Physics
Overview
The Physics department provides an education in the fundamental processes of the physical world with thorough study in both the classroom and laboratory. After completion of the program, a physics student will have excellent analytical and problemsolving skills in addition to ample handson laboratory experience. The Physics major is excellent preparation for professional or graduate work in physics, engineering, and related fields. In addition, a physics major finds that he or she is an attractive applicant for medical, business, or law school, as well as having an excellent foundation for science teaching.
In addition to the full spectrum of undergraduate coursework, the department offers many opportunities to participate in research projects both on and off campus. Qualified students may begin research projects as early as their first year. Current research activities in the department include experimental efforts in Particle Astrophysics, Condensed Matter Physics, Plasma Physics, and theoretical efforts in Cosmology, Particle Physics, and Complex Systems. Departmental resources include wellequipped research and instructional laboratories, as well as laboratory space for qualified students to carry out independent investigations of their own. Many students have also participated in projects at nearby institutions such as the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Students who wish to do advanced work in physics or engineering should complete the introductory physics sequence (PHYS 110, PHYS 117, PHYS 230, and PHYS 240) as early as possible. These courses provide a foundation in both classical and modern physics. Fundamental understanding and procedures in analytical physics are stressed throughout. This sequence is recommended to all students who have an aptitude for scientific work and who are acquiring a strong background in mathematics, including an introduction to differential and integral calculus.
Physics majors typically begin taking courses at the intermediate level by the end of the sophomore year, and are encouraged to complete required 300level courses by the end of junior year. This schedule prepares a student for the widest array of 260 and 360series courses.
Of special interest are the three series of physics courses numbered PHYS 160 PHYS 169, PHYS 260 PHYS 269, and PHYS 360 PHYS 369. These courses cover special topics as well as subjects of active research interest within the Physics department. The 160 series is designed for nonscience students interested in varying aspects of physical science. These courses have few prerequisites beyond algebra and trigonometry and many are open only to students who have not taken PHYS 110/ PHYS 115, PHYS 117, PHYS 230/ PHYS 125, or their equivalent. The 260 series is open to anyone who has completed PHYS 230 or PHYS 125. The prerequisites for 360series courses vary, but generally require physics beyond PHYS 230 or PHYS 125.
Requirements
Major
The program for physics majors is composed of the Physics Foundation and one of seven concentrations (Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, Geology, Education, Computer Science, or Renewable Energy.) Details for each concentration are listed below.
Students can also supplement their programs by taking courses at the California Institute of Technology under the exchange program.
In addition to the Physics Foundation, all physics majors must complete one of the following Physics concentrations. Upon graduation, the student's transcript will list both the major (Physics) and the chosen concentration.
Foundation
All physics majors must complete a core of four physics courses called the Foundation. Accompanying these physics courses must be work in mathematics including Multivariable Calculus and Linear Systems.
PHYS 110  Introductory Mechanics  4 units 
Or  
PHYS 115  General Physics I  4 units 
PHYS 117  Waves and Thermal Physics  4 units 
PHYS 230  Introductory Electricity and Magnetism  4 units 
PHYS 240  Foundations of Modern Physics  4 units 
MATH 212  Multivariable Calculus  4 units 
MATH 214  Linear Algebra  4 units 
Concentration in Physics (28 units):
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.
PHYS 310  Mathematical Methods in Physics  4 units 
PHYS 315  Advanced Laboratory I  2 units 
PHYS 316  Advanced Laboratory II  2 units 
PHYS 320  Analytical Dynamics  4 units 
PHYS 330  Advanced Electromagnetism  4 units 
PHYS 340  Quantum Mechanics  4 units 
PHYS 350  Statistical Physics  4 units 
Physics Selective  4 units 
Concentration in Mathematics (32 units):
Recommended for students who wish a broader mathematics or computer science background.
PHYS 310  Mathematical Methods in Physics  4 units 
PHYS 320  Analytical Dynamics  4 units 
PHYS 350  Statistical Physics  4 units 
Physics Selective  4 units 

