Please note: The information displayed here is current as of Wednesday, June 26, 2019, but the official Course Catalog should be used for all official planning.
2018-2019 Course Catalog
Required for the major in physics
Students who major in physics will master the concepts in the fundamental subject areas of classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics. They will apply analytical, computational, and experimental methods to solve physics problems and will complete a scientific investigation and effectively communicate findings in oral and written form.
The major in physics requires the following:
- PHYS 220, 225, 230, 310, 320, and 330
- Two additional six-unit courses chosen from PHYS 340 and above, excluding directed study, tutorial, and independent study courses taken as part of the Senior Experience or for other reasons
- Senior Experience in physics
Physics majors without advanced placement should start with PHYS 141, 151 and 160. Majors who do not intend to pursue graduate study in physics may petition the department to substitute appropriate upper-level offerings in other departments for up to two of the required physics electives.
The following program is typical:
- Freshman: PHYS 151, 160; MATH 140, 150, 160
- Sophomore: PHYS 220, 225, 230; MATH 210
- Junior: PHYS 310, 320, 330; physics electives
- Senior: PHYS 699: Independent Study in Physics, PHYS 650: Senior Seminar in Physics; physics electives
Additional courses in mathematics, chemistry, computer science biology, and geology are often elected. The prospective major should consult early and regularly with the faculty in the department.
Required for the interdisciplinary major in natural sciences in physics and a secondary discipline
Physics students who have strong secondary interests in biology, chemistry, or geosciences may construct a major involving physics and one of these sciences using the interdisciplinary major in the natural sciences.
The requirements for the interdisciplinary major with physics as the primary discipline are:
- PHYS 151 and 160
- Any two of the following, chosen to include the secondary discipline:
- BIOL 130, 150, and 170
- CHEM 115 and 116 or equivalent
- GEOL 110 (any section) and GEOL 210
- At least 10 six-unit courses in the sciences (biology, chemistry, geology, physics) numbered 200 or above, with at least five in physics and at least three in the secondary discipline. The five courses in physics must include PHYS 225, 230, 310, and 330.
- Senior Experience in physics
Senior Experience in physics
The Senior Experience in the department of physics consists of an independent investigation tailored to the individual student’s goals in physics. The process consists of a formal project proposal to the department followed by one or two six-unit independent study courses under faculty supervision and culminating in a capstone thesis paper.
All seniors will participate in a two-unit senior seminar, PHYS 650, in which they present their work orally. Students with double majors or degrees may propose initiatives that span multiple departments but both departments must approve such proposals before the project goes forward.
Required for the minor in physics
- PHYS 151 and 160
- PHYS 225
- Three additional six-unit courses in physics, at least two of which must be chosen from physics courses numbered 220 and above, excluding independent studies and capstone courses, and no more than one of which can be chosen from PHYS 103–115 and PHYS 205
- C average in the minor
A student pursuing a minor in physics must consult with a member of the department early and often to plan and monitor progress in the minor.
Teacher certification in physics or broad-field science
Students can seek teacher certification to teach physics at the secondary level. Certification requires a major in physics with courses in other science subjects, and students may petition to substitute physics courses numbered below 199 for the two required physics electives. Students also have the option of seeking broad-field science certification by completing a minimum of two courses in each of two other science disciplines and at least one course in each of the remaining sciences. Students who plan to seek teacher certification should review the requirements in the Education section of the catalog and meet with the director of teacher education, preferably before the end of the sophomore year.
Courses of general interest requiring minimal or no prerequisite are numbered 107-115. The introductory courses, 141, 151, and 160, require elementary calculus. PHYS 141 introduces ideas in calculus together with concepts in physics. The calculus introduced in PHYS 141 will not replace any mathematics prerequisites in courses numbered 160 and higher. Intermediate courses are numbered between 200 and 300 and typically list calculus and differential equations as prerequisites. Advanced courses, many of which list one or more intermediate courses as prerequisites, are intended for juniors and seniors and are numbered above 300. Tutorial studies in physics and independent study in physics also are offered.
Recommended courses outside the department
Courses in mathematics, chemistry, and computer science are frequently elected to support a major in physics, but courses in geology, biology, economics, philosophy, anthropology, and other areas have occasionally been chosen by physics majors whose post-graduation objectives have an interdisciplinary dimension. With departmental approval, up to two upper-level courses in other departments may be substituted for required physics electives.
Opportunities for non-majors
The physics curriculum offers non-majors the opportunity to take one or more terms of physics as part of their liberal education. Although every course is open to all suitably prepared students, PHYS 107, 110, 112, 115, 141, 151, 160, and 220 have traditionally attracted non-majors.
The laboratory science general education requirement
The following courses in the physics department satisfy the university’s degree requirement of one laboratory course in natural science: PHYS 107, 110, 141, 151, 160, 220, 330, 340.
Students with strong backgrounds should seek advanced placement and credit, normally by submitting scores on the Physics Advanced Placement Examination. Advanced placement without credit is awarded to students who submit satisfactory evidence that they both understand most of PHYS 141 or 151 and are able to remedy weaknesses on their own initiative.
Majors preparing for graduate school in physics will probably take more courses in physics than the required minimum. PHYS 425, 430, 440, and 460 are recommended for all such students. Other departmental offerings (PHYS 340, 500-570) are appropriate for students with particular interests in the topics of those courses. All students contemplating graduate studies in physics should seek opportunities at Lawrence or elsewhere for full-time research during the summer after the junior year (or earlier). Students contemplating graduate studies in physics should discuss their plans early and often with members of the department.
The Associated Colleges of the Midwest program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is available to majors in physics. Further, with careful advance planning, physics majors at Lawrence can arrange to be off campus for a term—typically the Winter or Spring Term of the junior year or the Fall Term of the senior year—without jeopardizing progress in the major. Thus, physics majors can participate in off-campus programs, even if those programs contain no scientific components. The Lawrence London Centre, among others, has been a popular destination for physics majors.