The Physics Department

Major & Minor

Physics provides the fundamental understanding of all things in the natural world, from the smallest subatomic particles to the largest astronomical objects in the universe. Students of physics develop strong problem-solving and analytical skills. The knowledge and skills obtained from the study of physics are a fundamental part of a liberal arts education. Physics is also the most basic science and provides the foundation of understanding on which all the sciences are built. Consequently, physics knowledge and skills are essential for future work in any area of science. Physics is both an experimental and a mathematical science. The application of mathematics to physics has been extremely successful. Thus, physics courses provide a rich source of examples and valuable techniques for those interested in mathematics.

A physics major prepares the student for:

  • graduate study in physics or most engineering disciplines
  • a technical career in industry, government or the military
  • a career in many fields in which problem-solving and analytical skills are needed
  • a teaching career in secondary school physics or middle school science after completing Teacher Education courses and certification requirements

Physics Major & Minor

At least 36 hours of physics courses and 20 hours of cognate courses are required for the physics major. Required courses include:

  • Physics 201: University Physics I
  • Physics 202: University Physics II
  • Physics 303: Theoretical Physics I
  • Physics 304: Theoretical Physics II
  • Physics 310: Experimental Physics I
  • Physics 311: Experimental Physics II
  • Physics 410: Electronics
  • Physics 421: Mechanics I
  • Physics 451: Thermal Physics
  • Physics 460: Electricity & Magnetism
  • Physics 490: Quantum Mechanics I
  • Physics 575: Writing the Senior Thesis
  • Chemistry 101: General Chemistry I
  • Chemistry 102: General Chemistry II
  • Mathematics 120: Calculus I
  • Mathematics 220: Calculus II
  • Mathematics 320: Multivariable Calculus

Physics majors must also take at least one course chosen from:

  • Physics 470: Advanced Experimental Physics - Mechanics & Light
  • Physics 471: Advanced Experimental Physics - X-Ray & Nuclear Physics
  • Physics 472: Advanced Experimental Physics - Electricity & Magnetism
  • Physics 480: Research in Magnetism

And an at least one additional course chosen from:

  • Physics 507: Nuclear & Atomic Physics
  • Physics 509: Light
  • Physics 511: Quantum Mechanics II
  • Physics 520: Condensed Matter Physics

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) comprehensive physics test and the ETS Physics Assessment Test are also required. An acceptable score on the GRE physics test must be received by April 15 of the senior year. The ETS Physics Assessment Test will be given by the Department during the major’s senior year. Physics seniors also complete the Senior Survey.

Physics course times are usually scheduled or arranged to allow interested physics majors to complete a second major.

The senior thesis topic should be determined and submitted to the Department for approval by the end of the junior year preferably or earlier. Physics 480 or discussions with faculty members will help in the choice of a topic. During the first semester of the senior year, the student should take Physics 597 and carry out the proposed research. Physics 575 should then be taken during the second semester of the senior year for defending the research results and the actual writing of the thesis.

Minor

A physics minor is a highly desirable addition to the course of study for all other majors. The physics minor will augment the coursework taken by mathematics, chemistry and biology majors because of the close relationship of physics to these subjects. A physics minor requires 21 hours, including:

  • Physics 201: University Physics I
  • Physics 202: University Physics II
  • Physics 303: Theoretical Physics I
  • Physics 304: Theoretical Physics II
  • Physics 310: Experimental Physics I
  • Physics 311: Experimental Physics II

The remaining five hours will be taken from courses required for the physics major.