Why is the sky blue? Why is water wet? In seeking to understand natural phenomena as simply as possible, physicists have made a remarkable discovery: whatever questions they ask, the answers ultimately involve the same elegant principles of energy and momentum, mass and charge. Physicists seek and study rhythms and patterns among natural phenomena, including those that are readily apparent (like the orbits of planets) and those that are apparent only to deep analysis and careful observation (like the quantum transitions of atoms). Abetted by the power of mathematics, they ultimately comprehend and express the fundamental regularities of the physical universe in uniquely human metaphors. In this way, the universe comes to know itself in human terms.
A physics major provides a rigorous grounding in the scientific process and a firm scientific understanding of the world. It fosters critical thinking and provides broad practical training in science and technology. It can lead to graduate study and basic research (in a variety of disciplines), to stimulating jobs in industry, or to challenging and rewarding careers in teaching. Our faculty are engaged in original research and our students are drawn early into collaborative research projects with faculty.
Formally, the physics major requires:
Physics 203 & 204 & 205 (3 semesters of introductory physics)
Physics 220 or 230 (1 semester of applied physics)
Physics 208 & 301 & 302 & 304 (4 semesters of advanced physics)
Physics 303 or 305 or 320 or 350 or 377 (1 semester of advanced physics elective)
Physics 401 (Junior Independent Study)
Physics 451 & 452 (Senior Independent Study thesis)
The Foundations sequence (Physics 203-204) is a prerequisite for the selection of physics as a major and is best taken the first year. (One can still complete the major if the sequence is taken the second year.) The Calculus sequence (Mathematics 111-112) must be taken at least concurrently with the Foundations sequence. Mathematics 107 & 108 can substitute for Mathematics 111. Those students considering graduate study in physics should also take Physics 350, Mathematics 211 (Linear Algebra), Chemistry 111-112 (Introductory Chemistry), and as many advanced physics courses as can be scheduled.
For students interested in engineering, physics is a natural major to combine with the 3-2 engineering program, which is described under Pre-Professional Programs. However, such students must complete enough physics in three years to complete the major in the fourth year, if necessary.
Physics majors cannot use S/NC grading option for the required courses, and the department recommends they not use it for any course in physics, mathematics, or chemistry. Physics 101-102, 110, 121, and 122 do not count toward a physics major (except by special permission of the department).
The physics minor requires Physics 203, 204, 205, and three other physics courses (but not Physics 101-102 and only one of which can be 110, 121, of 122). Physics minors can use the S/NC grading option for no more than two of the required courses.
Advanced Placement. A student may receive credit by obtaining
a score of 4 or 5 in the following:
Physics C - Mechanics
Physics C - Electricity and Magnetism
Students need to check with the chairperson of the department to determine if they will receive one or two credits toward graduation and at what level they should begin their college courses. The advanced placement policy of the College is explained in the section on Admission.
Students who have taken a college level physics course (other than Advanced Level or AP Exam) and would like to place beyond the first physics course need to take a placement exam that the chairperson administers.
No student may receive credit for both 101 and 203 or 102 and 204.
The laboratory and classroom components are closely integrated in physics courses with a laboratory and must therefore be taken concurrently. The course grade and the laboratory grade will be identical and are based on performance in both components; the relative weight of the two components will be stated in each course syllabus.
101. GENERAL PHYSICS Mechanics, heat, wave motion and sound. For students who do not intend to major in physics. Students who have completed one semester of calculus with a grade of C+ or better should take Physics 203. Three hours plus laboratory per week. Prerequisite: High school algebra and trigonometry. One and one-fourth course credits. Every year. Fall.
102. GENERAL PHYSICS Optics, electricity and magnetism, and atomic and nuclear physics. Prerequisite: Physics 101. Three hours plus laboratory. One and one-fourth course credits. Every year. Spring.
110. PHYSICS REVOLUTIONS Designed for non-science majors, this course explores how physics has revolutionized our understanding of the natural world. Revolutions include the unification of the terrestrial and the celestial in Newton's Mechanics; of electricity, magnetism and light in Maxwell's Electromagnetism; of space and time in Einstein's Theory of Relativity; of particles and waves in Quantum Mechanics. Prerequisite: High school algebra. One course credit. Occasionally. Spring.
121. ASTRONOMY OF STARS AND GALAXIES The brilliant and sometimes fuzzy objects in the night sky are dynamic, volatile stars and gigantic galaxies. We will study the general properties of stars as well as how they evolve from birth to death. We will also study the shape and composition of galaxies and the ultimate fate of our universe. Prerequisite: High school algebra and geometry. One course credit. Every year. Spring
122. ASTRONOMY OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM In just one generation, space exploration has revolutionized our understanding of the solar system. Planets, moons, asteroids and comets have been transformed from obscure and remote objects with mythical names to remarkable and detailed real worlds. In this course, we will study the surprising new solar system that the Space Age continues to reveal. Prerequisite: High school algebra and geometry. One course credit. Not offered 2011-2012.
