Physics Major

Department of Physics

Department Faculty

The Physics Program

The study of physics provides the basis for understanding the fundamental laws of the physical universe. The principles of physics underlie other natural sciences and are essential to many applied sciences and technical programs. The physics program’s goal is to expose students to a broad range of physical phenomena. In doing so, the program strives to meet the needs of students who will become specialists in physics, as well as numerous related fields. A secondary aim is to satisfy the interest of students who take physics to fulfill a general education requirement.

Senior majors may participate in undergraduate research, which could qualify as an honor thesis and/or result in a presentation at a local or national conference. The Society of Physics Students and its honorary society, Sigma Pi Sigma, have sponsored guest speakers and field trips to national laboratories and conferences. Physics is a major for students interested in challenging, exciting, and productive careers in fields such as: acoustics, astronomy, astrophysics, atomic physics, biophysics, chemical physics, fluid dynamics, geophysics, low-temperature physics, medical physics, materials science, nuclear physics, optics, particle physics, physics education, plasma physics, solid state physics, spectroscopy and vacuum physics. Graduates have gone on to successful careers as researchers, educators, engineers, etc.

Physics Course Offerings

Physics course offerings will be found under the 4 letter code of PHYS in the course listings.

101, 102 – General Physics w/Lab (4,4)

Prerequisite: PHYS 101 for PHYS 102. An introductory course covering the fundamentals of physics. Primarily for non-science majors. Emphasis on building concepts and applying principles. Topics discussed: classical mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity, and magnetism, optics, and special relativity. Facility with algebra and trigonometry is required. Only in sequence. Laboratory.

103 – Elementary Astronomy w/Lab (4)

An introductory course in astronomy emphasizing the study of the solar system. The course is primarily for non-science majors. The content covers seasons, eclipses, planetary and lunar motion, planetology and the relevant laws of physics. Laboratory.

104 – Elementary Astronomy (3)

Prerequisite: PHYS 103. A continuation of introductory astronomy emphasizing the study of stars and stellar evolution, quasars and galaxies. The cosmology of the universe for nonscience majors starts with detailed descriptions of our Sun and ends with the search or dark energy, dark matter and the accelerating universe. Recent developments covered.

105, 106 – University Physics w/Lab (4,4)

Prerequisite: PHYS 105 for PHYS 106. Co-requisites: MATH 121 for PHYS 105 and MATH 122 for PHYS 106. Calculus based introductory course primarily for science students. Topics covered: classical mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity, magnetism, optics and some modern physics. Only in sequence. Laboratory.

108 – General Physics (3)

Prerequisite: PHYS 101. The continuation of introductory physics. Primarily for non-science majors. Emphasis on building concepts and applying principles. Topics covered: electricity and magnetism, optics, atomic physics and special relativity. Facility with algebra and trigonometry is required.

110 – University Physics (3)

Prerequisite: PHYS 105. Co-requisite: Mathematics 122. A continuation of the calculus based introductory physics course. Primarily for science majors. Topics covered: electricity and magnetism, optics and some modern physics.

201– Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics (3)

Prerequisite: PHYS 106. Temperature, thermodynamic states and variables, the laws of thermodynamics, entropy, thermodynamic potentials, change of phase, and the statistical properties of thermodynamic systems.

210 – Nuclear Physics (3)

Prerequisites: PHYS 106 and MATH 122. Topics include: nuclear structure, static and dynamic properties of the nucleus, radioactive decay, the Bateman equation, mass parabolas, transition rates, and particle accelerators.

211 – Modern Physics (3)

Prerequisites: PHYS 106 and MATH 122; Covers development of 20th century physics – special relativity, introduction to quantum mechanics, wave-particle duality, nuclear, atomic and molecular structure.

283 – Electronics w/Lab (4)

Prerequisite: PHYS 106 and MATH 122. Basic circuit theory, network filters, power supplies, nonlinear devices and basic digital circuit theory; experiments using linear and nonlinear elements. Laboratory.

292 – Optics w/Lab (4)

Prerequisite: PHYS 106 and MATH 122. Introduction to topics in geometrical and physical optics: reflection, refraction, superposition, interference, diffraction, polarization, laser systems, and holography. Laboratory.

317 – Methods of Mathematical Physics (3)

Prerequisites: PHYS 106 and MATH 122; Recommended: MATH 224; or permission of the instructor. Development of methodologies needed to study advanced physics: vectors and matrix algebra, vector calculus, differential equations, orthogonal functions, complex numbers, Fourier series, probability distributions, and numerical methods.

320 – Classical Mechanics I w/Lab (4)

Prerequisites: PHYS 211 and MATH 224; Co-requisite: MATH 312. Recommended: PHYS 317. General kinematics and dynamics of single particles and systems of particles in three dimensions, harmonic motion, central forces, conservation laws, Lagrange and Hamiltonian mechanics. Laboratory.

330 – Electricity and Magnetism I w/Lab (4)

Prerequisites: PHYS 211 and MATH 224 and 312; Recommended: PHYS 317. Development of electric and magnetic static properties in vacuum and matter, electrodynamics and Maxwell’s equations. Laboratory.

384 – Advanced Physics Laboratory (4)

Prerequisite: PHYS 211. Recommended: PHYS 292. Experiments relevant to 20th century physics: electron’s charge and mass, charge quantization, atomic spectra, microwave properties, speed of light, intensity and attenuation of radiation.

410 – Quantum Mechanics I w/Lab (4)

Prerequisites: PHYS 211 and MATH 224 and 312. Recommended: PHYS 317. Introduction to basic principles of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics: wave packets, uncertainty principle, wave functions, Schrodinger equation, harmonic oscillator and hydrogen atom. Laboratory.

471 – Selected Topics in Physics (1 – 3)

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Specialized topics in physics not offered on a regular basis, such as particle physics, atomic and molecular spectroscopy, general relativity advanced classical physics and advanced quantum physics.

472 – Solid State Physics (3)

Prerequisite: PHYS 211. Introduces the physics of solids – elementary materials science; electrical, optical and magnetic properties of materials; the modern theory of solids (band theory, Fermi energy and surfaces, phonon behavior); fundamental semiconductor characteristics and device physics.

482 – Physics Seminar (2)

A capstone course for senior physics majors only. Students give oral presentations on selected topics in physics.

491, 492 – Individual Study (1–3, 1–3)

Open to junior and senior physics majors. May repeat for Honors in Physics at four credits each semester.

499 – Internship (Credits Variable)

Supervised off-campus experience, developed in consultation with the department.

Credit for only one introductory physics sequence (101-102, 101-108, 103-104, 105-106 or 105-110) can be counted toward the degree requirement.

Requirements for the Physics Major

Forty-one (41) credits as follows: Thirty-two (32) credits from Physics 105, 106, 211, 317, 320, 330, 384, 410, and 482; at least nine (9) credits from Physics 201, 210, 283, 292, 471, and 472.