Physics

Physics is the study of the fundamental laws that govern our universe. Our curriculum is designed to give our students a solid foundation for understanding these laws and how they were uncovered. The language that best expresses these laws is mathematical, so there are a significant number of mathematics courses which serve as prerequisites for our courses. However, since physics describes the real world, our curriculum also incorporates a significant laboratory component to ensure our students will learn how to interrogate Nature and understand the answers it gives. Only by balancing theoretical concepts with experimental reality can one reach a more complete understanding of the world.

Our physics majors and minors will master valuable analysis and problem-solving skills, which can be applied to a wide variety of situations beyond physics. By integrating these skills with their liberal arts experiences, our students are prepared for a vast spectrum of careers. Recent graduates have gone on to work in physics research, engineering, computer programming, teaching, environmental studies, law, business, and other fields.

For Senior Comprehensives

Majors must pass a multi-part exam which requires them to demonstrate a coherent understanding of all the major areas of physics covered in the required courses, including computational and laboratory methods, and the ability to apply this understanding to solve specific problems. Students must have completed PHY-111 General Physics I, PHY-112 General Physics II - Science Majors, PHY-209 General Physics III, PHY-210 Modern Physics, PHY-381 Advanced Laboratory I, and two out of the three 300-level theory courses (PHY-310 Classical Mechanics, PHY-314 Electromagnetic Theory, PHY-315 Quantum Mechanics) prior to taking the exam. Finally, student portfolios will be utilized as part of the assessment of the comprehensive exams.

Requirements for a Major

PHY-111General Physics I1
PHY-112General Physics II - Science Majors1
PHY-209General Physics III1
PHY-210Modern Physics1
PHY-381Advanced Laboratory I0.5
PHY-382Advanced Laboratory II0.5
Select two from the following:2
Classical Mechanics
Electromagnetic Theory
Quantum Mechanics
Physics Electives2
Total Credits9

Majors will also be required to maintain a portfolio of their work from courses, internships, and other work outside of class. (More information on portfolios can be found on the Physics Department Canvas page). Evaluation of portfolios will be an aspect of the comprehensive exams for the physics major. In addition, mathematics courses that are prerequisites or co-requisites for physics courses are the following:

Collateral Requirements
MAT-111Calculus I1
or MAT-110 Calc. I With Pre-Calc. Review
MAT-112Calculus II1
MAT-223Elementary Linear Algebra1
MAT-224Elem Differential Equations1
MAT-225Multivariable Calculus1
Total Credits5

PHY-101 Astronomy, PHY-104 Special TopicsPHY-105 Adventures in Physics, PHY-109 Motion and Waves, and PHY-110 Fluids and Fields do not count toward the major unless supplemented by additional work that must receive prior approval by the course instructor and the physics department chair. Students accepted into a 3-2 engineering program may substitute CHE-111 General Chemistry for the one elective physics course. Although not required, CSC-111 Intro to Programming is highly recommended, and MAT-324 Topics in Differential Equations and MAT-344 Complex Analysis are useful. 

Those planning to go on to graduate school in physics should plan to take the following:

PHY-230Thermal Physics1
PHY-310Classical Mechanics1
PHY-314Electromagnetic Theory1
PHY-315Quantum Mechanics1
Total Credits4

Since physics is a hierarchical subject, it is important to take PHY-111 General Physics I and PHY-112 General Physics II - Science Majors during the freshman year if one wishes to major in physics. The hierarchical nature of the discipline requires mastery of each course’s material prior to moving on to the next course in the sequence, and many courses therefore require a C- or better in prerequisite courses. A possible schedule to fulfill all of the necessary requirements:

