Physics Concentrations

Undergraduate Degree Programs
There are two baccalaureate degrees given in Physics:

  • the Bachelor of Science (Sc.B.), and
  • the Bachelor of Arts (A.B.).

The completion of a physics concentration allows a student to develop

(1) a deep capacity for critical quantitative reasoning

(2) an understanding of key laws of physics and how to apply them in various settings

(3) an appreciation for the complementary roles that experiment and theory play in the intellectual development of the field

(4) the ability to formulate a scientific question or problem

(5) the ability to communicate effectively.

The ScB concentration tracks, which require a senior thesis, place greater emphasis on outcomes 4 and 5 than the standard AB concentration tracks. AB concentrators can also choose to do a thesis.

Overall, the two degrees reflect a difference of intensity and range of physics study. Sc.B. Candidates have a larger number of recommended physics courses and may take more of their non-physics electives in closely related fields such as mathematics, applied mathematics, chemistry, etc. A.B. concentrators may take the same advanced physics courses as Sc.B. students but fewer in number while also exploring a larger and perhaps wider range of electives.
Course enrollments in the department range from 12 to 20 students, beyond the first two years. Reading courses and independent study are available in various areas. Graduate courses are open to those who have established adequate preparation.
Within the Sc.B. degree, students may opt to obtain the regular Physics Sc.B, or to specialize in one of three tracks (see below for detailed degree requirements):

  • Mathematical Physics—this track is intended for students interested in theoretical physics and the interface between physics and mathematics.  Students in this track will take a larger number of their courses in the mathematics or applied mathematics department. This track is also available to A.B. candidates.
  • Biological Physics—this track is intended for students who are interested in the physics of biological systems.  Students would take the specialized courses in biophysics offered by the department, as well as additional biology and chemistry courses.
  • Astrophysics—this track is intended for students with an interest in the physics of the cosmos.  Students in this track would take more courses in astrophysics or planetary geology.

Other degree options:
In addition to the standard four-year Sc.B. and A.B. degree programs in physics, the department also offers

  • a five-year combined Sc.B.-A.B. program, in which a standard or independent study concentration is completed in the humanities or social studies concurrently with the physics Sc.B., and 
  • a four-year Master's degree program.
  • an A.B. Degree in Astronomy, for students interested in astronomy who do not wish to complete the requirements for an Sc.B.

REQUIREMENTS:
The course requirements for the Physics A.B. degree are as follows:
Physics 0070,0160 (or 0050,0060 or 0030,0040), Introduction to Physics
Physics 0470, Electricity and Magnetism
Physics 0500, Advanced Classical Mechanics
Physics 0560, Sophomore Laboratory
Physics 1410, Quantum Mechanics A
Physics 1530, Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics

  • Also, one additional 1000 level course in physics, or one mathematics course beyond Math 0170 or 0190 is required.

Sample A.B. Program

Semester I

Semester II

Year I

Physics 30, 50 or 70 
Math course

Physics 40, 60 or 160

Year II

Physics 470

Physics 500 
Physics 560

Year III

Physics 1410

Elective

Year IV

Physics 1530

 

The course requirements for the Physics Sc.B. degree are as follows:

Physics 0070,0160 (or 0050,0060 or 0030,0040), Introduction to Physics
Physics 0470, Electricity and Magnetism
Physics 0500, Advanced Classical Mechanics
Physics 0560, Sophomore Laboratory
Physics 1410, Quantum Mechanics A
Physics 1420, Quantum Mechanics B
Physics 1510, Advanced Electromagnetic Theory
Physics 1530, Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics
Physics 1560, Modern Physics Laboratory
Physics 1990, Senior Conference (Research and preparation of a thesis) 

  • Four courses beyond Math 0170/0190 or 0090, 0100, including choices from Applied Mathematics and Physics 720.
  • One additional 1000 or 2000 level Physics course or upper level course in related fields of science chosen by the student with agreement of his or her advisor.
  • In addition, at least one course in computer programming is recommended.

