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Academic Bulletin Department of Physics - 2014-15

Currently viewing 2014-15 bulletin

Department of Physics

Faculty in the Department of Physics: James Brown (chair), Dennis Krause, Martin Madsen, Danielle McDermott

Physics is the study of the fundamental laws that govern our universe. Our curriculum is designed to give our students a solid foundation for understanding these laws and how they were uncovered. The language that best expresses these laws is mathematical, so there are a significant number of mathematics courses which serve as prerequisites for our courses. However, since physics describes the real world, our curriculum also incorporates a significant laboratory component to ensure our students will learn how to interrogate Nature and  understand the answers it gives. Only by balancing theoretical concepts with experimental reality can one reach a more complete understanding of the world.

Our physics majors and minors will master valuable analysis and problem-solving skills, which can be applied to a wide variety of situations beyond physics. By integrating these skills with their liberal arts experiences, our students are prepared for a vast spectrum of careers. Recent graduates have gone on to work in physics research, engineering, computer programming, teaching, environmental studies, law, business, and other fields.

For Senior Comprehensives: Majors must pass a multi-part exam which requires them to demonstrate a coherent understanding of all the major areas of physics covered in the required courses, including computational and laboratory methods, and the ability to apply this understanding to solve specific problems.  Students must have completed PHY 111, 112, 209, 210, PHY 381, and two out of three 300-level theory courses (PHY 310, 314, 315) prior to taking the exam.

Requirements for a Major: Nine course credits in physics. These must include PHY 111, 112, 209, 210, 381, and 382. Of the four remaining physics course credits, two must come from the following set of advanced courses: PHY 310, 314, and 315. PHY 101, 104, and 105 do not count toward the major unless supplemented by additional work that must receive prior approval by the course instructor and the physics department chair. Students accepted into a 3-2 engineering program may substitute CHE 111 for the one elective physics course. Those planning to go on to graduate school in physics should plan to take PHY 230, 310, 314, and 315. In addition, mathematics courses that are prerequisites or co-requisites for physics courses are MAT 111 (or 110), 112, 223, 224, and 225. Although not required, CSC 111 is highly recommended, and MAT 324 and 344 are useful. Since physics is a hierarchical subject, it is important to take PHY 111 and 112 during the freshman year if one wishes to major in physics. A possible schedule to fulfill all of the necessary requirements:


Fall Semester 


 Spring Semester




PHY 111
MAT 111


PHY 112
MAT 112



PHY 209
MAT 223


PHY 210
MAT 224



PHY elective
PHY 381
MAT 225


PHY elective
PHY 382


PHY elective

PHY elective


Elective courses regularly offered in the fall semester include PHY 220/230 (alternate years), PHY 310, and PHY 315, while regularly taught spring semester courses include PHY 314. In addition, Special Topics Courses 277 or 377 may be offered in the fall, and 278 or 378 in the spring, depending on student interest and instructor availability.

Requirements for a Minor: Five courses in physics, that must include PHY 111, 112, 209, and 210 with appropriate prerequisites. Any exceptions must receive prior approval from the department chair. PHY 101, 104, and 105 do not count toward the minor unless supplemented by additional work that must receive prior approval by the course instructor and the physics department chair. Mathematics prerequisites (or co-requisites) are MAT 111 (or 110) and 112.

Secondary Licensure Program: The Department of Education Studies offers a minor in Education Studies, and an additional licensure preparation program for students interested in becoming licensed to teach at the secondary level (middle and high school grades 5-12).  With a major in this department and a minor in Education Studies, students may also choose to complete the licensure preparation program by applying in the spring of the junior year.  For more information about the licensure program, students are advised to meet with faculty in the Department of Education Studies.   Requirements for the minor and licensure preparation program are outlined in the Department of Education Studies section of the Academic Bulletin.