Plan of Study Grid
Freshman
Fall SemesterCredits
PHY-111 General Physics I 1
MAT-111 Calculus I 1
 Credits2
Spring Semester
PHY-112 General Physics II - Science Majors 1
MAT-112 Calculus II 1
 Credits2
Sophomore
Fall Semester
PHY-209 General Physics III 1
MAT-223 Elementary Linear Algebra 1
 Credits2
Spring Semester
PHY-210 Modern Physics 1
MAT-224 Elem Differential Equations 1
 Credits2
Junior
Fall Semester
PHY elective 1
PHY-381 Advanced Laboratory I 0.5
MAT-225 Multivariable Calculus 1
 Credits2.5
Spring Semester
PHY elective 1
 Credits1
Senior
Fall Semester
PHY elective 1
PHY-382 Advanced Laboratory II 0.5
 Credits1.5
Spring Semester
PHY elective 1
 Credits1
 Total Credits14

300-level elective courses regularly offered in the fall semester are PHY-310 Classical MechanicsPHY-315 Quantum Mechanics, while PHY-314 Electromagnetic Theory is taught in the spring semester. In addition, PHY-220 Electronics and PHY-230 Thermal Physics are usually taught in alternate years.

The Physics Department will not accept a transfer credit for PHY-111 General Physics I as a prerequisite to the College’s PHY-112 General Physics II - Science Majors unless approval is received by a department chair.

Requirements for a Minor

PHY-111General Physics I1
PHY-112General Physics II - Science Majors1
PHY-209General Physics III1
PHY-210Modern Physics1
Physics Elective1
Total Credits5

Any exceptions must receive prior approval from the department chair. PHY-101 Astronomy, PHY-104 Special TopicsPHY-105 Adventures in Physics, PHY-109 Motion and Waves, and PHY-110 Fluids and Fields do not count toward the minor unless supplemented by additional work that must receive prior approval by the course instructor and the physics department chair. Mathematics prerequisites (or co-requisites) are MAT-111 Calculus I (or MAT-110 Calc. I With Pre-Calc. Review) and MAT-112 Calculus II.

Physics (PHY)

PHY-101 Astronomy

An introductory course intended for the non-science liberal arts student. Historical and philosophical ideas will be stressed as well as the experimental concepts and methods used in astronomy. A good working knowledge of algebra, plane geometry, and trigonometry is required. Satisfies half of the laboratory science requirement. Three class periods and one laboratory each week.
Prerequisites: none
Corequisites: PHY-101L
Credit: 1
Distribution: Science Lab, Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-104 Special Topics

A special interest course for the non-science liberal arts student on an introductory-level physics topic not covered in a regular physics course. (Does not count toward the major or minor, or the lab science requirement.)Refer to the Course Descriptions document on the Registrar's webpage for Topics and Descriptions of current offerings.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-105 Adventures in Physics

A one-semester course for the non-science liberal arts student that investigates the world from the viewpoint of a physicist. Topics will vary and will be announced prior to registration. Partially fulfills the college laboratory science requirement, but does not count toward a physics major or minor. Three class periods and one laboratory each week.
Prerequisites: none
Corequisites: PHY-105L
Credit: 1
Distribution: Science Lab, Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-109 Motion and Waves

An introduction to the study of motion and waves; topics include Newton's laws, energy and work, periodic motion and feedback, sound and light waves, and optics. These topics are especially relevant for students interested in pre? health. The lab activities will introduce measurement techniques and will emphasize understanding the limits to any measurement. Three class periods and one lab period each week. Partially fulfills the college laboratory science requirement, and may count toward a physics major or minor with department permission. This course is offered in the fall semester.
Prerequisites: none
Corequisites: PHY-109L.
Credit: 1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-110 Fluids and Fields

An introduction to the study of fluids and fields; topics include basic motion and energy models, fluid statics and dynamics, Brownian motion, diffusion, electric and magnetic forces, and electric circuit design and use. These topics are especially relevant for students interested in pre?health. The lab activities will introduce experiment design techniques and will use statistics to combine results into a bigger picture. Three class periods and one lab period each week. Partially fulfills the college laboratory science requirement, and may count toward a physics major or minor with department permission.
Prerequisites: none
Corequisites: PHY-110L.
Credit: 1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-111 General Physics I

