Physics

Overview

The Physics department provides an education in the fundamental processes of the physical world with thorough study in both the classroom and laboratory. After completion of the program, a physics student will have excellent analytical and problem-solving skills in addition to ample hands-on laboratory experience. The Physics major is excellent preparation for professional or graduate work in physics, engineering, and related fields. In addition, a physics major finds that he or she is an attractive applicant for medical, business, or law school, as well as having an excellent foundation for science teaching.

In addition to the full spectrum of undergraduate coursework, the department offers many opportunities to participate in research projects both on and off campus. Qualified students may begin research projects as early as their first year. Current research activities in the department include experimental efforts in Particle Astrophysics, Condensed Matter Physics, Plasma Physics, and theoretical efforts in Cosmology, Particle Physics, and Complex Systems. Departmental resources include well-equipped research and instructional laboratories, as well as laboratory space for qualified students to carry out independent investigations of their own. Many students have also participated in projects at nearby institutions such as the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Students who wish to do advanced work in physics or engineering should complete the introductory physics sequence (PHYS 110, PHYS 117, PHYS 120 and PHYS 240) as early as possible. These courses provide a foundation in both classical and modern physics. Fundamental understanding and procedures in analytical physics are stressed throughout. This sequence is recommended to all students who have an aptitude for scientific work and who are acquiring a strong background in mathematics, including an introduction to differential and integral calculus. Students with a strong high school physics background or a high score on the Physics AP examination may wish to consider Course Exemption by Examination, whereby the student can be exempted from some or all of the courses in the introductory sequence.

Physics majors typically begin taking courses at the intermediate level by the end of the sophomore year, and are encouraged to complete required 300-level courses by the end of junior year. This schedule prepares a student for the widest array of 260- and 360-series courses.

Of special interest are the three series of physics courses numbered PHYS 160- PHYS 169, PHYS 260- PHYS 269, and PHYS 360- PHYS 369. These courses cover special topics as well as subjects of active research interest within the Physics department. The 160 series is designed for non-science students interested in varying aspects of physical science. These courses have few prerequisites beyond algebra and trigonometry and many are open only to students who have not taken PHYS 110/ PHYS 115, PHYS 117, PHYS 120/ PHYS 125, or their equivalent. The 260 series of courses is open to anyone who has completed PHYS 120 or PHYS 125. The prerequisites for 360-series courses vary, but generally require physics beyond PHYS 120 or PHYS 125.

Major Requirements

The program for physics majors is composed of the Physics Foundation and one of the five Options listed below. Students can also supplement their programs by taking courses at the California Institute of Technology under the exchange program.

In addition to the Physics Foundation, all physics majors must complete one of the following Physics Options. Upon graduation, the student's transcript will list both the major (Physics) and the chosen Option.

PHYSICS FOUNDATION

All physics majors must complete a core of four physics courses called the Foundation. Accompanying these physics courses must be work in mathematics including Multivariable Calculus and Linear Systems.

Introductory sequence

PHYS 110Introductory Mechanics

4

Or

PHYS 115General Physics I

4

 

PHYS 117Waves and Thermal Physics

4

PHYS 120Introductory Electricity and Magnetism

4

Modern Physics

PHYS 240Modern Physics

4

Mathematics Component

MATH 212Multivariable Calculus

4

MATH 214Linear Algebra

4

OPTIONS

Some of the five Options require Physics Selectives (courses from the 260 or 360 series, or 300-level courses below 390 not otherwise required for the Option).

Physics Option (28 units):

Recommended for students who wish a thorough background in physics and for those who wish to pursue professional or graduate work in physics or engineering.

PHYS 310Mathematical Methods in Physics

4

PHYS 315Advanced Laboratory I

2

PHYS 316Advanced Laboratory II

2

PHYS 320Analytical Dynamics

4

PHYS 330Advanced Electromagnetism

4

PHYS 340Quantum Mechanics

4

PHYS 350Statistical Physics

4

Physics Selective

4

Mathematics Option (32 units):

Recommended for students who wish a broader mathematics or computer science background.

PHYS 310Mathematical Methods in Physics

4

PHYS 320Analytical Dynamics

4

PHYS 350Statistical Physics

4

Physics Selective

4

Any other 300-level Physics courses below PHYS 390

8

Math or Computer Science courses numbered above 300 and below 397

8

These courses must be in addition to those required math courses listed in the Foundation.

Chemistry Option (32 units):

Recommended for students who wish a broader physical science background.

CHEM 120Foundations of General Chemistry

4

Or

CHEM 130Advanced Placement General Chemistry

4

 

CHEM 220Organic Chemistry I

4

CHEM 221Organic Chemistry II

4

CHEM 240Integrated Concepts in General Chemistry

4

PHYS 310Mathematical Methods in Physics

4

PHYS 320Analytical Dynamics

4

 

PHYS 330Advanced Electromagnetism

4

Or

PHYS 350Statistical Physics

4

 

PHYS 340Quantum Mechanics

4

Or

CHEM 305Physical Chemistry II

4

Geology Option (32 units):

Recommended for students who wish to pursue careers in geology or geophysics.

