Courses & Requirements

The requirements below apply to those students with a 2019-2020 catalog year. Students are required by college policy to follow the major (and minor) requirements found in the catalog in effect at the time they declared their first major. To find your catalog year, please visit your Grades and Academic Records found in myOxy and access the catalog that matches your catalog year.

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 problem-solving skills in addition to ample hands-on 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 well-equipped 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 120 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. Students with a strong high school physics background or a high score on the Physics AP examination may wish to consider Course Exemption by Examination, whereby the student can be exempted from some or all of the courses in the introductory sequence.

Physics majors typically begin taking courses at the intermediate level by the end of the sophomore year, and are encouraged to complete required 300-level courses by the end of junior year. This schedule prepares a student for the widest array of 260- and 360-series 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 non-science 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 120/ PHYS 125, or their equivalent. The 260 series of courses is open to anyone who has completed PHYS 120 or PHYS 125. The prerequisites for 360-series courses vary, but generally require physics beyond PHYS 120 or PHYS 125.

Major Requirements

The program for physics majors is composed of the Physics Foundation and one of six concentrations (Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, Geology, Education and Computer Science.)  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.

PHYSICS 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.

Introductory sequence

PHYS 110Introductory Mechanics

4 units

Or

PHYS 115General Physics I

4 units

PHYS 117Waves and Thermal Physics

4 units

PHYS 120Introductory Electricity and Magnetism

4 units

PHYS 240Modern Physics

4 units

Mathematics Component

MATH 212Multivariable Calculus

4 units

MATH 214Linear Algebra

4 units

Concentrations

Some of the five concentrations require Physics Selectives (courses from the 260 or 360 series, or 300-level courses below 390 not otherwise required for the concentration).

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 310Mathematical Methods in Physics

4 units

PHYS 315Advanced Laboratory I

2 units

PHYS 316Advanced Laboratory II

2 units

PHYS 320Analytical Dynamics

4 units

PHYS 330Advanced Electromagnetism

4 units

PHYS 340Quantum Mechanics

4 units

PHYS 350Statistical 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 310Mathematical Methods in Physics

4 units

PHYS 320Analytical Dynamics

4 units

PHYS 350Statistical Physics

4 units

Physics Selective

4 units

Any other 300-level Physics courses

8 units

Any other 300-level 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 120Foundations of General Chemistry

4 units

Or

CHEM 130Advanced Placement General Chemistry

4 units

CHEM 220Organic Chemistry I

4 units

CHEM 221Organic Chemistry II

4 units

CHEM 240Integrated Concepts in General Chemistry

4 units

PHYS 310Mathematical Methods in Physics

4 units

PHYS 320Analytical Dynamics

4 units

PHYS 330Advanced Electromagnetism

4 units

Or

PHYS 340Quantum Mechanics

4 units

PHYS 350Statistical Physics

4 units

Concentration in Geology (28 units):

Recommended for students who wish to pursue careers in geology or geophysics.

GEO 105Earth: Our Environment

4 units

GEO 225Introduction to Field Methods

4 units

GEO 235Global Geophysics and Tectonics

4 units

GEO 245Earth's Climate: Past and Future

4 units

Or

GEO One 300-level Geology course

PHYS 310Mathematical Methods in Physics

4 units

Two of the following

PHYS 320Analytical Dynamics

4 units

PHYS 330Advanced Electromagnetism

4 units

PHYS 350Statistical Physics

4 units

PHYS 320, PHYS 330: Both PHYS 320 and PHYS 330 are 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 320Analytical Dynamics

4 units

Physics Selectives

12 units

EDUC 201Sociocultural Foundations of Education

4 units

EDUC 207Conflict in Education

4 units


And four units of:
EDUC 300Community Engagement in Education

2 units

Concentration in Computer Science (32 units):

MATH 210Discrete Mathematics

4 units

COMP 131Fundamentals of Computer Science

4 units

COMP 229Data Structures

4 units

COMP 239Computer Organization

4 units

One additional 300-level Computer Science course not including Practicum and Junior Seminar

4 units

PHYS 310Mathematical Methods in Physics

4 units

And two of the following:
PHYS 320Analytical Dynamics

4 units

PHYS 330Advanced Electromagnetism

4 units

PHYS 340Quantum Mechanics

4 units

PHYS 350Statistical Physics

4 units

PHYSICS "CAPSTONE"

Physics "Capstone":

All physics majors must complete the Senior Seminar sequence:

PHYS 490Senior Physics Seminar I

2 units

And

PHYS 491Senior Physics Seminar II

2 units

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

Second-Stage Writing Requirement

The Second-Stage 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 (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. 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 490/491. 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 Second-Stage 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 Second-Stage Writing Requirement.

Comprehensive Requirement

The comprehensive requirement for majors is met by completion of the year-long 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.

College 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.

Minor Requirements

COURSEWORK

Introductory sequence

PHYS 110Introductory Mechanics

4 units

Or

PHYS 115General Physics I

4 units

 

PHYS 117Waves and Thermal Physics

4 units

PHYS 120Introductory Electricity and Magnetism

4 units

Modern Physics

PHYS 240Modern Physics

4 units

Mathematics Component

MATH 212Multivariable Calculus

4 units

MATH 214Linear Algebra

4 units

Physics Selectives

Eight units of additional electives.

Transfer Credit Policies

Transfer courses taken online may not be used to substitute for an Oxy physics course.

Students who received a score of 5 on the AP Physics C Mechanics exam have an automatic exemption for PHYS 110 or PHYS 115. Students who received a score of 5 on the AP Physics C Electricity and Magnetism exam have an automatic exemption for PHYS 120 or PHYS 125. An exemption fulfills a prerequisite requirement.

Students should reference the Transfer Credit section for details.

Courses

Physics Courses