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 Physics I - Calculus, PHY-112 Physics II - Calculus, PHY-209 Intro Thermal Phy & Relativity, PHY-210 Intro Quantum Theory & Apps, 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. Additionally, student portfolios will be utilized as part of the assessment of the comprehensive exams.

Requirements for a Major

PHY-111Physics I - Calculus1
PHY-112Physics II - Calculus1
PHY-209Intro Thermal Phy & Relativity1
PHY-210Intro Quantum Theory & Apps1
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-223Linear Algebra1
MAT-224Differential Equations1
MAT-225Multivariable Calculus1
Total Credits5

PHY-101 Astronomy, PHY-104 Special TopicsPHY-105 Adventures in Physics, PHY-109 Physics I - Algebra, and PHY-110 Physics II - Algebra 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 and Statistical 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 Physics I - Calculus and PHY-112 Physics II - Calculus 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 Physics I - Calculus 1
MAT-111 Calculus I 1
 Credits2
Spring Semester
PHY-112 Physics II - Calculus 1
MAT-112 Calculus II 1
 Credits2
Sophomore
Fall Semester
PHY-209 Intro Thermal Phy & Relativity 1
MAT-223 Linear Algebra 1
 Credits2
Spring Semester
PHY-210 Intro Quantum Theory & Apps 1
MAT-224 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 and Statistical Physics are usually taught in alternate years.

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

Requirements for a Minor

PHY-111Physics I - Calculus1
PHY-112Physics II - Calculus1
PHY-209Intro Thermal Phy & Relativity1
PHY-210Intro Quantum Theory & Apps1
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 Physics I - Algebra, and PHY-110 Physics II - Algebra 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.

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, Quantitative Literacy

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

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, Quantitative Literacy

PHY-109 Physics I - Algebra

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 typically offered in the fall semester.
Prerequisites: none
Corequisites: PHY-109L
Credit: 1
Distribution: Science Lab, Quantitative Literacy

PHY-110 Physics II - Algebra

An algebra-based introduction to electricity and magnetism for general audiences, including the social and life sciences. Topics include Coulombs law, electric circuits, magnetic fields, electromagnetic induction, and geometric optics. The lab will introduce data acquisition and analysis techniques. Three class periods and one laboratory each week.
Prerequisites: none
Corequisites: PHY-110L
Credit: 1
Distribution: Science Lab, Quantitative Literacy

PHY-111 Physics I - Calculus

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.
Prerequisites: MAT-110 or MAT-111, or placement into MAT-111 with concurrent registration, or placement into MAT-112 or MAT-223
Corequisites: PHY-111L
Credit: 1
Distribution: Science Lab, Quantitative Literacy

PHY-112 Physics II - Calculus

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, Quantitative Literacy

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

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

PHY-187 Independent Study

Individual research projects. The manner of study will be determined by the student in consultation with the instructor. Students must receive written approval of their project proposal from a department Chair before registering for the course.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1

PHY-188 Independent Study

Individual research projects. The manner of study will be determined by the student in consultation with the instructor. Students must receive written approval of their project proposal from a department Chair before registering for the course.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1

PHY-209 Intro Thermal Phy & Relativity

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 a minimum grade of C-, and MAT-112
Corequisites: PHY-209L
Credit: 1
Distribution: Quantitative Literacy, Science Lab

PHY-210 Intro Quantum Theory & Apps

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 a minimum grade of C-, and MAT-223
Corequisites: PHY-210L
Credit: 1
Distribution: Quantitative Literacy, Science Lab

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.
Prerequisites: PHY-112 with a minimum grade of C-
Corequisites: PHY-220L
Credit: 1

PHY-230 Thermal and Statistical 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.
Prerequisites: PHY-210 with a minimum grade of C-
Credit: 1

PHY-235 Stochastic Simulation

Interesting real world phenomena often involve randomness at some level, and this course develops mathematical and computational tools for studying these systems. In particular, students will study and implement computer simulation models of continuous and discrete stochastic processes with potential applications in physics, economics, epidemiology, networks, sports, elections, and industrial engineering. Specific topics for study include: basic probability models, pseudo-random number generation, queueing models, discrete event simulations, Poisson processes, random walks, Markov chains, Monte Carlo methods, and statistical analysis of simulated data.
Prerequisites: MAT-112 and CSC-111
Credit: 1

PHY-277 Special Topics

A special interest course covering at an intermediate-level a physics topic not covered in regular physics courses. Student input as to the course topic will be sought prior to 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

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

PHY-287 Independent Study

Individual research projects. The manner of study will be determined by the student in consultation with the instructor. Students must receive written approval of their project proposal from a department Chair before registering for the course.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1

PHY-288 Independent Study

Individual research projects. The manner of study will be determined by the student in consultation with the instructor. Students must receive written approval of their project proposal from a department Chair before registering for the course.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1

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
Equated Courses: CHE-302

PHY-310 Classical Mechanics

Advanced topics in classical mechanics, including harmonic motion and Lagrangian mechanics.
Prerequisites: PHY-112 with a minimum grade of C- and MAT-224, or permission of instructor
Credit: 1

PHY-314 Electromagnetic Theory

Advanced explorations in understanding and applying Maxwell's equations. This course is offered in the spring semester.
Prerequisites: PHY-112 with a minimum grade of C-, MAT-224, and MAT-225
Credit: 1

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 a minimum grade of C-, MAT-223, and MAT-224
Credit: 1

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. Student input as to the course topic will be sought prior to 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

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

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: Quantitative Literacy

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
Credits: 0.5
Distribution: Quantitative Literacy

PHY-387 Independent Study

Individual research projects. The manner of study will be determined by the student in consultation with the instructor. Students must receive written approval of their project proposal from a department Chair before registering for the course.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1

PHY-388 Independent Study

Individual research projects. The manner of study will be determined by the student in consultation with the instructor. Students must receive written approval of their project proposal from a department Chair before registering for the course.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1

PHY-487 Independent Study

Individual research projects. The manner of study will be determined by the student in consultation with the instructor. Students must receive written approval of their project proposal from a department Chair before registering for the course.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1

PHY-488 Independent Study

Individual research projects. The manner of study will be determined by the student in consultation with the instructor. Students must receive written approval of their project proposal from a department Chair before registering for the course.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1

Physics Faculty

James A. Brown (chair)

Dennis Krause

J. Gaylon Ross

Nathan Tompkins