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Director of Undergraduate Studies
201 Physics Building
Faculty Cristian Armendariz-Picon, Marina Artuso, A. Balachandran, Stefan Ballmer, Steven Blusk, Mark Bowick, Duncan Brown, Simon Catterall, Martin B. Forstner, Kenneth Foster, Jay Hubisz, Matthew LaHaye, Edward D. Lipson, M. Cristina Marchetti, Alan Middleton, Liviu Movileanu, Britton Plourde, Carl Rosenzweig, Peter Saulson, Joseph Schechter, Eric A. Schiff, Richard Schnee, Jennifer Schwarz, Tomasz Skwarnicki, Mitchell Soderberg, Paul Souder, Sheldon Stone, Gianfranco Vidali, Scott Watson

Physicists idealize the behavior of matter and energy in terms of mathematical representations called the “fundamental laws of nature” and seek to explain the properties of nuclei, atoms, molecules, and systems of these particles (gases, liquids, crystals, etc.). Undergraduate courses provide a background in classical physics, quantum mechanics, and laboratory techniques.

The department offers coursework leading to either a B.A. or a B.S. degree. The major leading to the B.S. degree is modeled on the recommendations of the American Physical Society for students intending to pursue graduate work in physics. Students submit a petition to receive a B.S. in physics and should consult the director of undergraduate studies concerning required courses. For information about certification to teach physics at the secondary school level, see “Education/Arts and Sciences (dual program)” in this section of the catalog.

Other information about physics can be found on the Internet at


The B.A. degree in physics is an important accomplishment for students considering careers in such widely varying areas as law, journalism, corporate management, and teaching. In all of these fields a liberal education incorporating serious study of a scientific discipline is an asset.

• Development of analytical and computational skills through the study of advanced undergraduate physics.
• Development of written and verbal communication skills, including the specialized skills required for the communication of technical information.
• Development of a broad understanding of the role of science and technology in modern life. The bachelor of arts degree requires completion of at least 30 credits of physics and astronomy courses.

Eight credits of lower-division courses are required:

Eighteen credits of upper-division physics and astronomy courses are required, including:

The B.S. degree is intended to provide a deep understanding of physical principles and the ability to solve challenging technical problems. Many students who complete the B.S. pursue graduate work in physics or other scientific or engineering disciplines or medical school, while others directly go on to use these skills in a variety of technically-oriented careers.

The B.S. degree in physics requires at least 39 credits of physics course work, including at least 30 credits of upper-division courses (numbered 300 or above). The required course work for the B.S. includes:

31 credits in PHY courses:

  • PHY 211 (or 215), PHY 212 (or 216) and laboratory PHY 221, 222 [4 + 4]
  • PHY 344 – Experimental Physics I [4]
  • PHY 360 – Vibrations, Waves & Optics [3]
  • PHY 361 – Modern Physics [3]
  • PHY 424 - Electricity and Magnetism  I   [3]
  • PHY 523 – Advanced Mechanics [3]   
  • PHY 531 – Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics  [3]   
  • PHY 567  - Quantum Mechanics I  [4]

15-18 credits in Mathematics:

3 credits in Computing:

  • PHY 307 Science and Computers [3],
    or an approved course from ECS, such as ECS 102 or ECS 104, chosen in consultation with your advisor  (If PHY 307 is taken, it counts toward 39 total PHY credits.)

5-8 elective PHY credits:

  • Additional elective courses chosen in consultation with your advisor. (PHY307 may be used toward elective credits.)

While not required for the B.S, students interested in pursuing graduate study in physics are strongly encouraged to pursue additional course work in consultation with their academic advisor.

Students are also encouraged to take an introductory lecture and lab course from another scientific discipline, including chemistry, biology, or earth science.

For sample syllabi, see the departmental web page:


Sophisticated biophysical technologies are increasingly employed in medicine and other health professions; examples include ultrasound, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, fiberoptic endoscopy, and laser surgery. Moreover, the rapidly advancing knowledge in the biomedical fields depend on biophysical concepts and methods, notably electrophysiology, pharmacological kinetics, and biomolecular structure determination. Accordingly, there is need for health care professionals and life scientists with ample training in the physical as well as biological sciences.

The following interdisciplinary option under the B.S. in physics is designed for students who are adept at the mathematical problem solving and conceptual aspects of physics, and who are interested in careers in biology, biological physics, medical physics, or medicine. Students with demonstrated proficiency in both physical and biological sciences will have special advantages not only for admission to and performance in graduate and professional schools, but also for their subsequent careers. More specifically, such training would be particularly relevant for the following fields of medicine: cardiology, neurology, ophthalmology, and radiology.

The following course sequence and variations meet the general prerequisites for medical school admission established by the Association of American Medical Colleges and also apply for careers in most of the other health professions. Credits are shown in square brackets and laboratory courses are indicated in bold face. Courses preceded by an asterisk are specifically required for admission to most medical schools.

First Year
General Physics I (PHY 211 [3])
Physics Laboratory (PHY 221 [1])
General Physics II (PHY 212 [3])
Physics Laboratory II (PHY 222 [1])
General Chemistry I (CHE 106 [3])
General Chemistry I - Lab (CHE 107[1])
General Chemistry II (CHE 116 [3])
General Chemistry II - Lab (CHE 117 [1])
Calculus I (MAT 295 [4])
Calculus II(MAT 296 [4])

Second Year
General Biology w/Lab (BIO 121 [4])
General Biology w/Lab (BIO 123 [3] / BIO 124 [1])
Organic Chemistry (CHE 275 [3])
Organic Chemistry - Lab (CHE 276 [2])
Organic Chemistry (CHE 285 [3])
Organic Chemistry - Lab (CHE 286 [2])
Calculus III (MAT 397 [4])

Third Year
Vibrations, Waves & Optics (PHY 360 [3])
Modern Physics (PHY 361 [3])
Experimental Physics I (PHY 344 [4])
Biological and Medical Physics (PHY 315 [3])
Genetics and Cell Biology I or II (BIO 326 or
BIO 327 [3])
Structural and Physical Biochemistry (CHE 474 [3])

Fourth Year
Electromagnetics I (PHY 424/ELE 324 [3])
Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics (PHY 531 [3])
Differential Equations and Matrix Algebra
(MAT 485 [3])

Seven or more credits should be selected from the following courses:
BIO 475 [2] Biochemistry Lab
BIO 575 [3] Biochemistry I
ELE 524 [3] Applied Optics (w/lab)
MAT 517 [3] PDEs and Fourier Series
PHY 444 [3] Soft Matter
PHY 462 [4] Experimental Physics II
PHY 425 [3] Electromagnetics II
PHY 523 [3] Advanced Mechanics
PHY 567 [4] Quantum Mechanics
PHY 576 [3] Solid-State Physics

Note: Honors Program students should register for research in a biophysics laboratory, under the auspices of BIO 460[3], CHE 450[3], or PHY 490[3]. For students intending to apply to M.D./ Ph.D. programs, such experience in a ¬biophysics research laboratory is strongly -recommended.