Students who complete the major requirements for a bachelor of arts (BA) or a bachelor of science (BS) in physics will acquire a basic understanding of physical principles and their applications, master the skills necessary to undertake scientific inquiry, develop critical thinking and analytic skills as well as mastery of problem-solving techniques, learn to communicate physics effectively, consider the ethical responsibilities of a physicist to society, and understand the history and philosophy of physics.
Major Requirements (BA)
Major Requirements (BS)
All students are required to take a comprehensive exam. Students may choose to take the GRE Physics subject test or a departmental comprehensive exam. In addition all students will be required to write a senior thesis. Students will undertake some type of original research project. A written paper must be submitted to the department for review. Students must also present their research at either a departmental symposium or at an organized off-campus meeting.
Honors Students must complete 45 sh of physics. In addition to the above requirements for a B.S. in Physics, students must also complete a minimum of 3 sh of either PHEN 4930 or 4950. They must also enroll in a minimum of 3 sh of PHEN 4000 spring semester of their fourth year. Research for physics 4930/4950 may be carried out either on campus or at an approved off campus site. Students will prepare a written paper which must also be presented orally to an appropriate group. Students must submit a proposal of their intended research project for departmental approval prior to enrollment in 4930/4950. For general Departmental Honors requirements and PHEN 4000 course description, see appropriate sections of this catalog.
24 semester hours
The following descriptions are a sample of courses you may take as a physics major. For a complete list of required courses, please review the academic catalog.
This course is the first semester of a calculus-based introductory physics course for science majors. Topics to be covered include kinematics, dynamics, energy and momentum, rotational motion, gravitation, equilibria, properties of materials, fluids, wave motion, sound, and simple harmonic oscillations. Emphasis will be placed on problem solving skills as well as conceptual understanding of the material. Lab is included in this course. Basic knowledge of trigonometry is assumed. Calculus is recommended.
This course is the second semester of a calculus-based introductory physics course for science majors. Topics to be covered include thermodynamics, electrical fields and forces, electric potential, DC circuits, magnetic fields and forces, AC circuits, geometrical and physical optics, quantum theory, atomic theory and structure, and nuclear structure, decay, and reactions. Emphasis will be placed on problem solving skills as well as conceptual understanding of the material. Lab is included in this course.
This course is an introduction to a variety of practical, real-world tools used in physics to solve problems and complete projects. In contrast to other courses which focus on the theoretical and analytical aspects of physics, this course covers tools you can use to not only do homework problems but also to tackle real-world engineering and research projects. In this course the focus will be predominately on visual thinking tools. Such topics include drawing and sketching for visualization, imagery and ideation, and basic technical drawing. Coverage may also include basic design and engineering concepts as well as an introduction to CAD.
How do we know? How do we decide that a theory is true? What does it take to become convinced? Physics is perceived as a totally analytical and quantitative field. However, the reality is that even at the simplest level there is considerable judgment required in the interpretation of data and the assignment of meaning to theory. This course will include a brief overview of the history and philosophy of physics, discussion of the methods of doing physics, experimental techniques, and the role of approximation in theory and computation. The emphasis will be placed on the nature of knowledge and the extent to which it is socially constructed. Students will reflect on science ethics, science policy, the role of the scientist in society, and the interface between science and theology.
This course is an introduction to mathematical methods in physics. Topics covered include using spreadsheets (Excel), algebraic languages (Mathematical), and interpreted languages (Python) to solve basic physics problems. Elementary numerical methods and scientific visualization is also covered. Topics of coverage may include: approximation techniques, numerical differentiation and integration, matrices, complex variables, and solution of transcendental equations.
This course constitutes a survey of physics since 1900. Topics to be covered include special relativity, blackbody radiation, photoelectric effect, Compton scattering, quantum theory, wave-particle duality, DeBroglie waves, Bohr model of the atom, quantum mechanics and the Schrodinger equation in one dimension, Heisenberg uncertainty principle, quantization in many-electron atoms, statistical physics, lasers, X-ray spectra, molecular structure, solid state physics, nuclear structure, and nuclear reactions. No lab is required.