Any other 300level Physics courses  8 units 

Any other 300level Math courses not including Junior Seminar  8 units 
These courses must be in addition to those required math courses listed in the Foundation.
Concentration in Chemistry (32 units):
Recommended for students who wish a broader physical science background.
CHEM 120  Foundations of General Chemistry  4 units 
Or  
CHEM 130  Advanced Placement General Chemistry  4 units 
CHEM 220  Organic Chemistry I  4 units 
CHEM 221  Organic Chemistry II  4 units 
CHEM 240  Integrated Concepts in General Chemistry  4 units 
PHYS 310  Mathematical Methods in Physics  4 units 
PHYS 320  Analytical Dynamics  4 units 
PHYS 340  Quantum Mechanics  4 units 
PHYS 330  Advanced Electromagnetism  4 units 
Or  
PHYS 350  Statistical Physics  4 units 
Concentration in Geology (28 units):
Recommended for students who wish to pursue careers in geology or geophysics.
GEO 105  Earth: Our Environment  4 units 
GEO 225  Earth: A field perspective  4 units 
GEO 235  Global Geophysics and Tectonics  4 units 
GEO 245  Earth's Climate: Past and Future  4 units 
Or  
GEO  One 300level Geology course  
PHYS 310  Mathematical Methods in Physics  4 units 
PHYS 320  Analytical Dynamics  4 units 
And  
One course from:  
PHYS 330  Advanced Electromagnetism  4 units 
PHYS 340  Quantum Mechanics  4 units 
PHYS 350  Statistical Physics  4 units 
PHYS 330 is strongly encouraged.
Concentration in Education (28 units):
This concentration is recommended for students who wish to pursue careers in secondary science education. EDUC 314 is highly recommended.
PHYS 320  Analytical Dynamics  4 units 
Physics Selectives  12 units 

EDUC 201  Sociocultural Foundations of Education  4 units 
EDUC 207  Conflict in Education  4 units 
Four units of:  
EDUC 300  Community Engagement in Education  2 units 
Concentration in Computer Science (32 units):
MATH 210  Discrete Mathematics  4 units 
COMP 131  Fundamentals of Computer Science  4 units 
COMP 229  Data Structures  4 units 
COMP 239  Computer Organization  4 units 
One additional 300level Computer Science course not including Practicum and Junior Seminar  4 units 

PHYS 310  Mathematical Methods in Physics  4 units 
PHYS 320  Analytical Dynamics  4 units 
One course from:  
PHYS 330  Advanced Electromagnetism  4 units 
PHYS 340  Quantum Mechanics  4 units 
PHYS 350  Statistical Physics  4 units 
Concentration in Renewable Energy (32 units):
PHYS 320  Analytical Dynamics  4 units 
PHYS 370  Energy Physics  4 units 
MATH 150  Statistical Data Analysis  4 units 
ECON 101  Principles of Economics I  4 units 
ECON 102  Principles of Economics II  4 units 
ECON 322  Economics of Sustainable Development  4 units 
Physics Selective  4 units 

