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Undergraduate Coursework in Applied Sciences and Engineering

From big problems like global warming to focused needs in your home or community, engineering is all about solving problems. The Department of Applied Physical Sciences offers courses that make engineering and making concepts accessible to all UNC students. Check out our Minor in Applied Sciences and Engineering to see how you can learn to use technology to make a difference in the world.

Spring 2023 Course Listing

APPL 89.001 – Tree, Timber & Totems
3 Credits. Sample Syllabus.

Trees, through their biology, meaning and uses, create an arc of understanding that spans what it means to be human. Ultimately, we will explore the meaning of trees and wood and why we seek happiness in nature, cherish wood and the creation of objects of wood. Tree: What is a tree from a biological perspective? How do they represent a complex community and play a vital role in life on the planet? Timber: What is the economy of wood internationally and in the state of NC? What are biophysical and material properties of trees that allow them to grow so large and be so useful to human society? Totem: Why do we respond emotionally to wood and choose it as a material in our lives and surroundings? How do we design and create objects of meaning from wood? We will walk in the woods, meet “wood people” from across the state and country and learn woodworking with projects of the students’ design and creation.
Prerequisites: None.
Instruction: T/Th 9:00AM-10:45PM.

APPL89.002 – Convergent Research: Solving the grand engineering challenges of the future
3 Credits. Sample Syllabus.

Convergence research focuses on addressing complex problems in science, engineering, and society. Today’s and tomorrow’s grand challenges will not be solved by one discipline, but by the integration of knowledge, methods, and expertise from across various disciplines.

This first-year seminar will introduce students to the new scientific language of convergence research. Through surveying the grand challenges of engineering, we will learn how through pursuing a common research challenge, experts from various fields intermix their knowledge, theories, methods, data, and research communities, enabling new discoveries to emerge. Students will participate in various in-class activities, group discussion and problem-solving coaching to enhance understanding of how chemistry, physics, materials science, biology, math, and computer sciences are applied to engineering.

Seminar will host guest lecturers with expertise on a particular topic, allowing the students to gain a true interdisciplinary view of the subject, instead of an isolated view of each.
Prerequisites: None.
Instruction: T/Th 12:30 PM-1:45PM.

APPL 101 – Exploring Engineering
3 Credits. Sample Syllabus.

Engineers help to design and build solutions to the world’s problems. This course will explore some of the fundamental skills and tools in engineering. You will get experience using engineering tools, and you will also develop a mindset so that you can “learn how to learn” because technology changes rapidly and the tools that you use today may be obsolete in 20 years. There will be an emphasis on developing strong professional skills, including work in a group setting and effectively communicating your efforts.

In addition, a goal of this class is to help you develop an entrepreneurial mindset so that you will understand the bigger picture. For example, while it may be easy to develop an engineering solution to a problem, what are the economic and ethical considerations of various solutions? These concepts are important to help engineers build a better world.

This will be an “”active learning”” class in which we spend much of our class time working. For example, we will write computer programs to model and simulate real world systems. We will debate the ethical issues that are associated with engineering innovations. Students should be prepared to come to class and participate in these activities!
Prerequisites: None.
Instruction: M/W 11:15AM-12:30PM.

APPL 110 — Intro to Design and Making: Developing Your Personal Design Potential
3 Credits. Sample Syllabus.

Students work in flexible, interdisciplinary teams to assess opportunities, brainstorm, and prototype solutions. Design thinking and physical prototyping skills are developed through fast-paced, iterative exercises in a variety of contexts and environments.
Prerequisites: None.
Section 001: T/Th 3:30 PM – 4:45 AM

Section 02F: T/Th 12:30 PM – 1:45 PM

APPL 240 – Developing your sixth sense: Designing sensors and electrical circuits to make measurements
3 Credits. Sample Syllabus.

Learn how to analyze, design, and build systems. Model and understand how physical and environmental parameters of sensors work and interact with electrical circuits. Learn the basics of circuit design and analysis to amplify and “clean up” the signals with filters. Learn how to acquire these signals to a computer through data acquisition hardware and LabView software. Develop an entrepreneurial mindset to understand the economic, environmental, and ethical issues that affect your system design.
Prerequisites: PHYS 105, 115, 117, or 119
Instruction: M/W 2:30 PM – 4:25 PM.

APPL 260 – Materials science and engineering: Living in a material world
3 Credits. Sample Syllabus.
This course will be an introduction to topics in materials science and with a strong focus on materials, processing and engineering and how design plays a pivotal role in materials selection. A central theme will be in-class demonstrations and hands-on experiments so you will experience first-hand why materials do what they do and how to select the appropriate material for the right application. It’s a materials world after all!
Prerequisites: CHEM 102, and PHYS 116 or PHYS 118; permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites.
Instruction: T/Th 2:30 PM – 3:45 PM.

APPL 412 – Turning your entrepreneurial ideas into reality (to become APPL 698 Capstone for major and minor)
3 Credits. Sample Syllabus.

Students will work in groups on a semester project to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into reality.
Prerequisites: APPL 110; Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite.
Instruction: T/Th 2:00 PM – 3:15 PM.

APPL 430 – Optical instrumentation for scientists and engineers
3 Credits. Sample Syllabus.

This is an introduction to methods of automatic computation of specific relevance to biomedical problems. Sampling theory, analog-to-digital conversion, and digital filtering will be explored in depth. Previously offered as APPL 460.
Prerequisites: MATH 383.
Instruction: T/Th 9:30 AM – 10:45 AM.

APPL 435 – Nanophotonics
3 Credits. Sample Syllabus.

This course introduces the principles of nanophotonics – an emerging frontier at the nexus of nanotechnology and photonics that deals with light-matter interactions at the nanometer scale. The course will cover the theoretical foundations of nanoscale materials and optics, fabrication and characterization of optical nanostructures, plasmonics, nanomanipulation by optical tweezers, electrodynamic simulations, nanoscale light emitters, and applications of nanophotonics.
Prerequisites: PHYS 117 and CHEM 251
Instruction: T/Th 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM.