The Physics BS degree is designed for students who are planning graduate study in physics or physics-related areas, or who are planning careers in a scientific or technical field. The program provides intensive preparation in physics and lays a solid foundation for a lifetime of discovery. Official information regarding the major requirements is available in the Undergraduate Record.
While it is not required, we recommend that prospective physics majors take PHYS 1930 (Physics in the 21st Century), which introduces many of the 'big ideas' in physics, provides an overview of potential career paths, and helps connect students with research opportunities in the department.
Starting in the 2021/22 academic year, we have updated the BS degree requirements. If you take the introductory physics courses in Fall 21 or later, you should use these new requirements:
- PHYS 1420 or PHYS 1425 - Introductory Physics 1 (prereq: Calc 1)
- PHYS 1429 - Physics 1 Workshop (coreq: Intro Physics 1)
- MATH 2310 or APMA 2120 - Multivariable Calculus (prereq: Calc 2)
- PHYS 2410 or PHYS 2415 - Introductory Physics 2 (prereq: Multivariable Calc)
- PHYS 2419 - Physics 2 Workshop (coreq: Intro Physics 2)
- PHYS 2620 - Modern Physics (prereq: Intro Physics 2)
- PHYS 2660 - Fundamentals of Scientific Computing (prereq: Intro Physics 1) or PHYS 1655/1559 - Intro Python for Scientists and Engineers
- MATH 3250 or APMA 2130 - Differential Equations (prereq: Calc 2)
- PHYS 2720 - Problem Solving (coreq: Intro Physics 2, Differential Equations)
- PHYS 3140 - Intermediate Lab (prereq: Physics Workshops 1 and 2, Modern Physics)
- PHYS 3170 or PHYS 3180 - Advanced Lab (prereq: Intermediate Lab)
- PHYS 3210 - Classical Mechanics (prereq: Intro Physics 2, Differential Equations)
- PHYS 3310 - Statistical Physics (prereq: Modern Physics)
- PHYS 3340 - Mathematics for Physics (prereq: Multivariable Calc)
- MATH 4220 or APMA 3140 - Partial Differential Equations (prereq: Differential Equations)
- PHYS 3420 - Electricity and Magnetism 1 (prereq: Intro Physics 2, Partial Differential Equations)
- PHYS 3430 - Electricity and Magnetism 2 (prereq: E&M 1)
- PHYS 3650 - Quantum Mechanics 1 (prereq: Modern Physics, Differential Eqns, Math for Physics)
- PHYS 3660 - Quantum Mechanics 2 (prereq: QM 1)
- PHYS 3995 - Research
- One additional 3000- or 5000-level physics elective
If changes in course offerings and scheduling make it challenging for you to satisfy any of these requirement sets, discuss the situation with your physics advisor.
In all cases, required courses must be passed with a minimum grade of C-, and a major grade point average of at least 2.000 must be achieved.
Declaring the Major
You are welcome to declare a physics major at any time, there are no prerequisites or conditions to fulfill. To start the process, contact our program coordinator, who will put you in contact with a physics advisor.
A number of substitutions are possible for courses required in the major. Common alternatives are listed here, and if you have a special circumstance that you think warrants a substitution not listed, you can discuss it with your physics advisor.
- Starting in Fall 2022, it is allowed to substitute PHYS 1655 (Intro to Python) for PHYS 2660 (Scientific Computing). In Fall 2022, PHYS 1655 is being offered as PHYS 1559.
- Students in Electrical and Computer Engineering can substitute ECE 3209 (Electromagnetic Fields) for PHYS 2415 (Intro Physics 2) and PHYS 2419 (Physics 2 Workshop).
- PHYS 3340 (Mathematics for Physics) covers linear algebra and complex variables. If you plan to take upper-level mathematics courses on these topics, consult with your physics advisor to determine whether PHYS 3340 can be waived. The honors calculus sequence MATH 2315/3315 satsifies the requirements for multivariable calculus and differential equations, and also covers the linear algebra portion of PHYS 3340.
- You can substitute PHYS 5630 (Computational Physics 1) for PHYS 2660 (Fundamentals of Scientific Computing), and this substitution is recommended for students with a strong programming background. If you make this substitution, you cannot double-count PHYS 5630 as an elective.
- You can take either PHYS 3170 (Advanced Lab A) or PHYS 3180 (Advanced Lab B) for the advanced lab requirement. Both courses are equivalent. Normally, you can take both 3170 and 3180, picking different experiments to work on the second time, and the second course can count as an elective. However, during the building renovation (Fall 2022 through Fall 2024), the number of experiments will be limited so you will only be able to take one of the two courses for credit.
- With the permision of your physics advisor, you can substitute PHYS 5310 (Optics) for PHYS 3430 (Electricity and Magnetism 2). However we recommend PHYS 3430 for students planning to pursue graduate studies in physics. If you make this substitution, you cannot double-count PHYS 5310 as an elective.
- It is possible to take PHYS 3995 (Research) multiple times. If you do so with different professors working in distinct fields, your advisor can approve it to count as one elective course in addition to the Research requirement.
- With the permission of your physics advisor and the course instructor, you can enroll in graduate physics courses at the 7000 or 8000 level, and these can be used to satisfy elective requirements.
Distinguished Major Program
Students demonstrating outstanding academic performance are eligible to receive the BS degree with distinction (GPA > 3.400), high distinction (GPA > 3.600), or highest distinction (GPA > 3.800).
Sample Course Schedules (New Requirements)
Schedule 1: Suitable for students who do not need to prepare for the Physics GRE exam in their seventh semester.
Schedule 2: Suitable for students planning to take the Physics GRE exam in their seventh semester.
Schedule 3: Suitable for students with AP credit (or similar) for Calculus 1, Calculus 2, and Introductory Physics 1. The schedule ends after three years; some students take more advanced courses in physics, some pursue a second major, and some graduate early.
Note that in all schedules, only courses related to the physics degree are shown.
*PHYS 1930 Physics in the 21st Century and PHYS 1660 Practical Computing are optional courses that are not required for the major.
Sample Course Schedule (Old Requirements)
*PHYS 1910 Introduction to Physics Research is an optional course that is not required for the major.