This course offers a practical introduction to DC and AC circuits, filters, diodes, power supplies, transistors, operational amplifiers, and logic gates. Emphasis will be placed on both the mathematical methods and the "rules of thumb" used in everyday laboratory settings.
This course presents a detailed account of the classical mechanics of particles, systems of particles, rigid bodies, moving coordinate systems, Lagrange and Hamiltonian formulations, linear oscillators, driven oscillators, nonlinear oscillations, and central force motion. A review of the mathematics of matrices, vectors, tensors, and vector calculus will be included. No lab is required.
Electric and magnetic phenomena are discussed in terms of the fields of electric charges and currents. The use of Maxwell's equations in the interaction of fields and charges will be emphasized. Extensions to electromagnetic radiation and the interaction with matter will also be covered. No lab is required.
Quantum mechanics deals with the physics of the microscopic realm where classical mechanics fails to explain phenomena such as those seen in lasers and transistors. This course will cover the experimental results that led to and verified quantum mechanics. It will cover the basic topics of quantum mechanics including wave-particle duality, complementarity, the postulates of quantum mechanics, wave packets (their formation and analysis), operators in quantum mechanics, time-independent and time-dependent Schrodinger Equation and solutions of it for various potentials including the simple harmonic oscillator, Hermitian operators and eigenvalue equations, commutators, uncertainty relations, and conservation laws. Emphasis will be placed on both the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics and the philosophical implications and alternatives to the theory. There is no lab for this course.
In PHEN 1410, students examined how we acquire knowledge and gain understanding about our world. In this course students examine the interface between knowledge and practice. Using their experience and information from their undergraduate courses students will examine the point at which physics research becomes truth. Students will examine how society affects research and how physics becomes part of society. This course will include a brief overview of anthropology and sociology of physics. The social construction of knowledge and the anthropology of the laboratory are examples of topics to be considered. Students will particularly focus on science ethics, security issues, and the role of the scientist in forming policy.
This course is intended to be an introductory, algebra-based course in physical science. The course will cover selected topics in astronomy including historical background, the earth-moon system, the solar system, stars and their evolution, environment and groupings of stars, galaxies, and the frontiers of astronomy. Lab is included in this course.
This course is intended as a survey of the physics of the Earth's climate system. This course focuses on large-scale, long-term variability, ranging from days to millennia, rather than local, short-term weather. Topics include basic fluid dynamics, the energy balance of the Earth, the general circulation of the atmosphere, past and modern climate variability, and climate modeling. Lab is included in this course. Background in trigonometry is assumed.
The main focus of this course will be stellar astrophysics. The course will cover the historical development of astronomy, optics and spectroscopy, telescopes, gravitation, planetary systems and comparative planetology, general relativity, stellar structure, H-R diagrams, stellar evolution, and galaxies. Lab is included in this course. This course is intended for science majors interested in astronomy. Basic knowledge of trigonometry is assumed. Calculus is recommended.
This course will cover a topic in the History and Philosophy of Physics. The credit hours will be determined by the choice of topics and the professor teaching the course. Readings in historical methods and philosophy of history will be included as well as instruction in the use of archival materials and oral histories. Proposed topics include: History of Quantum Mechanics and the Influence of the German Romantic Movement, Galileo and the Church, Cold War Science and the Rise of Big Science, Nuclear Security, and Medieval Engineering.
This course constitutes an introduction to the laboratory techniques employed in physics research. Important experiments in the development of modern physics (since 1900) will be covered as well as more contemporary experiments. There is no accompanying lecture course for this lab.
This course is intended to help students begin to make the transition from student to professional. The course will have three main goals: 1) to help students examine their goals as they enter graduate school or the private sector; 2) to help students prepare for the departmental comprehensive exam; and 3) to begin to familiarize students with the literature in their field of study.
