The study of physics is an attempt to understand the physical universe in as fundamental a way as possible. It examines the mathematical relationships that exist among the physical entities of the world, and, in particular, tries to discover the general principles that govern the behavior of the macroscopic and microscopic universe. At the core of the inquiry are the questions, "What is the world made of?" and "How does it work?" An undergraduate major in physics provides students with an education that prepares them for a variety of entry-level positions, as well as for postgraduate study in physics and allied fields.
More than 90 percent of recent graduates have continued their education, the majority of these working toward doctorates in physics and others pursuing advanced degrees in computer science, medicine, or the law. Because their number is relatively small, physics majors quickly become integral to the department. Beginning as freshmen, majors meet weekly in an informal seminar with faculty to explore a variety of topics. By their sophomore year, most majors have become involved in the research life of the department. Currently, students are participating in projects in such fields as astrophysics, nuclear physics, x-ray astronomy, biophysics, and laser spectroscopy. Most physics majors pursue a Bachelor of Science program (a Bachelor of Arts program is also possible), in which there is considerable flexibility.
The major takes a sequence of 14 required courses in physics and mathematics that includes studies in classical and modern physics, analytical dynamics, electromagnetic theory, statistical physics, quantum mechanics, and calculus. Eight program electives in physics, mathematics, and related fields complete the major. These courses, together with the four free elective courses, enable the student, in consultation with his or her adviser, to develop specific areas of focus within the physics major. To ensure a well-rounded education the physics major also takes 14 courses in literature, languages, philosophy, religion, the social and behavioral sciences, and the humanities. Prior to acceptance as a physics major (normally in the spring of the sophomore year), a student is expected to have completed the following courses:
MATH 121 (Calculus I)
MATH 122 (Calculus II)
MATH 221 (Calculus III)
PHYS 215 (University Physics I) w/ PHYS 225 mechanics lab
PHYS 216 (University Physics II) w/ PHYS 226 electricity lab
And at least be concurrently taking the following courses:
MATH 222 (Differential Equations)
PHYS 406 (Intro. to Modern Physics)
A "B" average is expected in all of these courses.
Suggested Sequence of Courses
PHYS 215 - University Physics I: An introduction to mechanics.
PHYS 225 - Introductory Mechanics Lab: Usually taken with PHYS 215. Students complete labs that provide them with hands-on experience of the concepts they are discussing in PHYS 215.
MATH 121 - Calculus I
MATH 122 - Calculus II
One program elective
PHYS 216 - University Physics II: An introduction to electricity and magnetism.
PHYS 226 - Introductory Electricity Lab: Usually taken with PHYS 216. Students complete labs that provide them with hands-on experience of the concepts they are discussing in PHYS 216.
PHYS 406 - Modern Physics: An introduction to advanced physics, looks at relativity, and some of the beginnings of quantum mechanics.
MATH 221 - Calculus III
MATH 222 - Calculus IV Differential Equations
Two program electives
PHYS 411 - Mathematical Methods in Physics I: A more physics-based view of the important mathematical methods required for advanced study in physics.
PHYS 412 - Mathematical Methods in Physics II: the second half of the PHYS 511.
PHYS 425 - Thermodynamics & Statistical Physics: Classical thermodynamics and its relationship to the statistical description of macroscopic systems; basic probability notions, the Boltzmann distribution, elementary kinetic theory.
PHYS 431 - Quantum Mechanics I: Origin of quantum theory, Schrödinger theory of wave mechanics in one dimension, time-independent perturbation theory, application to the one-electron atom.
PHYS 432 - Quantum Mechanics II: Application of Schrödinger wave mechanics to single and multi-electron atoms. Angular momentum and spin; identical particles; time-dependent perturbation theory.
PHYS 435 - Analytical Mechanics: An intermediate course in particle dynamics.
PHYS 436 - Electricity and Magnetism: An intermediate course in electromagnetic theory with stress on physical concepts.
Five program electives
PHYS 451 - Senior Seminar I: Meets once a week over pizza and serves to help seniors prepare for their comprehensive exams, taken in the fall of one's senior year.
PHYS 452 - Senior Seminar II: The second half of the first seminar, taken in the spring of one's senior year.
Additional courses include courses on nanotechnology, biophysics, astrophysics, basic nuclear physics, solid-state physics, and material science, as well as courses from the Math and Chemistry Departments and the School of Engineering.