Jun 27, 2022  
Course Catalog 2022-2023 
Course Catalog 2022-2023

Physics and Astronomy

Jason E. Stalnaker, Professor; Department Chair
Stephen A. FitzGerald, Professor
Yumi Ijiri, Francis D Federighi Professor
Melinda Keller, Lecturer; Laboratory Instructor
Robert Owen, Associate Professor
John H. Scofield, Professor
Jillian M. Scudder, Assistant Professor
Christina Smith, Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics
Daniel F. Styer, John and Marianne Schiffer Professor

Visit the department webpage for up-to-date information on department faculty, visiting lecturers and special events.

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. Those interested in careers in engineering may also consider the Combined Liberal Arts and Engineering Program described under “Engineering” in this catalog. Students with special interests are encouraged to include physics and astronomy courses in an individual major, or to plan a double major. Physics and Astronomy students at Oberlin have opportunities to work closely with faculty members on research projects during academic terms, winter terms, and summers.

See information about Research, Internships, Study Away and Experiential Learning (RISE).

Advanced Placement 

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 1 full course for Physics 103; students earning a score of 5 will receive 2 full courses for Physics 103 and 104.
  • Physics 1 examination: Students earning a score of 4 or 5 will receive 1 full course for Physics 103.
  • Physics 2 examination: Students earning a score of 4 or 5 will receive 1 full course for Physics 104.
  • Physics C examination (Mechanics): Students earning a score of 4 or 5 will receive 1 full course for Physics 110.
  • Physics C examination (Electricity and Magnetism): Students earning a score of 5 will receive 1 full course for Physics 111.

High-school students who might wish to major in physics should take the calculus-based Physics C courses and examinations, if possible.

Students who complete a higher-level course in physics in the International Baccalaureate program with a score of 5 will be given 1 full course of introductory physics at Oberlin; those achieving a score of 6 or 7 will receive 2 full courses.

A student will have to relinquish Advanced Placement or IB credit initially earned if the corresponding work is repeated at Oberlin.

Students who have received advanced standing 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 (or 1 and 2) examination(s), have good backgrounds in mathematics, and are interested in majoring in physics.  

Explore Winter Term projects and opportunities.

Majors and Minors