The overarching goal of the physics program is to train students—majors and non-majors alike—to think like a physicist, the hallmarks of which include: striving for fundamental explanations that have broad predictive power; appreciating that quantitative analysis is necessary for proper understanding; simplifying physical situations to their essentials to enable the development of mathematical models to explain and predict experimental data; and comparing experimental data from the natural world to theory.
To achieve this goal, we offer courses for physics majors who intend to further their study of physics or any STEM field in graduate school, as well as those physics majors who intend to go into law, consulting, financial services, technology industries, teaching, or any number of fields. Many students enroll in our introductory courses as a compulsory requirement of their STEM major; to satisfy a requirement for admission into medical school; or because they appreciate the quantitative training and intrinsic value offered by a basic understanding of modern physics. The director of undergraduate studies can help students prepare for graduate school in physics by recommending appropriate electives to supplement the core courses. Research experience (PHYS 469, 470, 471, and 472) is an important aspect of preparing for graduate school.
The department offers two majors in Physics: the B.S. and the B.S. intensive major. Students in either program acquire advanced training in physics, mathematics, and related topics through the core courses. They use electives to design individualized programs with more depth or breadth, depending on their interests. Both degree programs require some research experience. PHYS 469 and PHYS 470, introductory research courses, are open to all students. Juniors and seniors, as part of the senior requirement, are required to enroll in PHYS 471 and 472—one term for the B.S. degree and two terms for the B.S. degree, intensive major. Combined majors are available in Mathematics and Physics; Astrophysics; Physics and Philosophy; and Physics and Geosciences.