PHYS 405: Electricity and Magnetism I

Prof. Francis-Yan Cyr-Racine
Office: PAIS 3214

Teaching assistant
Ali Kazemi
Office: Zoom

Description of the class

 The goal of this class is to introduce the subject of classical electromagnetism at the advanced undergraduate level. Classical electromagnetism (EM) is fundamentally a local theory of vector fields and its proper treatment requires methods of vector analysis and differential equations. We will briefly review these mathematical concepts in the first few lectures of the class. In this class, we will entirely focus on static (time-independent) fields interacting with charges at rest or in steady motion. In this case, the electric and magnetic fields decouple from one another so they can be treated independently. Such independent treatment of electrostatics and magnetostatics is the central content of this class.

 A sizable fraction of this class will be spent computing the electric field and potential created by a static distribution of charges. We will also discuss how the electric field behaves within conductors and insulators. The second part of the class will be spent computing magnetic field resulting from static currents, including how the magnetic field behaves in the presence of insulating matter. Time-dependent electric and magnetic fields created by moving charges and nonsteady currents will be covered in the next Electricity and Magnetism course, PHYS 406.

The final exam will take place on Thursday May 13 at 9am on UNM Learn.

To access the Zoom links below, you will need to log in with your UNM Net ID. The Zoom meeting password will be emailed to you at the beginning of the semester.


The detailed syllabus can be found here.


Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:00-2:15pm on Zoom. If the COVID situation improves and students are comfortable coming to class, we might meet in PAIS 1140. If you don't hear from me, assume that the class will take place online.


Textbook for the class
Introduction to Electrodynamics (4th Edition) by D. J. Griffiths. Older editions of the book are likely fine as well. The course will cover Chapters 1-6.

Additional resource
Electricity and Magnetism by E. Purcell and D. Morin.

Office hours

Tuesdays 3:00-4:00pm and Thursdays 10:00-11:00am on Zoom. These are my preferred "office" hours. If you can't make my regular office hours, or if your questions cannot wait, please send me an email to set up an appointment.

Teaching assistant
The teaching assistant is Ali Kazemi ( He will be available on Thursdays 3:30-4:30pm for you to call in (Zoom) and discuss any homework grading issues you may have. If you need to schedule an appointment outside of the TA's office hours please send him an email.


The grading in the course will be based on your performance in homework assignments, two midterm exams, and a final exam. The contribution to the final grade is as follows:

  1. Homework: the best 10 scores of the 11 assignments will represent the 20% of the final grade.
  2. Two midterm exams: each of them will represent the 25% of the final grade.
  3. Final: will represent the remaining 30% of the final grade.

The midterm exams are tentatively scheduled for February 18 and April 1 during (extended) class time, and the final exam will be held during exam week.

Homework assignments

There will be 11 assignments during the semester. The assignments will be posted in the tentative schedule about 7-10 days before they are due. The login information necessary to access the homework PDFs will be provided in the first class. The homework must be submitted on the UNM Learn platform at 5pm on the day they are due. Late homework policy: homework returned in the next 24 hours after the due date will be accepted but with 25% penalization. After these 24 hours the corresponding solutions will be posted here, and homework assignments submitted after solutions post will not be graded.

While I strongly encourage you to discuss the homework assignments with your classmates, the work you hand in must be entirely yours.

Problems class

Listed officially as PHYS 415, this is a very important adjunct to the main lecture class, taking place every Fridays from 9 to 9:50am on Zoom. It will provide you additional practice with solving problems beyond the homework assignments and self study. Furthermore, the class will also give you a valuable opportunity to bring to my attention your difficulties with any concepts covered in the lecture class so I can address them in a group setting. The problem sheets would be posted here on the Wednesday before the problem class. The corresponding solutions will be posted after the class. You will receive credit for the problems class as long as you register and show up for more than 10 sessions. Even if you don't register for the class, I encourage you to attend anyway, just to get the extra practice.

Syllabus topics

You can find the calendar for the course in the tentative schedule.

