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 the 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 to present data in a 10-minute talk, and learn to prepare reports in a format suitable for professional journal publication. Physics majors will graduate with an excellent skill set for further scientific research or graduate school.
All majors are strongly encouraged to get involved in research with a member of the faculty, as there is no better way to learn physics. Students who do well in their courses and are engaged in research within the department typically have a very good acceptance rate to 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, and the University of Texas at Austin, all with full paid scholarships.
The physics program is small, but it has a dedicated faculty that teach all lectures and discussion sections, which students will not find at larger institutions. The department features a renovated machine shop, an updated introductory laboratory, and a "physics lounge" where students socialize and learn physics.
Minimum number of credits in physics and related areas (exclusive of the University's Core Curriculum) required for the physics major: 66. A student majoring in physics must take 43 credit hours of physics courses including requirements and electives as outlined below. In addition, the major requires 15 credits of mathematics courses, 8 credits of chemistry courses, and a demonstration of competency in computer programming.
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.
Required Physics courses: (40 credits)
PHY 114, 116 Introductory Physics Laboratory I and II
PHY 121, 123 General Physics I and II
PHY 211, 213 Modern Physics I and II
PHY 240 Intermediate Laboratory I
PHY 261 Computational Physics
PHY 314 Statistical and Thermal Physics
PHY 321, 323 Classical Mechanics I and II
PHY 331, 333 Electrodynamics I and II
PHY 341 Quantum Mechanics
The capstone requirement can be satisfied by taking either PHY 242 Intermediate Laboratory II or by completing an approved research project with a department faculty member.
Required Mathematics courses: (16 credits)
MAT 152 Calculus A
MAT 153 Calculus B
MAT 252 Calculus C
MAT 350 Differential Equations
Required Chemistry courses: (9 credits)
CHY 113, 114 Principles of Chemistry I and Lab
CHY 115, 116 Principles of Chemistry II and Lab
Electives: (3 credits)
In addition to the required courses, students must take at least one course listed below.
PHY 251 Principles of Electronics
PHY 281 Astrophysics
PHY 375 Optics
For the best overall Financial Aid package, submit your USM application and complete your FAFSA by January 15. However, you can apply at any time. Undergraduate applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.
A major in physics prepares students to think critically about the world and provides a fundamental understanding about how things work. A degree in physics is mandatory for graduate school, but it also is excellent preparation for many engineering jobs, computing, medical physics, and a host of other technical careers. For more information, visit the American Institute of Physics site.