Also, a senior thesis is required.

  • This is to be prepared in connection with Physics 1990 (or equivalent course in mathematics, engineering or chemistry) under the direction of a faculty supervisor.

Sample Sc.B. Program

 

Semester I

Semester II

Year I

Physics 30, 50 or 70 
Math course

Physics 40, 60 or 160 
Math course

Year II

Physics 470 
Physics 720

Physics 500 
Physics 560 
Math or Applied 
Math course

Year III

Physics 1410 
Physics 1510 or 1530 
Math course

Physics 1420
Physics 1560

Year IV

Physics 1510 or 1530 
Elective

Physics 1990

 

Specialized Tracks

Astrophysics Track for the Sc.B. degree

Eighteen courses are required.
Prerequisites: PHYS 0070, 0160 (or 0050, 0060), PHYS 0270; MATH 0170 and 0180, or MATH 0190 and 0200, or MATH 0350 (or equivalent); PHYS 0470.
Program: MATH 0520, 0540, or PHYS 0720; and one of the following mathematics courses: APMA 0330, 0350, 0340, 0360, MATH 1110, 1120. PHYS 0500, 0560, 1410, and 1530. Three of the following courses: PHYS 1100, 1250, 1270, or 1280; and two additional 1000- or 2000-level courses in physics or a related field which are not listed as requirements.
A senior thesis is required. This is to be prepared in connection with PHYS 1990 under the direction of a faculty supervisor. The topic may be in a related department or of interdisciplinary nature. In any event, a dissertation must be submitted.

Biological Physics Track for the Sc.B. degree

Required Courses: Foundations of Physics: PHYS 0070 or 0050 or ENGN 0040; PHYS 0160 or 0060; PHYS 0470; PHYS 0500; PHYS 1410; PHYS 1530; PHYS 0720 alone or one of APMA 0330, 0350, or MATH 1110 combined with one of MATH 0180, 0200, 0350, 0520 or 0540. Basic Biology and Chemistry: BIOL 0200 (or placement out of BIOL 0200); BIOL 0500, and CHEM 0330. Advanced Biophysical Topics and Techniques: PHYS 1610 and PHYS 1990.
Elective courses (four chosen from the following list, with at least two 1000- or 2000-level courses, or additional courses approved by the concentration advisor): APMA 0360, 0410, 0650, 1070, 1080; BIOL 0280, 0470, 1050, 1130, 1200, 1270, 1870, 1940T; CHEM 0350, 0360; MATH 0090, 0170, 0190, 1610, 1620; PHYS 0560, 1510, 1560, 2620F.
A senior thesis is required. This is to be prepared in connection with PHYS 1990 under the direction of a faculty supervisor. The topic may be in a related department or of interdisciplinary nature. In any event, a dissertation must be submitted.

Mathematical Physics Track for the A.B. degree

Prerequisites: MATH 0090, 0100, or 0190; PHYS 0050 or 0070. The required mathematics courses are MATH 0180 or 0200 or 0350 and 0520 or 0540; 1110; and at least one of the following: 1060, 1120, 1610. The required physics sequence consists of PHYS 0060 or 0160; 0470; 0500; 0560; and at least two of the following: 1410, 1420, 1510, 1530, 1560. Concentrators are required to take at least one course in mathematics and one in physics in each of their last two semesters.

Mathematical Physics Track for the Sc.B. degree

Prerequisites: PHYS 0070, 0160 (or 0050, 0060); MATH 0190 (or 090, 0100). Required courses: PHYS 0470, 0500, 0560, 1410, 1530; MATH 0180, 0200 or 0350; 0520 or 0540; MATH 1530; four additional 1000 or 2000 level PHYS courses and two additional 1000 or 2000 level MATH courses. A senior thesis is required. This is to be prepared in connection with Physics 1990 under the direction of a faculty supervisor.