About the Department

The department addresses the needs of physics majors, Dual Degree Engineering students, and other science majors. The department also supports the university's liberal arts emphasis by providing coursework for students majoring in all areas, in order to broaden their intellectual reach. Several courses for non-science majors focus on the historical development of scientific ideas and the connection of physics with other realms of human endeavor.

The mission of the Department of Physics is to educate undergraduate students in the fundamental ideas and methods of physics. The department strives to provide an environment of scientific inquiry and discovery on the part of both students and faculty. It offers a curriculum of classical and modern physics that prepares students for careers as scientists and citizens. Students who complete a Physics major will gain the following skills and proficiencies:

  1. Problem-solving skill in a variety of disciplines, including classical mechanics, waves and optics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and relativity;
  2. Ability to apply higher-level mathematical reasoning in the process of problem-solving, using mathematical tools that include calculus of one and more than one variable, linear algebra, ordinary differential equations, and partial differential equations;
  3. Proficiency in laboratory work, through a minimum of four semesters of lab-based courses;
  4. Ability to express their work clearly in writing, including written reports on their laboratory work that contain discussion of results, quantitative reasoning, and error analysis; and
  5. Use computers to solve problems related to the physical world that lack simple analytical solutions.

The Bachelor of Science degree is appropriate for students who are planning advanced studies in physics or are interested in careers in engineering, biophysics, astronomy, meteorology, oceanography, geophysics, mathematical physics, education, law, environmental physics, and the history and philosophy of science. The Bachelor of Arts degree for dual degree engineering students is appropriate for students who are interested in undergraduate studies in physics and who complete their studies at an engineering institution through the DDE program.

Independent research projects and senior thesis presentations are encouraged of all Physics majors. Students who complete distinguished projects will be eligible for graduation with Honors in Physics.