Undergraduate Programs

The Department of Physics offers both an undergraduate major and minor in physics. The major in physics includes a strong emphasis on experiment and covers the broad fundamentals necessary for graduate study in physics and related fields. The minor in physics offers a slate of courses that provides a firm grounding in the basics with sufficient flexibility to accommodate the needs and interests of those likely to pursue this line of study. For more details concerning our undergraduate major, including sample programs, please consult the College Catalog or contact either Stuart Gazes, the Undergraduate Program Chair, or Zosia Krusberg, Director of Graduate Studies.

The degree requirements for the B.A. in physics include introductory and advanced physics and mathematics courses, as well as physics electives. There is also an option to major in physics with a specialization in astrophysics. Students who plan to major in physics are encouraged to start course work in their first year. However, the program can be completed in three years, so one could start physics in the second year and still complete the major.

Entering students will be given a placement for Mechanics (PHYS 13100 or 14100) based on AP scores and/or placement interviews. Students majoring in physics start their program with either the honors sequence PHYS 14100-14200-14300 or the regular sequence PHYS 13100-13200-13300.


The mathematics requirement is a calculus sequence (MATH 15100-15200-15300 or 16100-16200-16300) followed by Mathematical Methods in Physics (PHYS 22100). As an alternative to PHYS 22100, students taking an Analysis sequence (MATH 20300-20400-20500 or 20700-20800-20900) may substitute MATH 20500 or 20900 for PHYS 22100, though they will subsequently need to acquire certain math tools on their own. However, students interested in pursuing further study in both physics and mathematics should consider taking both PHYS 22100 and an Analysis sequence.

Please note that for students starting their program with the PHYS 13100-13200-13300 sequence, the MATH 15300/16300 requirement is replaced by PHYS 22000. This course in mathematical methods introduces tools typically used in the PHYS 14100-14200-14300 sequence, and ensures that a student taking 13100-13200-13300 will possess the mathematical background needed for subsequent physics course work.

Finally, entering students placing into MATH 13100 should consult the Undergraduate Program Chair (Stuart Gazes) to plan a program of study.

Summary of Requirements

General Education PHYS 13100-13200 or 14100-14200*
MATH 15100-15200* or 16100-16200
The Major 1 PHYS 13300 or 14300*
1 MATH 15300* or 16300 or PHYS 22000
1 PHYS 22100 or MATH 20500 or 20900
1 PHYS 15400
1 PHYS 18500
2 PHYS 23400-23500
3 PHYS 21101-21102-21103
2 PHYS 22500, 22700
1 PHYS 19700
3 electives
Total 16
*Credit may be granted by examination.


In addition to specified course work, the physics major requires three electives. These electives may be selected from the following courses: 

  • all 20000-level physics courses except Thesis (29100-29200-29300) and Research (29700)
  • ASTR 24100†, 24200†; BIOS 29326; CHEM 26300, 26800; CMSC 23710, 28510; GEOS 23100, 23200
  • MATH 20400-20500‡ or 20800-20900‡, 27000, 27200, 27300, 27400, 27500; STAT 23400 or 24400, 24500 (no more than two to be used as program electives)
  • other courses approved by the Undergraduate Program Chair for physics

† Cannot be counted toward electives if used to satisfy requirements for the specialization in astrophysics.
‡ Neither MATH 20500 nor 20900 can be counted toward electives if substituted for PHYS 22100.

Specialization in Astrophysics

For this program, candidates must complete all requirements for the B.A. degree in physics, plus a two-quarter sequence in astrophysics (ASTR 24100-24200), plus either a third course in astrophysics (ASTR 28200 or ASTR 30500) or a senior thesis project in physics (PHYS 29100-29200-29300) on a topic in astrophysics. A grade of at least C- must be obtained in each course.

The minor in physics is designed to present a coherent program of study to students from others areas with a strong interest in physics. The courses required for the minor are: PHYS 13300/14300, 15400, 18500, 22100, 23400, and MATH 15300/16300/22000, plus two electives. At least one of these electives must be either PHYS 19700 or 22500 or 23500, while the other elective can be any course required by the major or acceptable as an elective for the major. The mathematics requirement for the minor is identical to the requirement for the major. Note that MATH 22000 and PHYS 22100 may be replaced by equivalent courses, as approved by the Undergraduate Program Chair. Note also that the PHYS 13300/14300, PHYS 22100, and MATH 15300/16300/22000 requirements will be waived for those courses being used to satisfy the requirements of a major or another minor.