Aug 07, 2020  
Course Catalog 2005-2006 
Course Catalog 2005-2006 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Physics and Astronomy

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Major Work

A Physics major is required to pass Physics 110, 111, 212 and choose one of two concentrations:

Concentration in Physics. Students selecting this concentration must pass Physics 314, 414, and at least three courses chosen from Physics 310, 311, 312, 410, and 412. This “minimum program” is appropriate for students using physics as preparation for careers in fields such as medicine, law, business, or secondary-school teaching. (Such students will also find courses in chemistry, biology, and computer science to be valuable.) 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 all the courses listed above (i.e., it includes all five of Physics 310, 311, 312, 410, and 412). A graduate of this program could pursue undelayed full-time graduate study in physics or could enter certain positions in industrial or governmental laboratories.

Concentration in Astrophysics. Students selecting this concentration must pass Astronomy 301, 302, Physics 310, 311, 314 and either Physics 414 or 242. Students who wish to become professional astronomers should consult Mr. Stinebring or Mr. Martin to discuss additional coursework that will permit admission to graduate study in astronomy.

Prerequisites for the courses in either concentration include Mathematics 133, 134, 231, and 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


The minor in physics consists of Physics 110, 111, 212, and six credit hours of courses numbered between 200 and 450. At least three of these courses must be taken at Oberlin.


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 major requirement of Physics 414 may be waived upon request for an Honors student whose project is in experimental physics.

Other Programs

Students with special interests are encouraged to include physics and astronomy courses in an individual major, or to plan a double major. Those interested in careers in engineering may take a physics major, or they may consider the Combined Liberal Arts and Engineering Program described under “Engineering” in this catalog.

Winter Term

Physics and Astronomy faculty will consider sponsoring student-initiated experimental or theoretical (reading) projects in areas of physics or astronomy. Staff members have special interests in the areas shown below.

Mr. FitzGerald: physics of sports, investigation of fullerene materials. Ms. Ijiri: magnetic materials, x-ray and neutron scattering, experimental condensed matter physics. Ms. Keller: optics, physics education. Mr. Martin: atmospheric physics, radio astronomy, cosmology, Antarctic astronomy, computational physics, instrumentation, electronics. Mr. Richards: acoustics, general experimental physics projects. Mr. Scofield: experimental solid state physics, photovoltaic and wind energy, energy use in buildings. Mr. Stinebring: radio astronomy, pulsars, cosmology, instrumentation, image processing. Mr. Styer: relativity for non-scientists, mini-research projects in theoretical physics.


Students who wish to become professional astronomers should consult Mr. Stinebring to arrange a program of courses (within the framework of a physics major) that will permit admission to graduate study in astronomy.

Courses for a General Audience

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 astronomy should consider ASTR 100.

Courses for the Major/Astrophysics Concentration


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