Credits: 5

Schedule: 10.09.2019 - 12.12.2019

Teacher in charge (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

Christian Flindt (2018-2019)

Mikko Alava (2019-2020)

Contact information for the course (applies in this implementation): 

Lectures: Mikko Alava, OK1, Y422 (available mostly by prior appointment)

Exercises: Henri Salmenjoki

Teaching Period (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

I - II Autumn (2018-2019, 2019-2020)

Learning Outcomes (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

After the course, the student will have a thorough understanding of the ensemble theory in statistical physics and of its applications. The student is familiar with the theory of quantum statistical mechanics.  The student will be able to apply this knowledge to quantum mechanical problems involving fermions or bosons.  The student knows the phenomenology of phase transitions and associated phenomena. The student will be familiar with current research topics in equilibrium and non-equilibrium statistical mechanics.

Content (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

Rehearsal of thermodynamics and statistical physics. Quantum statistical mechanics. Phase transitions. Non-equilibrium transport processes and fluctuations.

Details on the course content (applies in this implementation): 

This is a master's-level course on statistical mechanics consisting of two

The first part concerns equilibrium statistical mechanics. The students are
expected to have a basic understanding of traditional thermodynamics on the 2nd
year undergraduate level (free energy, ensembles, and quantum gases) of
non-interacting systems. This is tested at the first exercise session
(compulsory attendance, please contact the lecturer if you can not make it) at
the beginning of the course.

We discuss fluctuations and scale-invariance in terms of random walks. Then
second order phase transitions are studied in the framework of the Ising model
and in the context of percolation. The question of how a phase transition looks
like when abrupt (first order) is discussed, as well as the role of entropy,
disorder, and quantum effects all of which are fundamental in correlated

In the second part we turn to nonequilibrium statistical mechanics. We go
through the fundaments of how physical systems behave slightly out of usual
equilibrium: how the fluctuations in thermodynamic quantities reflect this and
how does the relaxation take place. We then move over to truly nonequilibrium
systems. The fundamental ideas relevant to common examples are overviewed (the
theory of absorbing state phase transitions among others) as well as concrete

Assessment Methods and Criteria (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

Written exam, home work, and student presentations.

Elaboration of the evaluation criteria and methods, and acquainting students with the evaluation (applies in this implementation): 

The home work consists of exercises, preparing the student presentation in groups, and a computational group work.  The students are divided into small groups (1 presentation and 1 computational project per group). The students get points for the group work (for both items) for successful completion, and exercises including the initial test on basic thermodynamics. For those students who do not pass the threshold of that test, additional homework is provided.

The two group projects yield 20 points upon completion (10 each), the initial test and the recovery material (eventual) yields 12 points.

By handing in all home work exercises (50 points max, 5 points each), the computational project, and giving a student presentation,
students will obtain enough points to pass the course. The final grade
(1-5) will largely be determined by the written exam (18 points), with a total of 100 max.

Workload (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

Lectures 24 hrs (2 hrs/week)

In-class exercises 24 hrs (2 hrs/week)

Student presentations 12 hrs (1 hr/week)

Independent work 70 hrs

Study Material (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

The course material will be announced on the course web page.

Course Homepage (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020):

Prerequisites (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

PHYS-C0220 Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics and PHYS-C0210 Quantum Mechanics.

Grading Scale (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 


Registration for Courses (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

Registration via WebOodi.

Additional information for the course (applies in this implementation): 

Guidelines for presentations of scientific articles  (starting on September 20):

Research articles:

Each Friday we meet and discuss a research article related to current topics in statistical mechanics. Small groups of students will be designated (or volunteer) to give a brief presentation of the paper of the week. All students are strongly encouraged to read the article at least once or twice. While reading, think about the following five questions (and try not to get caught up in the details):

1. What is the main idea of the paper? (What do the authors actually do?)

2. What is the key message of the paper?

3. How do the authors reach that conclusion?

4. What is the most interesting aspect of the paper?

5. In what way could the research be improved or extended? What are the open questions?

Together with your homework exercises for the following week, write your answers to each of these five questions in a short “tweet” (= a few short sentences).

The presentations:
At the beginning of the session, we divide the class into groups owho discuss the paper and the questions aboves. After that, we will have a 15 minutes presentation of the paper given by the two designated students. You may use the black board or you can prepare slides if you like. The presentation is short, so spend the time wisely, keeping the questions above in mind. Try to present the main ideas of the paper without dwelling too much on details. After the presentation, we will have about 10 minutes for discussions to wrap up the session. All students/groups are encouraged to share their views during the discussions.


Registration and further information