The word physics originates from the Greek word for nature. Physicists attempt to understand the basic principles that govern the behavior of the natural world in which we live. The courses in physics and astronomy are designed to serve both students interested in science as an important part of a general education and those desiring intensive training in physical science. Students may major in physics as preparation for further professional training in physics, astronomy, or engineering, or as excellent background for careers in other fields such as medicine, law, biology, geology, and secondary-school science teaching. Physics and Astronomy students at Oberlin have opportunities to work closely with faculty members on research projects during academic terms, winter terms, and summers.
Students who earn sufficiently high scores on advanced placement examinations in physics will be given credit for all or part of Physics 103 and 104 or Physics 110 and 111 according to the following schedule:
- Physics B examination: Students earning a score of 4 will receive four hours of credit for Physics 103; students earning a score of 5 will receive eight hours of credit for Physics 103 and 104.
- Physics C examination (Mechanics): Students earning a score of 4 or 5 will receive four hours of credit for Physics 110.
- Physics C examination (Electricity and Magnetism): Students earning a score of 5 will receive four hours of credit for Physics 111.
- Students earning any credit through these examinations will receive full QP credit.
- High-school students who might wish to major in physics should take the calculus-based Physics C courses and examinations, if possible.
Students who have received advanced placement in either physics or mathematics and who are considering physics as a possible major should consult the chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department upon arrival in Oberlin regarding course selection and major requirements. Although Physics 103 and 104 are not the normal prerequisites for Physics 212 and upper-level courses, the department is prepared to arrange a transition to these courses for those who have earned credit through the Physics B examination, have good backgrounds in mathematics, and are interested in majoring in physics.
Entry-Level Course Sequence Suggestions
Students considering a major in physics who qualify for Mathematics 134, 231 or 234 as first-year students should take those courses and (HU, Art and Humanities; SS, Social and Behavioral Sciences; NS, Natural Sciences and Mathematics; EX, Extra Divisional) (CD, Cultural Diversity; QPf/QPh, Quantitative Proficiency Certification full or half; WR, Writing Certification; WRi, Writing Intensive) Physics 110, 111. Those without advanced standing in mathematics should take Mathematics 133, 134 as first-year students and Physics 110, 111 as sophomores; such students may take the full graduate study preparation program with the exception of Physics 410 and Physics 411, and be prepared for graduate work in physics.
Physics 110, 111, and 212 provide training useful to students of any of the physical sciences or mathematics. Students majoring in the life and earth sciences are also encouraged to take these courses if they have the necessary mathematical background.
Physics 103, 104 are primarily for students majoring in the life and earth sciences. With the permission of the department an exceptional student who has taken all or part of Physics 103, 104 may use it as background for further work in physics.
Physics courses numbered 050-070 are designed for College and Conservatory students whose primary interests may not lie in the natural sciences but who wish to have a first hand acquaintance with the techniques and results of physical science.