaky integrate-and-fire model, response to stochastic inputs. Models of synapses and synaptic plasticity. Models of networks at various scales. Network dynamics: rate models, networks of spiking neurons. Coding and decoding by single neurons and populations of neurons. Unsupervised learning, supervised learning, reinforcement learning.

Introduction to Cosmology

Cosmology is the study of the origin, structure and evolution of the Universe itself. The goal of this course is to provide an advanced undergraduate or introductory graduate description of the “standard” big bang theory of the Universe, the Lambda-Cold Dark Matter model, that includes recent experimental developments.

Biophysics II

Quantitative understanding of biological systems through the application of physical principles. Course will emphasize topics that span multiple length and time scales, and different levels of biological organization. Two to four topics per semester, including possibly organismal motion from molecular processes to whole organisms, nervous systems from membrane channels to neuronal networks, noise in biology, novel biophysical technologies, etc. Prerequisite: BIOLOGY 201L, MATH 212 and 216 or equivalent, and calculus based introductory physics or permission of the instructors.

General Physics I

First part of two-semester, calculus-based, physics survey course for students planning study in medicine or the life sciences (the second semester course may be developed in the future for Duke Kunshan University). Topics: kinematics, dynamics, systems of particles, conservation laws, statics, gravitation, fluids, oscillations, mechanical waves, sound, thermal physics, and the laws of thermodynamics. This course will cover the same material in Duke PHYSICS 141L (lecture) and PHYSICS 141D (discussion) courses. Exams may be take-home exams.

Frontiers of 21st Century Physics

This course is a one-semester introduction to current research topics in physics, organized around six “Big Questions” in physics, including: what are the ultimate laws of nature, how does complex structure arise, and how can physics benefit society? This course is more quantitative than 131S and is designed for prospective physics majors as well as those interested in deeper understanding of the physical world. Prerequisites: Precalculus and at least one quantitative science course at the high school level, such as chemistry or physics. One course.

Quantum Optics

The linear and nonlinear interaction of electromagnetic radiation and matter. Topics include lasers, second-harmonic generation, atomic coherence, slow and fast light, squeezing of the electromagnetic field, and cooling and trapping of atoms. Prerequisite: PHYSICS 465 and 560. One course.


An introductory survey of astrophysics with an emphasis on topics of current interest. Introduction to General Relativity, Stellar and Galactic Evolution, Standard Cosmology, Big-Bang Nucleosynthesis, Early Universe, Neutrino Astrophysics, Supernovae and Cosmic Rays, Special Topics. Prerequisites: PHYSICSs 361, 362, 363, 464; PHYSICS 465 is recommended. One course.

General Relativity

This course introduces the concepts and techniques of Einstein's general theory of relativity. The mathematics of Riemannian (Minkowskian) geometry will be presented in a self-contained way. The principle of equivalence and its implications will be discussed. Einstein's equations will be presented, as well as some important solutions including black holes and cosmological solutions. Advanced topics will be pursued subject to time limitations and instructor and student preferences. Prerequisite: A familiarity with the special theory and facility with multivariate calculus. One course.