Jul 21, 2024  
Course Catalog 2022-2023 
Course Catalog 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Physics Major

The physics major with a physics concentration consists of a minimum of 8 full courses (or the equivalent). The astrophysics and materials physics concentrations consist of a minimum of 9 full courses (or the equivalent).

Note: Students must earn minimum grades of D or P for all courses that apply toward the major.

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Students majoring in physics complete the minimum program with a concentration in physics, astrophysics, or materials physics.

Prerequisites for the courses in all concentrations include MATH 133 MATH 134 MATH 231 , and MATH 234 . Computer applications are important in all branches of physics and astronomy. All majors are urged to consult their advisors about obtaining the appropriate background.

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Summary of Requirements: Physics Major with a Physics Concentration

Note: Students who wish to pursue physics as a career in research or in college or university teaching should take the graduate study preparation program, which consists of the following five courses: PHYS 311 PHYS 312 PHYS 316 PHYS 410 , and PHYS 411 /PHYS 412 .

Summary of Requirements: Physics Major with an Astrophysics Concentration

Note: Students who wish to become professional astronomers should consult Ms. Scudder to discuss additional coursework that will permit admission to graduate study in astronomy.

Summary of Requirements: Physics Major with a Materials Physics Concentration

Note: Students who plan to pursue materials physics work at the graduate level should consult Mr. FitzGerald, Ms. Ijiri, Mr. Scofield, or Mr. Styer to discuss additional coursework that might be recommended. CHEM 323  (and associated prerequisites) and PHYS 410  are particularly relevant to materials physics.

Entry-Level Course Sequence Suggestions

Students considering a major in physics who qualify for MATH 134 , MATH 231 , or MATH 234  as first-year students should take those courses as well as PHYS 110  and PHYS 111 . Those without advanced standing in mathematics should take MATH 133  and MATH 134  as first-year students and PHYS 110  and PHYS 111  as sophomores; such students may take the full graduate study preparation program with the exception of PHYS 411  and PHYS 412  in preparation for graduate work in physics.

PHYS 110 , PHYS 111 , and PHYS 212  provide training useful to students of any of the physical sciences or mathematics. These courses have calculus prerequisites. Students majoring in the life and earth sciences are also encouraged to take these courses if they have the necessary mathematical background.

The algebra-based sequence PHYS 103 /PHYS 104  is primarily for students majoring in the life and earth sciences. A student who has taken all or part of PHYS 103  and PHYS 104 ​ and is interested in further work in physics should consult the department about an appropriate pathway to more advanced courses.

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.


The Honors Program is open to outstanding senior-year major students at the invitation of the department. Students in this program will normally be expected to complete the graduate study preparation program of courses described above and must carry out a special project in experimental or theoretical physics or astrophysics under the direction of a member of the department. Honors students write a thesis based on their work and take comprehensive examinations. The physics and astrophysics concentrations require a second approved laboratory course; this requirement may be waived upon request for an Honors student whose project is in experimental physics.

Physics Major Course Lists