A calculus-based introduction to classical mechanics forphysics, chemistry, and engineering. Topics include Newton's laws of motion, conservation laws, and rotational dynamics. The lab will introduce data acquisition and analysis techniques. Three class periods and one laboratory each week. This course is offered in the fall semester.
Prerequisites: MAT-110 or 111 or placement into MAT-111, 112, or 223
Corequisites: PHY-111L, PreReq MAT-110 or 111 or placement into MAT-111, 112, or 223
Credit: 1
Distribution: Science Lab, Natural Science/Mathematics
Equated Courses: APCR

PHY-112 General Physics II - Science Majors

An introduction to the fundamental concepts concerning fluids, waves, optics, electricity, and magnetism. Three class periods and one laboratory each week. This course is offered in the spring semester.
Prerequisites: PHY-111 with grade of C- or better.
Corequisites: PHY-112L
Credit: 1
Distribution: Science Lab, Natural Science/Mathematics
Equated Courses: CR

PHY-177 Special Topics

A special interest course on an introductory-level physics topic not covered in regular physics courses. This course is offered in the fall semester.Refer to the Course Descriptions document on the Registrar's webpage for Topics and Descriptions of current offerings.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-178 Special Topics

A special interest course on an introductory-level physics topic not covered in regular physics courses. This course is offered in the spring semester.Refer to the Course Descriptions document on the Registrar's webpage for Topics and Descriptions of current offerings.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-187 Independent Study

Enrollment through Instructor and Department Chair approval.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-188 Independent Study

Enrollment through Instructor and Department Chair approval.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-209 General Physics III

An introduction to thermal physics and special relativity. Topics include the laws of thermodynamics, statistical nature of entropy, Lorentz transformations, equivalence of mass and energy. The lab will introduce the methodology of experimental design, numerical techniques for solving differential equations, and the writing of scientific papers using LaTeX software. Three class periods and one laboratory each week. This course is offered in the fall semester.
Prerequisites: PHY-112 with grade of C- or better and MAT-112
Corequisites: PHY-209L
Credit: 1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-210 Modern Physics

An introduction to quantum theory with applications to atomic, solid state, nuclear, and particle physics. Three class periods and one laboratory each week. This course is offered in the spring semester.
Prerequisites: PHY-209 with grade of C- or better and MAT-223.
Corequisites: PHY-210L
Credit: 1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics
Equated Courses: CR

PHY-220 Electronics

Introduction to analog and digital electronics. Fundamentals of DC and AC circuits, transistors, and amplifiers will be covered. Includes one laboratory each week. This course is offered every other year.
Prerequisites: PHY-112 with grade of C- or better
Corequisites: PHY-220L
Credit: 1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-230 Thermal Physics

Introduction to thermal and statistical physics. The laws of thermodynamics are studied from microscopic and macroscopic perspectives. Quantum statistical mechanics will be developed and applied to blackbody radiation, fermionic and bosonic systems. This course is offered every other year.
Prerequisites: PHY-210 with grade of C- or better
Credit: 1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-277 Special Topics

A special interest course covering at an intermediate-level a physics topic not covered in regular physics courses. This course is offered in the fall semester. Student input as to the course topic will be sought prior to fall registration.Refer to the Course Descriptions document on the Registrar's webpage for Topics and Descriptions of current offerings.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-278 Special Topics

A special interest course covering at an intermediate-level a physics topic not covered in regular physics courses. This course is offered in the spring semester. Student input as to the course topic will be sought prior to spring registration.Refer to the Course Descriptions document on the Registrar's webpage for Topics and Descriptions of current offerings.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-287 Independent Study

This course is offered in the fall semester.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-288 Independent Study

This course is offered in the spring semester.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-302 Electron Microscopy

Electron microscopes employ a focused beam of highly energetic electrons to examine sample morphology and topography on a very fine scale. This information is essential to the characterization of a wide range of biological and inorganic specimens including microorganisms, cells, crystals, metals, microelectronics, and nanomaterials. The initial classroom portion of this course focuses on fundamental topics in instrument design, applications, limitations, and sample preparation methods. Subsequent laboratory work involves hands-on instrument training and a substantial microscopy project.
Prerequisites: none
Credit: 1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics
Equated Courses: CHE-302

