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Physics and Astronomy
Basic Structure of the Department
- The department offers three basic majors: Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy; and offers minors in Physics, Astronomy, Mathematical Physics (in conjunction with the Mathematics department), and Materials Science (in conjunction with the Engineering Sciences and Chemistry departments).
- The Physics Major offers a solid training in the fundamentals of the discipline.
- The Engineering Physics Major is done in conjunction with Engineering Sciences at Thayer (comparable to a modified major).
- Astronomy is a separate major, which includes relevant study in physics.
- The portal to all three of these majors is PHYS 13 (Introductory Physics I) and PHYS 14 (Introductory Physics II). Students entering with credit for Math 3 can take these courses fall and winter terms respectively, but they are also offered in winter and spring. Especially motivated and well-prepared students may select the more rigorous honors sequence, PHYS 15 (Introductory Physics I – Honors) and 16 (Introductory Physics II – Honors), offered in fall and winter terms respectively, which take the place of the PHYS 13-14-19 sequence.
Information for the First-Year Student Who Plans on Pursuing Studies in Physics and/or Astronomy
- Students should begin with PHYS 13 (fall or winter), followed by PHYS 14 (winter or spring); or PHYS 15 (fall) followed by PHYS 16 (winter).
- Students interested in Astronomy should consider taking ASTR 15 (spring). An introductory course in Physics, and credit for Math 3 are prerequisite.
- PHYS 19 (offered fall term) follows the PHYS 13-14 sequence. A student who completes the PHYS 15-16 (honors) sequence may proceed directly to PHYS 24. A student who takes 13 and 14 in their first year can then enroll in 19 in the fall of their sophomore year. On rare occasions, an exceptionally well-prepared student will place out of PHYS 13-14 and take PHYS 19 in the fall of their first year. Entry is by departmental placement examination, or permission of the instructor.
Other Information about Courses and Considerations
- PHYS 3-4 is a terminal physics track for students who need some knowledge of physics for another course of study (pre-med or non-physical science majors). The PHYS 3-4 sequence is seldom elected by first-year students.
- ASTR 1 (Exploration of the Solar System) is designed for non-majors and fulfills the Science with Lab (SLA) requirement.
- ASTR 2 or 3 (Exploring the Universe) is geared toward the interested non-specialist. ASTR 2 and 3 meet at the same time, but ASTR 3 includes a lab. ASTR 2 fulfills the SCI requirement. ASTR 3 fulfills the SLA requirement. No student may receive credit for both ASTR 2 and 3.
Current Enrollments, Class Size, and Distributives
The Physics and Astronomy home page