MAJOR: The major is designed to appeal to students who wish to prepare for professional or graduate work in physics as well as those who wish to study physics but have other career goals. The program for physics majors is composed of the Physics Foundation and one of the five Options listed below. Students can also supplement their programs by taking courses at the California Institute of Technology under the exchange program.

Physics Foundation: All physics majors must complete a core of four  physics courses called the Foundation. In addition to the three-term introductory sequence (Physics  110 or 115, 117, 120), the Foundation includes a course in Modern Physics with laboratory (Physics 240) . Accompanying these physics courses must be work in mathematics including Multivariable Calculus (Math 212) and Linear Systems (Math 214).

Options: In addition to the Foundation, all physics majors must complete one of the following Physics Options. Upon graduation, the student's transcript will list both the major (Physics) and the chosen Option.

Some of the five Options require Physics Selectives, which are courses from the 260 or 360 series, or 300-level courses below 390 not otherwise required for the Option.

Physics Option (28  units): Physics 310, 315, 316, 320, 330, 340, 350 and four units of Physics Selectives. This option is recommended for students who wish a thorough background in physics and for those who wish to pursue professional or graduate work in physics or engineering.

Mathematics Option (32  units): Physics 310, 320, 350, four units of Physics Selectives and eight additional units from any other 300-level Physics courses below 390. Also required are at least eight units in Math or Computer Science numbered above 300 and below 397 (these courses must be in addition to those required math courses listed in the Foundation). This option is recommended for students who wish a broader mathematics or computer science background.

Chemistry Option (32 units): Chemistry 120 or 130, 220, 221, and 240. Also required are

Physics 310, 320, either 330 or 350 and either Physics 340 or Chemistry 305. This option is recommended for students who wish a broader physical science background.

Geology Option (32  units):  Geology 105, 225, 235; and either 245 or one 300-level Geology course.  Also required are Physics 310; Physics 320 or 330; and one selective.  (Both Physics 320 and 330 are strongly encouraged.)  This Option is recommended for students who wish to pursue careers in geology or geophysics.

Education Option (28  units): Physics 320 and twelve  units of Physics Selectives. Also required are Education 201, 205, and 341 . Education 314 is highly recommended. This option is recommended for students who wish to pursue careers in secondary science education.

Physics "Capstone": All physics majors must complete the Senior Seminar, Physics 490 and

491. Majors participating in an off-campus program during the Senior year may repeat 490 or 491 to satisfy this requirement.

COMPREHENSIVE REQUIREMENT: The comprehensive requirement for majors is met by completion of the year-long Senior Seminar (Physics 490/491) with a grade of C or better and by passing a comprehensive examination on the material covered in the Physics Foundation.

WRITING REQUIREMENT: The Physics Department's portion of the College Writing Requirement can be satisfied with a passing evaluation of a student portfolio. The portfolio will consist of two items: one laboratory report from Modern Physics (Physics 240) and/or Advanced Laboratory (Physics 315/316), and one research report from Senior Physics Seminar (Physics 490/491). Students are encouraged to revise these reports before submitting the portfolio. Typical formats for the required writings will be presented in the related courses. The writing is expected to be clear, precise, and intelligible to someone who has completed the Physics Foundation. Proper spelling, grammar, and organization are essential.

A student may submit a portfolio only once. The portfolio will be evaluated on a pass/fail basis by a departmental committee which will meet each semester to consider portfolios received by the last day of classes. Failing students may fulfill the departmental writing requirement by obtaining a grade of C or better in Writing and Rhetoric 401, Writing Across the Curriculum.

Students who would like to improve their writing skills in advance of taking Physics 240, 315, 316, 490 or 491 may elect to take Writing and Rhetoric 401 in their Junior or Senior year; a grade of C or better will satisfy the Physics Department's portion of the College Writing Requirement.

The portfolio is normally submitted at the end of the semester when the student completes

the first semester of 490/491. The latest students can submit a passing portfolio is the last day of classes in their penultimate semester. Students who fail to do so must enroll in English Writing 401 in their final semester and pass with a grade of C or better.

If English Writing 401 is not offered in the student's final semester, another English Writing course may be substituted with the approval of the department.

MINOR: The Physics courses of the Foundation and eight  units of Physics Selectives.

COMBINED PLAN IN LIBERAL ARTS AND ENGINEERING: The program for majors provides for entrance into the Combined Plan Programs (3-2) at Columbia University and the California Institute of Technology. Students interested in engineering should consult the combined plan page for details of these programs.

HONORS: Senior physics majors with an overall grade point average of 3.25 are permitted to present an oral and written thesis on their research for College Honors consideration at graduation. See the Honors Program and consult the department chair for details.

  • Phone: (323) 259-2821
  • Email:
  • Address: Occidental College, Physics, Mail Stop M21, 1600 Campus Rd., Los Angeles, CA 90041

  • Senior Departmental Assistant:

    Tracy A. Mikuriya
    p: (323)259-2821

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