Physics is the study of the most basic principles of nature that describe the world around us, from subatomic particles, to the motion of everyday objects, to the galaxies and beyond. Courses in physics allow students to develop a sound knowledge of these principles as well as the analytical, computational and experimental techniques necessary to apply them to a broad range of theoretical and experimental problems. A physics degree is excellent preparation for graduate school in physics and engineering and for careers in the health sciences, law and teaching.
The Department of Physics offers three options for students wishing to begin their exploration of physics.
Upperclass students seeking a one-year survey of physics with laboratory should take PHYS 130 and 135 and the co-requisite laboratory courses, PHYS 131 and 146. Entry into PHYS 130 and 135 requires sophomore standing; no first-year students will be admitted to these courses.
A student preparing for graduate study in physics should enroll in several advanced physics courses in addition to the minimum requirements and is encouraged to take further work in mathematics and chemistry. A student preparing for graduate study should expect to average about two-and-a-half (2.25) units per semester. Care should be taken to satisfy the College's graduation requirement to take nine (9) units outside of the major department.
A student preparing for graduate or second bachelor's degree work in engineering will need to complete a year of chemistry with lab as well as MATH 333. Note that MATH 224 does not substitute for MATH 333 for purpose of pre-enginering coursework.
All courses in physics numbered above 220 have as prerequisites PHYS 140 and 145 and MATH 111 and 112, unless otherwise noted. PHYS 131, 141, 146, 241, and courses numbered 380-387 are laboratory courses involving substantial experimental work.
The minimum requirements for a major in physics consist of the following:
The department offers two minors, physics and astronomy. Students considering one of these minors should work with a faculty member in the physics department as the minor is being planned, since some courses are not offered every year.
The program for a minor in physics consists of the following:
This minor is open to students with all majors, but it may be especially attractive to students in disciplines that have strong ties to physics, such as chemistry, mathematics and biology. Other combinations of introductory courses may also be acceptable.
The program for a minor in astronomy consists of the following:
There are several options for the choice of the fifth course. While any of the 100-level courses could be used, specific intermediate courses accessible upon completion of the introductory sequence with lab are also good choices. For example, PHYS 240 and 241 provide further experience with the foundations of physics. PHYS 218, 219 and 270 explore computational approaches to problem solving using examples from astronomy, physics and other sciences. Other options may include individual study and special topics courses related to astronomy.
Note: College policy prohibits a student from receiving a minor in the same department as his or her major. Thus, a physics major may not elect to minor in astronomy.
The Senior Exercise includes the presentation of a talk on a topic in physics at a department colloquium and a comprehensive written exam in physics.
More information about the Senior Exercise in physics is available on the department website.
Honors work in physics involves directed research on a specific topic in experimental, theoretical or computational physics, culminating in a written thesis, an oral presentation at a departmental colloquium, and an examination by an outside specialist.
More information about honors work in physics is available on the department website.