Two of the following:  
ECON 201  Sustainability Lab  2 units 
INT 200  Internship  2 units 
Physics "Capstone":
All physics majors must complete the Senior Seminar sequence:
PHYS 490  Senior Physics Seminar I  2 units 
And  
PHYS 491  Senior Physics Seminar II  2 units 
Majors participating in an offcampus program during the Senior year may repeat PHYS 490 or PHYS 491 to satisfy this requirement.
Honors in the Major
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. Consult the department chair for details.
Minor
Introductory sequence
PHYS 110  Introductory Mechanics  4 units 
Or  
PHYS 115  General Physics I  4 units 
PHYS 117  Waves and Thermal Physics  4 units 
PHYS 230  Introductory Electricity and Magnetism  4 units 
PHYS 240  Foundations of Modern Physics  4 units 
Mathematics Component
MATH 212  Multivariable Calculus  4 units 
MATH 214  Linear Algebra  4 units 
Physics Selectives
Eight units of additional electives.
SecondStage Writing Proficiency
The SecondStage Writing Requirement in Physics can be satisfied with a passing evaluation of a student portfolio. The portfolio will consist of three items: two laboratory reports from Modern Physics (PHYS 240) and/or Advanced Laboratory (PHYS 315/PHYS 316), and one research report from Senior Physics Seminar (PHYS 490/PHYS 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. The portfolio will be evaluated on a pass/fail basis by a departmental committee.
A student may submit a portfolio only once. The portfolio is normally submitted at the end of the semester when the student completes the first semester of PHYS 490/PHYS 491. The final deadline for submission of a passing portfolio is the last day of classes in a student’s penultimate semester. Students who fail to pass the writing portfolio or those that do not wish to submit a portfolio can also satisfy the SecondStage Writing Requirement by taking a WRD 201 course that has been approved by the Physics Department Chair in consultation with the WRD Chair. A grade of C or better will satisfy the SecondStage Writing Requirement.
Comprehensive Requirement
The comprehensive requirement for majors is met by completion of the yearlong Senior Seminar (PHYS 490/PHYS 491) with a grade of C or better and by passing a comprehensive examination on the material covered in the Physics Foundation.
Advising Information
Firstyear students interested in majoring in physics should start with Physics 110 in the fall of their first year. Next they should take Physics 117 in the spring of their first year. In addition, students should have completed at least Calculus I (MATH 110 or 114) and Calculus II (MATH 120 or 129) by the end of their first year. Students who come to the college with a more advanced background in physics should consult the department’s Course Exemption page. Physics majors typically begin taking courses at the intermediate level by the end of the sophomore year, and are encouraged to complete required 300level courses by the end of junior year.
Students majoring in Physics must choose one of the following concentrations: Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, Geology, Education, Computer Science, or Renewable Energy. The Physics concentration 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. The Geology concentration is recommended for students who wish to pursue careers in geology or geophysics. The Chemistry concentration is recommended for students looking for a broader physical science background. The Mathematics and Computer Science concentrations are recommended for students who want broader exposure to those fields of study. The Education concentration is recommended for students who are interested in pursuing careers in secondary science education.
Placement Information
No placement exam is required in order to take the introductorylevel physics courses. Students who received a 5 on the AP Mechanics C exam or who have previously taken collegelevel physics courses should see the department Course Exemption page for more information.
Most students who are interested in majoring in Physics should take the Calculus Placement Assessment (ALEKS) during the summer prior to their first year. You do not need to take the Calculus Placement Assessment if you any of the following are true:
 You received a score of 4 or 5 on either the AP Calculus AB or BC exam;
 You receive an IB Calculus HL score of 5 or above;
 You have already taken a Calculus 1 course at another accredited college or university.
Sample 4Year Plans
Physics Concentration
Fall 
Spring 

Year 1 


Year 2 

Year 3 

Year 4 
Curricular Notes:
 To complete Core by the end of the sophomore year, students will need to double dip at least one course.
 MATH 212 and MATH 214 can be taken in any order.
 Though it is not a requirement for the major, students are strongly encouraged to take COMP 165: Mathematica (2 units) by the end of their sophomore year.
 COMP 131 is recommended, but not required for this concentration.
 The Physics Selective can be any course from the 260 or 360 series, or 300level courses below 390, that are not otherwise required for the concentration.
Mathematics Concentration
Fall 
Spring 

