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 units

Or

PHYS 115General Physics I

4 units

 

PHYS 117Waves and Thermal Physics

4 units

PHYS 120Introductory Electricity and Magnetism

4 units

Modern Physics

PHYS 240Modern Physics

4 units

Mathematics Component

MATH 212Multivariable Calculus

4 units

MATH 214Linear Algebra

4 units

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 units

PHYS 315Advanced Laboratory I

2 units

PHYS 316Advanced Laboratory II

2 units

PHYS 320Analytical Dynamics

4 units

PHYS 330Advanced Electromagnetism

4 units

PHYS 340Quantum Mechanics

4 units

PHYS 350Statistical Physics

4 units

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 units

PHYS 320Analytical Dynamics

4 units

PHYS 350Statistical Physics

4 units

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 units

Or

CHEM 130Advanced Placement General Chemistry

4 units

 

CHEM 220Organic Chemistry I

4 units

CHEM 221Organic Chemistry II

4 units

CHEM 240Integrated Concepts in General Chemistry

4 units

PHYS 310Mathematical Methods in Physics

4 units

PHYS 320Analytical Dynamics

4 units

 

PHYS 330Advanced Electromagnetism

4 units

Or

PHYS 350Statistical Physics

4 units

 

PHYS 340Quantum Mechanics

4 units

Or

CHEM 305Physical Chemistry II

4 units

Geology Option (32 units):

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

GEO 105Earth: Our Environment

4 units

GEO 225Introduction to Field Methods

4 units

GEO 235Global Geophysics and Tectonics

4 units

 

GEO 245Earth's Climate: Past and Future

4 units

Or

GEO One 300-level Geology course

 

PHYS 310Mathematical Methods in Physics

4 units

 

PHYS 320Analytical Dynamics

4 units

Or

PHYS 330Advanced Electromagnetism

4 units

 

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 units

Physics Selectives

12

EDUC 201Sociocultural Foundations of Education

4 units

EDUC 205/LLAS 206The Politics and Pedagogy of First and Second Language Acquisition

4 units

EDUC 314: Highly recommended.

PHYSICS "CAPSTONE"

Physics "Capstone":

All physics majors must complete the Senior Seminar:

PHYS 490Senior Physics Seminar I

2 units

And

PHYS 491Senior Physics Seminar II

2 units

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

SECOND-STAGE WRITING REQUIREMENT

The second-stage component of the college-wide 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.