Plan Your Major

Physics major

The Physics Major is at a minimum comprised of eight 4-credit courses:

  • PHYS 226, Principles of Physics I (includes a lab)
  • PHYS 227, Principles of Physics II (includes a lab)
  • PHYS 331, Modern Physics (includes a lab)
  • PHYS 348, Lab Instrumentation (includes a lab)
  • PHYS 443, Electromagnetic Theory
  • PHYS 461, Classical Mechanics
  • PHYS 468, Statistical Mechanics
  • PHYS 481, Quantum Mechanics,

 and one 1-credit course:

  • PHYS 489, Senior Seminar.

In addition, the mathematics courses

  • MATH 137, Single Variable Calculus
  • MATH 236, Linear Algebra
  • MATH 237, Multivariable Calculus
  • MATH 331, Differential Equations

are pre-requisites for core curriculum physics courses. Incoming students whose high school calculus background does not place them directly into MATH 137 (Single Variable Calculus) should first take MATH 135 (Applied Calculus).

Many physics courses require prerequisites or co-requisites. Please consult the course dependency charts for the major and the major with an astronomy emphasis. Sample schedules are also available for students considering the physics major.

Students who are contemplating a Physics and Astronomy major should plan to take PHYS 331 (Modern Physics) in the fall semester of their sophomore year if possible. Modern Physics is a gateway course that is required for most upper level physics courses. It is only offered in the fall semester. Sections of the introductory physics course PHYS 226 (Principles of Physics I) are only offered in the fall, but PHYS 227 (Principles of Physics II) is offered in both the fall and spring semesters. Note that the core curriculum courses form just the minimum required course work to obtain a Physics degree. Majors who are planning to go on to graduate physics, astronomy, or engineering programs are encouraged to broaden their base by taking elective and special topics courses when they are offered by the department.

Apart from the core curriculum course work, physics majors also are required to engage in an original research project. Most majors fulfill this requirement in the summer between their Junior and Senior year.

Physics with Astronomy emphasis major

The Physics major with Astronomy emphasis is identical to the Physics major, with the following modifications:

  • PHYS 348 (Laboratory Instrumentation) is replaced by PHYS 440 (Observational Astronomy)
  • PHYS 481 (Quantum Mechanics) is replaced by PHYS 460 (Astrophysics).  

It is suggested that students interested in the Astronomy emphasis enroll in PHYS 113 (Modern Astronomy) and PHYS 120 (Astronomical Techniques) before enrolling in PHYS 440 (Observational Astronomy) or PHYS 460 (Astrophysics); both PHYS 113 (Modern Astronomy) and PHYS 120 (Astronomical Techniques) are only offered in the fall semesters. 

It is strongly recommended that astronomy emphasis students take PHYS 481 (Quantum Mechanics) in addition to PHYS 440 (Observational Astronomy) and PHYS 460 (Astrophysics).

Physics Minor

The department also offers a minor consisting of 5 courses:

  • PHYS 226, (Principles of Physics I)
  • PHYS 227, (Principles of Physics II)
  • PHYS 331, (Modern Physics)
  • any two physics and astronomy courses numbered above 331.