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Modern Physics in the Liberal Arts

Modern physics is a complex endeavor building upon many centuries of experimentation and theory. It is an enterprise conducted by men and women who are stimulated by hopes and purposes that are universal: to understand and describe nature in its most elementary form. Physics can inspire greater reverence, wonder, and awe of the natural world. It also provides a continuous stream of remarkable insights into the nature of reality across a wide range of domains, giving rise to astonishing transformations that can change both our world and our worldviews. Physics and astronomy courses train students to carefully observe physical phenomena and to interpret the phenomena using synthesis, mathematical modeling and analysis. These methods represent a way of knowing that is central to the scientific method. The Department is dedicated to teaching students with majors in science as well as general science education in the liberal arts tradition. The physics major is designed for students who wish to pursue graduate study or gain employment in industry or government service.

As the pace of scientific discovery and innovation accelerates, there is an urgent cultural need to reflect thoughtfully about these epic changes and challenges in a constructive dialogue involving all of our traditions. One of the greatest challenges of our age is to bridge the compartmentalized departments of the modern university, engaging in an integrative dialogue among all of the Sciences and Liberal Arts disciplines.

This endeavor must honor the details and complexities of each discipline. At the same time, we must not shrink from the task of building exploratory and substantive connections on issues of broad and enduring significance between the variegated cultures of the sciences and the humanities. While such rigorous interdisciplinarity is extremely difficult, the Dept. of Physics & Astronomy seeks to foster significant new insights and discoveries that may lie beyond the horizons of traditional academic disciplines. The culture of the university flourishes when such great issues and topics are deliberated in open forums across disciplines.

Learning Outcomes

Students who graduate with a major in physics will be able to analyze complex and subtle physical phenomena and systems. The successful student will be able to identify the physical and mathematical principles relevant to a system — even principles that are addressed in separate courses and disciplines. Using the principles they identify, students will be able to carry out the necessary analysis and synthesis to model the system accurately, and will be able to effectively communicate their results.

Major Requirements

Requirements listed on this page may be useful as a convenient summary but they are not authoritative. Consult the Undergraduate Course Catalog corresponding to your year of admission for authoritative information.

Lower Division

Physics 1, 2 (lab), 3, 4 (lab), 60

Mathematics 27, 38, 29

Upper Division

All majors must take six upper-division physics courses including Physics 105, 110, 125, 181 and Math 134.

Minor Requirements

Physics 1, 2 (lab), 3, 4 (lab), 60; Mathematics 27, 38, 29 and three elective upper-division physics courses.

Prerequisite Grades

Any course listed in this department with a prerequisite assumes a grade of "C−" or better in the prerequisite course.

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