Academic program

Physics, the study of space, time, matter, and energy, is a fundamental component of a liberal education. Introductory courses in physics and astronomy are designed to give students a broad background in the fundamentals of the discipline, an introduction to the logic and philosophy of science, and insight into the understanding and applications of contemporary physics and astrophysics. Advanced courses provide greater depth and sophistication as the student's background in physics and mathematics develops. Laboratory investigation, designed to accommodate each student's particular needs, provides direct experience of the central role that experimental research plays in the advancement of science. More information on physics and astronomy can be found on the website (

Major Requirements. The major in physics can be structured to meet the individual needs of students planning graduate study in physics or engineering, as well as those considering careers in business, teaching, government, law, or medicine. The requirement for a major is ten courses in physics, including the following eight, usually taken in this order: PHYS 108 (or FYS 274), 222, 211, 231, 301, 308, 409 or 412 or 422, and 457 or 458. The additional two courses must be selected from the following: PHYS 107 (only if taken prior to 108, concurrently with FYS 274, or if assigned as Advanced Placement credit), 214, 216, 220, 232, s27, s30, or any physics course numbered 300 or higher. Only one semester of senior thesis may count toward satisfying the minimum ten-course requirement. To learn physics effectively, it is important that courses be taken in the recommended order and, if at all possible, with the recommended background. Nevertheless, prerequisites and corequisites can be waived in appropriate circumstances, especially in cases of incoming students with strong backgrounds. Students considering graduate study in physics or engineering should take PHYS 409 and 422 as well as other courses numbered 300 or higher. In exceptional cases, a student who otherwise meets the ten-course requirement may petition the department to take a comprehensive examination in lieu of the senior thesis project.

Minor Requirements. The requirement for a minor is six courses in physics, including the following three, usually taken in this order: PHYS 108 (or FYS 274), 222, 211. The additional three courses must be selected from the following: PHYS 107 (only if taken prior to 108, or concurrently with FYS 274), s27, s30, and any course numbered 200 or higher, except for INDS 228.

Pass/Fail Grading Option. Pass/fail grading may not be elected for courses applied toward the minor or major.

General Education. Students majoring in physics may satisfy the [W2] requirement by completing any four of the following courses in the sophomore and/or junior years: PHYS 211, 214, 222, 231, 301, 341, 381, s27.

Engineering. A student interested in using physics as a basis for an engineering career should inquire about the Bates dual-degree plans with Dartmouth, Rensselaer, Columbia, Washington University in St. Louis, or Case Western Reserve (consult the website, By careful planning at registration time, similar combination curricula may sometimes be designed with other engineering institutions. Students participating in a dual-degree program declare a major in engineering.

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