The physics major offers a rigorous preparation in the intellectual developments of modern physics, along with extensive exposure to the mathematical and experimental techniques required to conduct basic and applied research in physics.
For the major, the department offers a set of required courses well-suited to prepare students for the most rigorous course of graduate study. These can be supplemented by elective courses in a variety of advanced topics. Although most majors go on to graduate work in physics, the intellectual skills acquired in the study of physics can also provide the basis for work in a variety of other scientific and nonscientific areas.
The physics concentration is for students who are interested in physics but are uncertain about graduate study in physics; for those who want to explore other subjects along with physics; for those who want to find a physics- or technology-related job after graduation; or for those who are considering a professional school such as law or medicine. The department helps concentrators custom design programs to ensure maximum flexibility in meeting students’ intellectual needs and career goals. With appropriate selection of courses, the concentrator can explore other subjects yet maintain the option of graduate study in physics.
Research is an extremely important component of the Columbia physics experience. Because the department has a very small student-to-faculty ratio, essentially all physics majors and concentrators engage in experimental, computational, or theoretical research under the close supervision of a faculty member during part, if not all, of their time at Columbia.