Physics 405: Electricity and Magnetism I

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

Teaching assistant
Mr. Bisweswar Patra
Office: PAIS 1514

Description of the class

The goal of this class is to introduce the subject of classical electromagnetism at the advanced undergraduate level. This class correspond to the first part of a two-semester sequence of classes intended to cover the standard topics of classical electrodynamics in a mathematically sophisticated and conceptually rigorous manner. Much of this first part will be concerned with electrostatics and magnetostatics, but some discussion of electromagnetic induction ("Faraday's law") will be also presented, leaving most of the dynamics, including relativistic interactions with the electromagnetic field to be covered in the second part, Physics 406.

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. For static fields interacting with charges at rest or in steady motion, 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. Many of the concepts introduced in this class can be applied to other physical contexts, making this course a central pillar of a physicist academic career.


Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 11:00-11:50, PAIS 1140.


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

Additional resources
Berkley Physics Course on "Electricity and Magnetism" by E. Purcell and D. Morin.
Foundations of Electromagnetic Theory by J. R. Reitz, F. J. Mildford and R. W. Christy.

Office hours

Tuesday 11:30am-12:30pm and Thursday 3:30-4:45pm in PAIS 3214. These are my preferred office hours and I would appreciate if you could stick to these time slots as much as possible. 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. Sometimes, if I am very busy, I might not be able to see you the same day.

Teaching assistant
The teaching assistant is Mr. Bisweswar Patra ( He will be available on Wednesdays 9-10:30am in office 1514 for you to drop in 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 (n-1) scores of the n assignments will represent the 20% of the final grade.
  2. 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 19 and April 1 during (extended) class time, and the final exam will be held during the week of May 11-15.

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 handed in at the beginning of the class 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 50% penalization. After these 24 hours the corresponding solutions will be posted here.

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 PHYC 415 (Wednesdays: 12:00 - 12:50 pm, PAIS 1140).  This is a very important adjunct to the main lecture class. It will provide you additional practice with solving problems beyond the homework assignments and self study. We will also cover some examples of numerical approaches to solve problems in electrostatics and magnetostatics. 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 the Monday 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.

Learning Outcomes

  • Compute the electric field and electric potential for simple static charge distributions and boundary conditions.
  • Compute the trajectory and energy of a charged particle in the presence of a static electric field.
  • Understand the behavior of the electric field and potential in the presence of a conductor.
  • Understand the behavior of the electric field and potential in the presence of a dielectric.
  • Compute the magnetic field and vector potential for a steady current. 
  • Compute the trajectory and energy of a charged particle in the presence of a static magnetic field.
  • Understand the behavior of the magnetic field and vector potential in the presence of matter.
  • Compute the energy stored in static electric and magnetic fields.

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 Subject Griffiths Reading Homework HW Due Solutions
Week 1
No Class 01/20 - MLK Jr Day
Vector Algebra review

Ch 1.1
Ch 1.2-1.3
Homework 1

Week 2

Ch 1.4-1.5
Ch 1.6
Ch 2.1

Week 3


Week 4

Week 5
Midterm #1: 02/19

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9
Spring Break

Week 10


Week 11
Midterm #2: 04/01

Week 12


Week 13

Week 14


Week 15


Week 16

Problems class

Date Problems Solutions
Problems 1
Problems 1 Solutions



02/19 Midterm #1




Spring break


Midterm #2






In accordance with University Policy 2310 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), academic accommodations may be made for any student who notifies the instructor of the need for an accommodation. It is imperative that you take the initiative to bring such needs to the instructor’s attention, as I am not legally permitted to inquire. Students who may require assistance in emergency evacuations should contact the instructor as to the most appropriate procedures to follow. Contact Accessibility Resource Center at (505) 277-3506 for additional information.

If you need an accommodation based on how course requirement interact with the impact of a disability, you should contact me to arrange an appointment as soon as possible. At the appointment we can discuss the course format and requirements, anticipate the need for adjustments and explore potential accommodations. I rely on the Disability Services Office for assistance in developing strategies and verifying accommodation needs. If you have not previously contacted them I encourage you to do so.

Each student is expected to maintain the highest standards of honesty and integrity in academic and professional matters. The University reserves the right to take disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, against any student who is found guilty of academic dishonesty or otherwise fails to meet the standards. Any student judged to have engaged in academic dishonesty in course work may receive a reduced or failing grade for the work in question and/or for the course. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, dishonesty in quizzes, tests, or assignments; claiming credit for work not done or done by others; hindering the academic work of other students; misrepresenting academic or professional qualifications within or without the University; and nondisclosure or misrepresentation in filling out applications or other University records.

A Note About Sexual Violence and Sexual Misconduct: As a UNM faculty member, I am required to inform the Title IX Coordinator at the Office of Equal Opportunity ( of any report I receive of gender discrimination which includes sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and/or sexual violence. You can read the full campus policy regarding sexual misconduct. If you have experienced sexual violence or sexual misconduct, please ask a faculty or staff member for help or contact LOBORESPECT.

Citizenship and/or Immigration Status:  All students are welcome in this class regardless of citizenship, residency, or immigration status.  Your professor will respect your privacy if you choose to disclose your status. UNM as an institution has made a core commitment to the success of all our students, including members of our undocumented community. The Administration's welcome is found on our website.