Department of Physics

BA in Physics

Students who major in physics are usually interested in the fundamental laws that describe how nature works. These laws are inherently mathematical in nature, so physics majors also are typically interested in and skilled at mathematics. Studying physics will educate students in the core areas of physics, from Newtonian Mechanics to Electromagnetism, Optics, and Quantum Mechanics. In addition, students will have advanced courses available from Optics, Electronics, Computational Physics, and Astrophysics. In their junior year, all physics majors take Intermediate Physics laboratory, where they work together in groups to perform more advanced laboratory experiments, learn more serious data and error analysis techniques, learn how to present data in a 10 minute talk, and learn how to typeset reports in a format suitable for professional journal publication. Physics majors will graduate with a good skill set for further scientific research or graduate school. Today, with computers playing such a vital role as tools to gather and analyze data, and to perform simulations, the department encourages students to take PHY 261 to satisfy their computing requirement.

All majors are strongly encouraged to get involved with research with a member of the faculty, as there is no better way to learn physics than being actively involved with research. Students who do well in their courses and are engaged in research within the department typically have a very good acceptance rate to graduate school Ph.D. programs in physics. Past graduates have attended graduate programs at State University of New York at Stony Brook, University of Rhode Island, Brandeis University, UCLA, Pennsylvania State University, all with full scholarships.

The physics program is small, but it has a dedicated faculty that teach all lectures and discussion sections, something that students will not find at larger institutions.

The minimum number of credits in physics and related areas (exclusive of the University's Core curriculum) required for the physics major: 61. A student majoring in physics must take 37 credit hours of physics courses including requirements and electives as outlined below. In addition, the major requires 16 credits of mathematics courses, 8 credits of chemistry courses, and a demonstration of competency in computer programming.

1. Required courses
     PHY 114, 116 Introductory Physics Laboratory I and II
     PHY 121, 123 General Physics I and II (PHY 111 may replace PHY 121 with Departmental permission)
     PHY 211, 213 Nonclassical Physics I and II
     PHY 221, 223, 225 Classical Physics I, II, and III
     PHY 240 Intermediate Laboratory I
     CHY 373 Chemical Thermodynamics

2. Electives
In addition to the required courses, students must take a minimum of 6 credits of physics courses numbered 200 or higher, 3 credits from each of groups A and B below.

Group A
     PHY 251 Principles of Electronics
     PHY 261 Computational Physics
     PHY 281 Astrophysics
     PHY 375 Optics

Group B
     PHY 242 Intermediate Laboratory II
     PHY 311 Quantum Mechanics

The physics major also must complete the following courses:
     MAT 152 Calculus A
     MAT 153 Calculus B
     MAT 252 Calculus C
     MAT 350 Differential Equations
     CHY 113 and 114 Principles of Chemistry I with Lab
     CHY 115 and 116 Principles of Chemistry II with Lab

Suggestions for demonstrating competency in computer programming include:
     PHY 261 Computational Physics (recommended)
     COS 160 and 170 Structured Problem Solving: Java  

To graduate as a physics major, a student must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 in all courses that satisfy the major requirement, and a minimum overall GPA of 2.0.

A major in physics prepares you to think critically about the world, and provides you with a fundamental understanding about how things work. A degree in physics is mandatory for graduate school, but also is excellent preparation for many engineering jobs, computing, medical physics, and a host of other technical careers. You can find more information at the American Institute of Physics site.