Year 1 


Year 2 

Year 3 


Year 4 
Curricular Notes:
 To complete Core by the end of the sophomore year, students will need to double dip at least one course.
 MATH 212 and MATH 214 can be taken in any order.
 Though it is not a requirement for the major, students are strongly encouraged to take COMP 165: Mathematica (2 units) by the end of their sophomore year.
 COMP 131 is recommended, but not required for this concentration.
 The Physics Selective can be any course from the 260 or 360 series, or 300level courses below 390, that are not otherwise required for the concentration.
 The Mathematics concentration requires 8 units of 300level PHYS courses in addition to PHYS 310, PHYS 320, and PHYS 315. The department recommends PHYS 315 (2 units), PHYS 316 (2 units), PHYS 330 (4 units), and/or PHYS 340 (4 units).
 For the two 300level MATH courses, students can take any 300level MATH course except MATH 300: Junior Colloquium.
Geology Concentration
Fall 
Spring 

Year 1 


Year 2 

Year 3 

Year 4 

Curricular Notes:
 To complete core by the end of the sophomore year, students will need to double dip at least two courses.
 MATH 212 and MATH 214 can be taken in any order.
 Though it is not a requirement for the major, students are strongly encouraged to take COMP 165: Mathematica (2 units) by the end of their sophomore year.
 COMP 131 is recommended, but not required for this concentration.
 GEO 105 must be taken before the end of the sophomore year. Students pursuing the Geology Concentration can take PHYS 340 or PHYS 350 instead of PHYS 330, but PHYS 330 is strongly encouraged.
 A 300level Geology course can be taken instead of GEO 245 if desired.
Education Concentration
Fall 
Spring 

Year 1 


Year 2 


Year 3 


Year 4 

Curricular Notes:
 MATH 212 and MATH 214 can be taken in any order.
 Though it is not a requirement for the major, students are strongly encouraged to take COMP 165: Mathematica (2 units) by the end of their sophomore year.
 COMP 131 is recommended, but not required for this concentration.
 The Physics Selective can be any course from the 260 or 360 series, or 300level courses below 390, that are not otherwise required for the concentration.
Computer Science Concentration
Fall 
Spring 

Year 1 


Year 2 

Year 3 

Year 4 

Curricular Notes:
 In order to complete core by the end of the sophomore year, at least one course will need to be double dipped.
 MATH 212 and MATH 214 can be taken in any order.
 Though it is not a requirement for the major, students are strongly encouraged to take COMP 165: Mathematica (2 units) by the end of their sophomore year.
 Computer Science concentration students can take two from: PHYS 320, PHYS 330, PHYS 340, and PHYS 350
 The 300level COMP course can be any course except COMP 390 or practicum.
Renewable Energy Concentration
Fall 
Spring 

Year 1 


Year 2 

Year 3 

Year 4 
Curricular Notes:
 To complete core by the end of the sophomore year, students will need to double dip at least one course.
 Though ECON 102 is not required for the concentration, it is a prerequisites for ECON 322 which is required.
 COMP 131 is recommended, but not required for this concentration.
 MATH 212 and MATH 214 can be taken in any order.
 The Renewable Energy Concentration requires students to complete two of the following: ECON 201, UEP 246, and INT 200
 Though it is not a requirement for the major, students are strongly encouraged to take COMP 165: Mathematica (2 units) by the end of their sophomore year.
 The Physics Selective can be any course from the 260 or 360 series, or 300level courses below 390, that are not otherwise required for the concentration.
Chemistry Concentration
Fall 
Spring 

Year 1 


Year 2 

Year 3 

Year 4 
Curricular Notes:
 To complete core by the end of the sophomore year, students will need to double dip one course
 MATH 212 and MATH 214 can be taken in any order.
 Though it is not a requirement for the major, students are strongly encouraged to take COMP 165: Mathematica (2 units) by the end of their sophomore year.
 COMP 131 is recommended, but not required for this concentration.
 Chemistry Concentration students can take either PHYS 330 or PHYS 350.
Transfer Credit Policies
Transfer courses taken online may not be used to substitute for an Oxy physics course. Students should reference the Transfer Credit section for details.