Need help deciding which courses in the Physics Department are best suited to your background and interests? The most important questions to ask yourself in choosing a physics course at Kenyon are:

  • What particular topics in physics interest me?
  • Am I likely to take more physics after this year?

The answers to these questions will help you determine whether you want to take an introductory survey of physics or one of the many "general interest" courses offered by the department. Introductory surveys cover a wide range of topics and can prepare you for further study in the discipline. General interest courses focus on a specific topic such as astronomy or geology; they don't directly lead into intermediate-level physics courses.

General Interest Physics Courses

General interest physics courses are designed to be accessible to any Kenyon student. They typically do not involve as much mathematical work as the introductory survey courses, nor do they prepare students for entry into intermediate-level physics courses. All of these courses involve some laboratory work and can be used to fulfill the distribution requirement in the Natural Sciences division. Some (but not all) of these courses can be used to fulfill the collegiate requirement for coursework involving quantitative reasoning (designated "QR" courses); see the Course Catalog for descriptions and scheduling details, including which courses are being offered in upcoming semesters.

  • Physics 100 (A Certain Slant on Light)
  • Physics 101 (Rocket Science)
  • Physics 102 (Good Nukes, Bad Nukes)
  • Physics 103 (Creating with Gadgets - 0.25 units)
  • Physics 104 (Einstein)
  • Physics 105 (Unifying Ideas in Physics) 
  • Physics 106 (Astronomy: Planets and Moons)
  • Physics 107 (Astronomy: Stars and Galaxies) 
  • Physics 108 (Geology) 
  • Physics 109 (Origins)

Introductory Surveys of Physics

We offer two introductory surveys of physics. For first- or second-year students who are possible physics, mathematics, or chemistry majors or who may wish to take further courses in physics, the recommended sequence is Physics 140 (Classical Physics), Physics 145 (Modern Physics) and Physics 240 (Fields and Spacetime) plus their co-requisite lab courses. These courses provide a complete survey of physics in three semesters, which is the norm in introductory level physics for physical science and engineering students at most universities. For upper-level students, particularly pre-medical students, there is a more compressed survey of physics available: Physics 130 (General Physics I) and Physics 135 (General Physics II). This sequence is only appropriate for upperclass students, due to its quicker pace. No first-year students are permitted to enroll in these courses

All of these courses have required labs; one may not register for the course without also registering for a section of the co-requisite lab. The co-requisite course for:

  • Physics 140 is either Physics 141 (first-years) or Physics 131 (upper-class students)
  • Physics 145 is Physics 146
  • Physics 240 is Physics 241
  • Physics 130 is Physics 131
  • Physics 135 is Physics 136

Physics 140 also has a co-requisite of Math 111 (Calculus 1) or its equivalent, since some calculus will be used in the lectures. Physics 145 has a co-requisite of Math 112 (Calculus 2), and Physics 240 has a co-requisite of Math 213 (Calculus 3), for the same reason.

Physics 141 (First Year Seminar in Physics) is designed to introduce entering students to an area of contemporary physics research. The topic varies from year to year; in the past, the seminar has explored topics such as material science, nanoscience, astrophysics, particle physics, biological physics and gravitation. We strongly recommend this course for first-year students considering physics as a major; it is open ONLY to first-year students enrolled in or holding credit for Physics 140. It is the co-requisite lab for first-year students enrolling in Physics 240 due to advanced placement in physics and calculus (see below).

Co-requisite lab courses associated with all of the introductory physics courses provide students with opportunities to perform hands-on, quantitative explorations of physical principles related to their co-requisite courses.

Advanced Placement in Physics

Students with C-level AP Physics credit (i.e. those who scored either 4 or 5 on the Mechanics-C exam) may be eligible to enroll in Physics 240 (Fields and Spacetime) instead of Physics 140 in the fall semester, depending on the amount of experience the student has had in laboratory work and the calculus placement level of the student. Such students would then continue in physics by taking Physics 145 (Modern Physics) and 146 (Modern Physics Laboratory) in the spring semester. Several first-year students have successfully followed this route. Please note that first-year students who are permitted to take Physics 240 must also take Physics 141 (First-Year Seminar in Physics) as their co-requisite lab. Those continuing in physics beyond the first year would then take Physics 241 (Fields and Spacetime Laboratory) in their second year, after completing Physics 145 and 146. If you are interested in this option, please contact the Physics Department chair.

If you have any further questions about the courses or about what might be the best choice for you, please contact the department chair for advice.