GEO 105Earth: Our Environment

4

GEO 225Introduction to Field Methods

4

GEO 235Global Geophysics and Tectonics

4

 

GEO 245Earth's Climate: Past and Future

4

Or

GEO One 300-level Geology course

 

PHYS 310Mathematical Methods in Physics

4

 

PHYS 320Analytical Dynamics

4

Or

PHYS 330Advanced Electromagnetism

4

 

Physics Selective

4

PHYS 320, PHYS 330: Both PHYS 320 and PHYS 330 are strongly encouraged

Education Option (28 units):

This option is recommended for students who wish to pursue careers in secondary science education.

PHYS 320Analytical Dynamics

4

Physics Selectives

12

EDUC 201Sociocultural Foundations of Education

4

EDUC 205The Politics and Pedagogy of First and Second Language Acquisition

4

EDUC 314: Highly recommended.

PHYSICS "CAPSTONE"

Physics "Capstone":

All physics majors must complete the Senior Seminar:

PHYS 490Senior Physics Seminar I

2

And

PHYS 491Senior Physics Seminar II

2

Majors participating in an off-campus program during the Senior year may repeat PHYS 490 or PHYS 491 to satisfy this requirement.

WRITING REQUIREMENT

The College Writing Requirement can be satisfied through the evaluation of a student portfolio. The portfolio will consist of two items: one laboratory report from Modern Physics (PHYS 240) and/or Advanced Laboratory (PHYS 315/ PHYS 316), and one research report from Senior Physics Seminar (PHYS 490/ PHYS 491). Students are encouraged to revise these reports before submitting the portfolio. Typical formats for the required writings will be presented in the related courses. The writing is expected to be clear, precise, and intelligible to someone who has completed the Physics Foundation. Proper spelling, grammar, and organization are essential.

A student may submit a portfolio only once. The portfolio will be evaluated on a pass/fail basis by a departmental committee which will meet each semester to consider portfolios received by the last day of classes. Failing students may fulfill the departmental writing requirement by obtaining a grade of C or better in WRD 401.

Students who would like to improve their writing skills in advance of taking PHYS 240, PHYS 315, PHYS 316, PHYS 490 or PHYS 491 may elect to take WRD 401 in their Junior or Senior year; a grade of C or better will satisfy the Physics Department's portion of the College Writing Requirement.

The portfolio is normally submitted at the end of the semester when the student completes the first semester of PHYS 490/ PHYS 491. The latest students can submit a passing portfolio is the last day of classes in their penultimate semester. Students who fail to do so must enroll in WRD 401 in their final semester and pass with a grade of C or better.

If WRD 401 is not offered in the student's final semester, another Writing & Rhetoric course may be substituted with the approval of the department.

COMPREHENSIVE REQUIREMENT

The comprehensive requirement for majors is met by completion of the year-long Senior Seminar (PHYS 490/PHYS 491) with a grade of C or better and by passing a comprehensive examination on the material covered in the Physics Foundation.

COMBINED PLAN IN LIBERAL ARTS AND ENGINEERING

The program for majors provides for entrance into the Combined Plan Programs (3-2) at Columbia University and the California Institute of Technology. Students interested in engineering should consult the combined plan page for details of these programs.

HONORS

Senior physics majors with an overall grade point average of 3.25 are permitted to present an oral and written thesis on their research for College Honors consideration at graduation. See the Honors Program and consult the department chair for details.

Minor Requirements

COURSEWORK

Introductory sequence

PHYS 110Introductory Mechanics

4

Or

PHYS 115General Physics I

4

 

PHYS 117Waves and Thermal Physics

4

PHYS 120Introductory Electricity and Magnetism

4

Modern Physics

PHYS 240Modern Physics

4

Mathematics Component

MATH 212Multivariable Calculus

4

MATH 214Linear Algebra

4

Physics Selectives:

Eight units of additional electives.

Courses

Physics Courses

Faculty

Regular Faculty

Daniel Snowden-Ifft, chair

Professor, Physics

B.A., Swarthmore College M.A., Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Dennis Eggleston

Professor, Physics

B.S., M.S., Ph.D., UCLA

Janet Scheel

Associate Professor, Physics

B.S., University of Illinois, Urbana; M.A., M.S., Cornell University; Ph.D., Caltech

George Schmiedeshoff

Professor, Physics

Ph.D., University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Alec Schramm

Professor, Physics

B.A., Cornell University; M.A., Ph.D., Duke University

On Special Appointment

Jennifer Carson

Non Tenure Track Assistant Professor, Physics

S.B., Massachusetts Institute of Technology; M.S., San Francisco University; M.S., Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

Jean-Luc Gauvreau

Non Tenure Track Assistant Professor, Physics

B.S. Universite Laval, Ste-Foy, Quebec, Canada; PhD. University of Maryland College Park

Rafael Araya-Gochez

Non Tenure Track Assistant Professor, Physics

M.A. Johns Hopkins, Ph.D. Johns Hopkins

Igor Umanskiy

Non Tenure Track Assistant Professor, Physics

M.S., Saratov State University, Russia; Ph.D., Saratov State University, Russia