  1. Review of mathematical tools
    - Vector algebra
    - Vector differential and integral calculus
    - Curvilinear coordinates
    - Dirac delta function
  2. Electrostatics
    - Electric field
    - Electric potential
    - Electrostatic work and energy
    - Conductors
  3. Boundary value problems in electrostatics
    - Laplace's equation
    - The method of images
    - Separation of variables
    - Multipole expansions
  4. Electric field in matter
    - Bound charges and electric polarization
    - Electric displacement field
    - Linear dielectrics
    - Energy in dielectrics
  5. Magnetostatics
    - Lorentz force
    - Biot-Savart and Ampere laws
    - Correspondences between electrostatics and magnetostatics
    - Magnetic vector potential
  6. Magnetic fields in Matter
    - Magnetic dipoles and magnetization
    - Magnetic field of a magnetized object
    - Magnetic media

Tentative schedule

Date Lecture Notes Griffiths Reading Homework HW Due Solutions
Week 1
Vector algebra review
Vector calculus 1
Ch 1.1-1.2
Ch 1.2-1.3
Homework 1
Homework 1 Solutions
Week 2
Vector calculus 2
Vector calculus 3
Ch 1.2-1.4
Ch 1.3-1.6
Homework 2
02/05 Homework 2 Solutions
Week 3
Dirac Delta
Electric field 1
Electric field 2
Ch 2.1
Ch 2.2


Week 4
Curl and Potential
Electric Energy 1
Ch 2.2
Ch 2.3-2.4
Homework 3
02/16   Homework 3 Solutions
Week 5
Electric Energy 2 
Midterm #1: 02/18 in class
Ch 2.4
Homework 4
02/26 Midterm 1 Solutions
Homework 4 Solutions
Week 6
Conductors 1
Conductors 2
Ch 2.5
Ch 2.5

Week 7
Image Charges
Induced Charges
Laplace's Equation 1
Ch 3.1-3.2
Ch. 3.1-3.2
Homework 5 03/05
Homework 5 Solutions
Week 8
Laplace's Equation 2
Laplace's Equation 3
Ch. 3.3
Ch. 3.3
Homework 6
 Homework 6 Solutions
Week 9
Spring Break

Week 10
Laplace's Equation 4
Multipole Expansion 1
Multipole Expansion 2
Ch 3.3-3.4
Ch 3.4
Homework 7
Homework 7 Solutions
Week 11
Chap 3 Review
Midterm #2: 04/01


Solutions Q8 Midterm 2
Week 12
Dielectrics 1
Dielectrics 2
Dielectrics 3
Ch 4.1-4.2
Ch 4.2-4.4
Homework 8
Homework 8 Solutions
Week 13
Dielectrics 4
Ch 4.4
Ch 5.1
Homework 9
Homework 9 Solutions
Week 14

Magnetic Field 1
Magnetic Field 2
Magnetic Field 3
Magnetic Field 4
Ch 5.1-5.2
Ch 5.3-5.4
Homework 10
Homework 10 Solutions

Week 15

Magnetic Field 5
Magnetic Field 6
Magnetic Matter 1
Ch 5.4-6.1
Ch 6.1-6.2

Week 16
Magnetic Matter 2
Magnetic Matter 3
Ch 6.2-6.4
Ch. 6.4
 Homework 11
Homework 11 Solutions

Problems class

Date Problems Solutions
Problems #1
Problems #1 Solutions
Problems #2
Problems #2 Solutions
Problems #3
Problems #3 Solutions
Problems #4
Problems #4 Solutions
02/19 Practice Midterm
Practice Midterm Solutions
Problems #5
Problems #5 Solutions
Problems #6
Problems #6 Solutions
Problems #7
Problems #7 Solutions
Spring break

Problems #8
Problems #8 Solutions
Midterm Discussion

Problems #9
Problems #9 Solutions
Problems #10 Problems #10 Solutions
04/23 Problems #11
Problems #11 Solutions
04/30 Problems #12
Problems #12 Solutions
Problems #13
Problems #13 Solutions

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