Physics is an appropriate major for students with career interests in such areas as physics, astronomy, atmospheric science, engineering, materials science, or nuclear science as well as medicine and dentistry in some cases. It can also be a valuable second major for students in such diverse areas as mathematics, chemistry, computer science, biology, geography, economics, and business. An interdepartmental major combining any of these areas with physics can be designed to match specific student interests.
As a physics major, you’ll begin with the fundamentals and then develop progressively advanced knowledge of both theoretical and experimental physics. You’ll also learn sound research methods and technical writing skills, which are essential in the academic and business worlds.
All physics majors complete at least one full course of independent study or research during their final four terms. This period is intended to give them a chance to draw together the material they have been studying and bring it to bear on a particular project. By working closely with a faculty member on such a project, students learn how to focus their ideas toward a goal while developing skills necessary for more independent work after graduation.
Requirements for the Major
For a major in physics, seven courses beyond the basic sequence are required plus one course of independent study or research (PHY 492, 494, 451, or Honors 404). The preferred sequence is:
PHY 121 and 122 General Physics I and II, followed by
PHY 301 Atomic Physics
PHY 302 Nuclear and Particle Physics
PHY 311 Analytical Mechanics
PHY 312 Electricity and Magnetism
PHY 313 Thermodynamics
PHY 414 Modern Optics
PHY 421 Quantum Theory
Calculus I, II and III (MTH 151, 152, 251) and Differential Equations (MTH 341) or their equivalents must also be completed.
When appropriate, PHY 111 and 112 may be accepted in lieu of PHY 121 and 122 with the consent of the department chair. Students who qualify for advanced placement may receive credit for all or part of the introductory sequence.
Recommendations for the Major
PHY 221 General Physics III, MTH 342 Applied Analysis, and MTH 346 Statistics for Scientists are strongly recommended. For many students, this leads to a mathematics minor or to a double major. Introductory courses in chemistry (CHM 211 and 212), computer science (CS 201, 220, 315, and IS 221), and PHY 370 Physical Electronics are also recommended.