PHY-310 Classical Mechanics

Advanced topics in classical mechanics, including harmonic motion and Lagrangian mechanics. This course is offered in the fall semester.
Prerequisites: PHY-210 with a C- or better and and MAT-224 or permission of instructor.
Credit: 1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-313 Optics

Geometrical, physical (wave) and quantum optics. Wave optics will be expanded to cover portions of the electromagnetic spectrum on both sides of the visible (ultraviolet, infrared, and radio waves). Special emphasis will be given to recent developments such as fiber optics, lasers, and holography. Three class periods and one laboratory each week.
Prerequisites: PHY-210.
Corequisites: PHY-313L
Credit: 1
Distribution: Science Lab, Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-314 Electromagnetic Theory

Advanced explorations in understanding and applying Maxwell's equations. This course is offered in the spring semester.
Prerequisites: PHY-112 and MAT-224, 225
Credit: 1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-315 Quantum Mechanics

Introduction to quantum mechanics. Topics include Dirac notation, postulates of quantum mechanics, and applications to important physical systems. This course is offered in the fall semester.
Prerequisites: PHY-210 with grade of C- or better and MAT-223, 224
Credit: 1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-377 Adv. Special Topics in Physics

Special interest course covering one of a selection of advanced physics topics including: atomic physics, nuclear physics, quantum field theory, advanced electrodynamics, advanced quantum mechanics, advanced classical mechanics, or other topics proposed by students. This course is offered in the fall semester. Student input as to the course topic will be sought prior to fall registration.Refer to the Course Descriptions document on the Registrar's webpage for Topics and Descriptions of current offerings.
Prerequisites: PHY-210
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-378 Adv. Special Topics in Physics

Special interest course covering one of a selection of advanced physics topics including: atomic physics, nuclear physics, quantum field theory, advanced electrodynamics, advanced quantum mechanics, advanced classical mechanics, or other topics proposed by students. This course is offered in the spring semester. Student input as to the course topic will be sought prior to spring registration.Refer to the Course Descriptions document on the Registrar's webpage for Topics and Descriptions of current offerings.
Prerequisites: PHY-210
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-381 Advanced Laboratory I

Students will participate in a broad range of experiments that cover major research areas in contemporary physics, including atomic, molecular, and optical physics, condensed matter physics, and nuclear and particle physics. Advanced measurement and data analysis techniques will be used. All experiments will be planned, executed, and presented according to current professional standards. Students should take this course during their junior year.
Prerequisites: PHY-210
Corequisites: PHY-381L
Credits: 0.5
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-382 Advanced Laboratory II

This course is an independent research project, typically a continuation of either an Advanced Laboratory I project or a summer internship research project. Typically taken in the fall semester of the senior year.
Prerequisites: PHY-381
Corequisites: PHY-382L
Credits: 0.5
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-387 Independent Study

This course is offered in the fall semester.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-388 Independent Study

This course is offered in the spring semester.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-487 Independent Study

Enrollment through Instructor and Department Chair approval.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-488 Independent Study

Enrollment through Instructor and Department Chair approval.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Natural Science/Mathematics

PHY-IND Independent Study

Students may enroll in independent study courses for 0.5 or 1 course credit(s), with the approval of a supervising faculty member, the appropriate department/program chair, and the student's advisor. Registration forms for independent study are available in the Registrar's Office.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1

James A Brown

Dennis Krause (chair)

Martin Madsen

Danielle McDermott

Secondary Licensure Program

The Department of Education Studies offers a minor in Education Studies, and an additional licensure preparation program for students interested in becoming licensed to teach at the secondary level (middle and high school grades 5-12). With a major in this department and a minor in Education Studies, students may also choose to complete the licensure preparation program by applying in the spring of the junior year. For more information about the licensure program, students are advised to meet with faculty in the Department of Education Studies. Requirements for the minor and licensure preparation program are outlined in the Department of Education Studies section of the Academic Bulletin.