Physics, Biological Physics

Department of Physics

The Physics Department offers two programs: a traditional Physics major and a Biological Physics major. Each of these programs can lead to either a B.S. or an A.B. degree. The B.S. in Physics is designed for students intending to pursue graduate study or employment in physics or a related area of science or technology. The B.S. in Biological Physics is designed to prepare students for graduate study or careers in biophysical, biomedical or bio- engineering. The A.B. programs in Physics and Biological Physics are designed for students planning graduate study or employment outside of science in fields such as medicine, law, business, journalism, government service, or pre-college teaching. The A.B. programs also allows for the flexibility to pursue a second major. A student can also obtain a minor in Physics.

The B.S. Physics major requires a minimum of seven advanced courses in addition to the introductory core sequence, while the A.B. Physics major requires a minimum of five advanced courses in addition to the introductory core sequence. The B.S. Biological Physics major requires a minimum of five advanced Physics courses and four corollary science courses in addition to the introductory core sequence, while the A.B. Biological Physics major requires a minimum of three advanced Physics courses and four corollary science courses in addition to the introductory core sequence.

Calculus at the level of MATH-035, 036, and 137 is essential for all four majors, and these courses should be taken before or concurrently with PHYS-151, 152, and 153, respectively. PHYS-101 and PHYS-102 may substitute for PHYS-151 and PHYS-152. Any student contemplating a physics major is strongly urged to consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies as soon as possible. 

All students should take the following course sequences their first two years:

FIRST YEAR
  • Mechanics (PHYS-151, Fall)
  • Electromagnetic Phenomena (PHYS-152, Spring)
SECOND YEAR
  • Relativity and Quantum Physics (PHYS-153, Fall)
  • Modern Physics and its Experimental Methods (PHYS-154, Spring)
  • Mathematical and Computational Methods (PHYS-155, Spring)

Major programs

REQUIREMEntS FOR THE A.B. IN Physics

  • Mechanics (PHYS-151)
  • Electromagnetic Phenomena (PHYS-152)
  • Relativity and Quantum Physics (PHYS-153)
  • Modern Physics and its Experimental Methods (PHYS-154)
  • Mathematical and Computational Methods (PHYS-155)
  • At least one of the following courses:
    • Intermediate Mechanics (PHYS-251) or
    • Intermediate E&M (PHYS-252) or
    • Quantum Mechanics (PHYS-253) or
    • Statistical Physics (PHYS-254)
  • Physics elective: PHYS 220–299 or PHYS 400 or higher
  • Physics elective: PHYS 220 or higher
  • Any approved physics or math/science course
  • Any approved physics or math/science course

Corollary requirements

  • Calculus I, Calculus II, and Multivariable Calculus (MATH-035, 036, and 137)

REQUIREments FOR THE B.S. IN PHYSICS

  • Mechanics (PHYS-151)
  • Electromagnetic Phenomena (PHYS-152)
  • Relativity and Quantum Physics (PHYS-153)
  • Modern Physics and its Experimental Methods (PHYS-154)
  • Mathematical and Computational Methods (PHYS-155)
  • Intermediate Mechanics (PHYS-251)
  • Intermediate Electricity and Magnetism (PHYS-252)
  • Quantum Mechanics (PHYS-253)
  • Statistical Physics (PHYS-254)
  • Independent Research (PHYS-300–309)
  • Physics elective: PHYS 220–299 or PHYS-400 or higher
  • Any approved physics or math/science course

Corollary requirements

  • Calculus I, Calculus II, and Multivariable Calculus (MATH-035, 036, and 137)

REQUIREMENTS FOR THE A.B. in biological physics

  • Mechanics (PHYS-151)
  • Electromagnetic Phenomena (PHYS-152)
  • Relativity and Quantum Physics (PHYS-153)
  • Modern Physics and its Experimental Methods (PHYS-154)
  • Mathematical and Computational Methods (PHYS-155)
  • Biological Physics I (PHYS-235)
  • Statistical Physics (PHYS-254)
  • Biological Physics II (PHYS-436) or approved elective

Corollary Course Requirements

  • Two courses in Biology at the level of BIOL-103 or higher (typically BIOL-103/113 and 104/114) 
  • Two courses in Chemistry: either CHEM-001/009 and CHEM-002/010 or two courses at the level of CHEM-055 or higher
  • Calculus I, Calculus II, and Multivariable Calculus (MATH-035, 036, and 137)

REQUIREMENTS FOR THE B.S. IN BIOLOGICAL PHYSICS 

  • Mechanics (PHYS-151)
  • Electromagnetic Phenomena (PHYS-152)
  • Relativity and Quantum Physics (PHYS-153)
  • Modern Physics and its Experimental Methods (PHYS-154)
  • Mathematical and Computational Methods (PHYS-155)
  • Biological Physics I (PHYS-235)
  • At least one of the following courses:
    • Intermediate Mechanics (PHYS-251) or
    • Intermediate E&M (PHYS-252) or
    • Quantum Mechanics (PHYS-253)
  • Statistical Physics (PHYS-254)
  • Biological Physics II (PHYS-436) or approved elective
  • Independent Research in Biological Physics (PHYS-311)

Corollary Course Requirements

  • Two courses in Biology at the level of BIOL-103 or higher (typically BIOL-103/113 and 104/114)
  • Two courses in Chemistry: either CHEM-001/009 and CHEM-002/010 or two courses at the level of CHEM-055 or higher
  • Calculus I, Calculus II, and Multivariable Calculus (MATH-035, 036, and 137)

INTEGRATED WRITING STRATEGY

By the time they graduate, Physics majors should have achieved proficiency in creating various types of good scientific writing, including short answer explanations, formal lab reports, research theses and journal articles. This writing will have one or more of the following qualities: clear overview and explanation of necessary background, description of methods, presentation of results, graphical representations of data, clear discussion of the results and implications, and proper citation of scholarly sources. Students will achieve this proficiency in courses including the first four required courses for the major (PHYS-151 to 154) and in one or more of the Independent Research courses (PHYS-301 to 304 or PHYS-311 to 314).

DEPARTMENTAL HONORS

The faculty may award Honors in Physics to majors who have performed exceptionally well both in coursework and in independent research. Students who are awarded Honors in Physics typically have a GPA in physics lecture courses of 3.7 or better. Students must also have exhibited excellence in independent research (including at least six credits of research coursework) and must have presented their work in written and oral forms to the faculty. To be eligible for consideration, a physics major must have completed at least 4 upper-level physics lecture courses (PHYS-220-299 or PHYS 400 or higher), including at least two courses from PHYS-251, 252, 253, and 254. Both Physics and Biological Physics majors are eligible for Honors in Physics.

Minor in Physics

Requirements for the minor 

A minor in physics consists of the first four courses of the introductory core sequence (PHYS-151, -152, -153 and -154) plus one additional physics course, as follows:

  • Mechanics (PHYS-151)
  • Electromagnetic Phenomena (PHYS-152)
  • Relativity and Quantum Physics (PHYS-153)
  • Modern Physics and its Experimental Methods (PHYS-154)
  • One additional physics course (preapproved: PHYS-155 or higher)

Alternates for these courses may be approved on a case by case basis.


For course listings for Physics see the Schedule of Classes