This course will investigate the properties of condensed matter including crystallographic groups, mechanical properties, thermal properties, and electrical properties of metals and semiconductors. There is no lab for this course.
This course seeks to investigate how the unifying concepts of atomic theory can lead to an understanding of the observed behavior of macroscopic systems, how quantities describing the directly measurable properties of such systems are interrelated, and how these quantities can be deduced from a knowledge of atomic characteristics. Topics to be covered include properties of equilibria, heat and temperature, statistical ensembles, probability, specification of the state of a system, thermal interaction, work, internal energy, entropy, Maxwell distribution, equipartition theorem, applications to an ideal gas, phases, thermal conductivity, and transport of energy. There is no lab for this course.
This course will investigate the electromagnetic basis of light. Topics to be covered include reflection, refraction, and diffraction of light waves; and geometrical optics including aberrations, spectra, and introduction to quantum effects. Modern applications of optics including lasers, holography, and nonlinear effects will also be included.
Lab to accompany PHEN 3210. Practical experience in optics including photography, holography, Fourier optics, microwave diffraction, fiber optics.
The methods of quantum mechanics are applied to simple atomic systems. Coverage includes a review of quantum theory, solution of the central force problem using Schrodinger's equation, the one-electron atom, time-independent and time-dependent approximation methods, spin, applications of quantum mechanics to multi-electron atoms, shell model of the atom, perturbation theory, variational method and Hartree and Hartree-Fock theories. There is no lab for this course.
This course will investigate the properties of nuclei and elementary particles. Emphasis will be placed upon the structure of nuclei as well as the interactions with nuclei that reveal this structure. Experiments used to obtain information about elementary particles and nuclei will be stressed. Topics to be covered include accelerators and detection systems, interactions of radiation with matter, classification and structure of subatomic particles, symmetries and conservations laws, electromagnetic interactions, weak interactions, hadronic interactions, quarks and Regge poles, nuclear models, and nuclear applications, especially nuclear power. There is no lab for this course.
This course will investigate the basic theory of general relativity. Topics to be covered include the principles of special and general relativity including 3+1 space-time, Lorentz transformations, curved space, black holes, and the Einstein field equations. There is no lab for this course.
Various topics in contemporary physics will be discussed. The topics will be determined by the interests of the students. There is no lab for this course.
A study of the history of the various media of mass communications. The course includes the development of print, radio, television, film, and Internet. Required for admission to the Media Studies major, and prerequisite for most upper-level courses in the major.
This course addresses the development of major U.S. media industries, including newspapers, magazines, radio, television, the Internet, and social media. It focuses on the impact of media innovations on culture, and the ways established media adapt to innovations.
Using case studies, this course explores a range of ethical issues confronted by media practitioners. A moral reasoning process is used to evaluate conflicting values, apply ethical theories, and evaluate to whom ethical loyalty is due.
This course is intended as an opportunity for students to study a topic in physics not included in the regular curriculum. Instructors consent required.
Students will work under the direction of a faculty mentor on a novel research project. Permission of the faculty mentor is required prior to enrollment in this course. This course may be repeated, though the department may limit the number of credit hours this course counts towards the major. Please see the departmental degree requirements for details.
Theoretical research in physics which may be performed off-campus. Students may repeat this course up to a total of 8 semester hours.
Please refer to internship section of the catalog for requirements and guidelines
A study of matrices, vector spaces, linear transformations, orthogonality, eigenvalues, and eigenvectors. Uses computers. Lab included.
Beginning calculus, limits and continuity, derivatives, mean value theorem, applications of derivatives, antiderivatives, Riemann Sums, introduction to the definite integrals. Uses computers. Lab included. Student should have completed four years of high school math.
Continuation of MATH 1510. Fundamental theorem of calculus, evaluation of definite integrals, applications of definite integrals, introduction to differential equations, infinite sequences and series. Uses computers. Lab included.
Study of ordinary differential equations, especially first and second order, with applications to geometry and the physical life sciences. Uses computers.