Physics Major (B.S.)

The bachelor of science degree in physics prepares students for professional work as physicists, and is the first step toward graduate work in physics. It is also excellent preparation for graduate programs in medicine, law, or engineering, as well as for technical jobs in industry. The required courses are those typically necessary for admission to graduate study in physics or astronomy. The interdisciplinary options require fewer physics courses combined with a concentration in another area (chemistry or materials science). The astronomy option emphasizes courses that help prepare a student for advanced studies in astronomy.

University Discovery requirements 1
Bachelor of Science requirements
Minimum physics requirements:
PHYS 400Freshman Seminar1
PHYS 407General Physics I4
PHYS 408General Physics II4
PHYS 505
PHYS 506
General Physics III
and General Physics III Laboratory
PHYS 508Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics4
PHYS 605Experimental Physics I5
PHYS 615Classical Mechanics and Mathematical Physics I4
PHYS 616Classical Mechanics and Mathematical Physics II4
PHYS 701Quantum Mechanics I4
PHYS 702Quantum Mechanics II4
PHYS 703Electricity and Magnetism I4
PHYS 704Electricity and Magnetism II4
PHYS 705Experimental Physics II4
Select two electives from the following:8
Modern Astrophysics
Space Plasma Physics
Condensed Matter Physics
Nuclear Physics
General Relativity and Cosmology
Introduction to Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos
Introduction to Numerical Methods I
CHEM 403General Chemistry I4
or CHEM 405 Chemical Principles for Engineers
MATH 425
MATH 426
Calculus I
and Calculus II
Select one of the following options: 212
Option A:
Linearity I
and Linearity II 2
Option B:
Multidimensional Calculus
Differential Equations with Linear Algebra
Introduction to Linear Algebra
Linear Algebra for Applications
Computer Programming:
CS 410PIntroduction to Scientific Programming/Python4
or IAM 550 Introduction to Engineering Computing
Capstone: 3
Independent Study
and Thesis
Senior Project

Note that no physics course can satisfy these requirement for a physics major. The rationale behind this is that a course in physics does not broaden the education of a physics major. 


The Department generally recommends MATH 645 Linear Algebra for Applications over MATH 545 Introduction to Linear Algebra for physics majors.


 A capstone experience is required of all physics majors during their senior year. The Physics Department encourages students to write a senior thesis (PHYS 799 Thesis) for their capstone experience. Other options include independent study research projects (PHYS 795 Independent Study or INCO 590 Student Research Experience) or a special project as part of senior lab (PHYS 705 Experimental Physics II). All capstone experiences must be approved by the undergraduate committee during the student's penultimate semester.

By the end of the spring semester of the sophomore year, a student must have a minimum grade of C in each 400- or 500-level course specifically required for the B.S. degree and an overall grade-point average of at least 2.33 in these courses in order to continue in the B.S. program. 

Physics Electives

In the following table, "electives" include Discovery courses, writing-intensive courses, physics electives, and free-choice electives. Note that physics electives can only be taken in the junior or senior year because of prerequisites, and are in general offered every other year.

PHYS 708Optics4
PHYS 710Modern Astrophysics4
PHYS 712Space Plasma Physics4
PHYS 718Condensed Matter Physics4
PHYS 720Nuclear Physics4
PHYS 764General Relativity and Cosmology4
MATH 747Introduction to Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos4
MATH 753Introduction to Numerical Methods I4

Suggested Curriculum for B.S. in Physics

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
PHYS 400 Freshman Seminar 1
PHYS 407 General Physics I 4
MATH 425 Calculus I 4
ENGL 401 First-Year Writing 4
CHEM 403
General Chemistry I
or Chemical Principles for Engineers
PHYS 408 General Physics II 4
MATH 426 Calculus II 4
Elective 4
CS 410P
Introduction to Scientific Programming/Python
or Introduction to Engineering Computing
Second Year
PHYS 505
PHYS 506
General Physics III
and General Physics III Laboratory
PHYS 508 Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics 4
MATH 528
Multidimensional Calculus
or Linearity I
Elective 4
PHYS 615 Classical Mechanics and Mathematical Physics I 4
PHYS 605 Experimental Physics I 5
Select one of the following two options: 8 or 6
(1) For students who took MATH 528:  
Differential Equations with Linear Algebra  
Linear Algebra for Applications  
(2) For students who took MATH 525:  
Linearity II  
Third Year
PHYS 616 Classical Mechanics and Mathematical Physics II 4
PHYS 701 Quantum Mechanics I 4
Electives 8
PHYS 702 Quantum Mechanics II 4
PHYS 703 Electricity and Magnetism I 4
Electives 8
Fourth Year
PHYS 704 Electricity and Magnetism II 4
PHYS 705 Experimental Physics II 4
Electives 8
Electives 16
 Total Credits130