203. FOUNDATIONS OF PHYSICS Quantitative development of classical mechanics and thermodynamics. For students who intend to major in physics or chemistry or attend a professional school. Corequisite: Mathematics 111 (or Mathematics 107, but the latter does not enable one to continue immediately with Physics 204). Three hours per week plus laboratory. One and one-fourth course credits. Every year. Fall.
204. FOUNDATIONS OF PHYSICS Quantitative development of classical electromagnetism and optics. Prerequisite: Physics 203. Corequisite: Mathematics 112. Three hours per week plus laboratory. One and one-fourth course credits. Every year. Spring.
205. MODERN PHYSICS Space-time physics (relativity, gravitation) and quantum physics (the microworld). Prerequisite: Physics 204 (or Physics 102 with permission of the instructor). Three hours per week plus laboratory. One and one-fourth course credits. Every year. Fall.
208. MATHEMATICAL METHODS FOR THE PHYSICAL SCIENCES Introduces skills of differential equations, linear algebra, and Fourier nalysis essential to the physical sciences and engineering. Prerequisite: Physics 204, Mathematics 112, or permission of the instructor. One course credit. Every year. Spring.
220. ELECTRONICS FOR SCIENTISTS An introduction to the principles and applications of circuit components, operational amplifiers, oscillators, digital logic, analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog, and an introduction to LabVIEW. Prerequisite: Physics 102 or Physics 204 or permission of the instructor. Three hours plus one laboratory period per week. One and one-fourth course credit. Every second year. Fall.
230. COMPUTATIONAL PHYSICS A project-based introduction to computer simulation that develops increasingly sophisticated numerical models of physical systems in parallel with proficiency in either a modern computer language like C++ or in computational software like Mathematica. Corequisite: Physics 205 or permission of the instructor. Three hours plus one laboratory period per week. One and one-fourth course credit. Every second year. Fall.
301. MECHANICS Viscous forces, harmonic motion, rigid bodies, gravitation and small oscillations in Newtonian mechanics, Lagrange and Hamilton formulations, computer simulation and numerical methods. Prerequisites: Physics 203, Physics 208, Mathematics 212, or permission of the instructor. Three hours per week. One course credit. Every second year. Fall.
302. THERMAL PHYSICS Classical and quantum treatment of problems in thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. Prerequisite: Physics 205. Three hours per week. One course credit. Every second year. Spring.
303. MODERN OPTICS An introductory course in the basic concepts, principles, and theories of modern optics including lasers. Topics include wave optics, light and matter interactions, basic laser principles, holography, and specific optical systems. Prerequisite: Physics 205. Three hours per week. One course credit. Every third year.
304. ELECTRICITY AND MAGNETISM Introduction to classical field theory and Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism. Prerequisite: Physics 204, Physics 208, Mathematics 212, or permission of the instructor. Three hours per week. One course credit. Every second year.
305. PARTICLE PHYSICS An introduction to the concepts and techniques of nuclear and elementary particle physics. Prerequisite: Physics 205. Three hours per week. One course credit. Every third year.
320. ASTROPHYSICS A quantitative introduction to astronomy and astrophysics. Topics include classical astronomy; stellar structure, stellar atmospheres, and stellar evolution; galactic structure, cosmology, and cosmogony. Emphasis will be on quantitative application of physical theory to astronomical phenomena. Prerequisite: Physics 205. Three hours per week. One course credit. Every third year.
350. QUANTUM MECHANICS A rigorous introduction to the formalism and interpretation of microworld physics. Probability amplitudes, interference and superposition, identical particles and spin, 2-state systems, Schrodinger evolution, applications. Prerequisites: Physics 205, Physics 208, Mathematics 212, or permission of the instructor. Three hours per week. One course credit. Every second year. Spring.
377. SELECTED TOPICS Nonlinear Dynamics, Computational Physics, General Relativity, Condensed Matter, Quantum Field Theory, or other. Prerequisite: Physics 205. Three hours per week. One course credit. Topic and frequency depend on student interest.
401. INDEPENDENT STUDY Laboratory investigations in Mechanics, Thermal Physics, Optics, Quantum, Electricity and Magnetism. Techniques of statistics and data analysis, library utilization, computer interfacing and simulation. Prerequisites: Physics 208 and one of the following: Physics 301, 302, 303 or 304. One hour per week plus two laboratories. One course credit. Every year. Spring.
451,452. SENIOR INDEPENDENT STUDY THESIS