Major Requirements for Physics Majors

Students who wish to major in Physics are required to complete the following coursework: (Physics Major Checklist ).

  • A comprehensive introduction to the calculus: MATH 111, 121, and 211
  • An introduction to the core physics concepts of mechanics (PHYS 123 or 116), electromagnetism (PHYS 124 or 117), oscillations and waves (PHYS 125), relativity and quantum mechanics (PHYS 225), and statistical mechanics (PHYS 230 or CHEM 361).
  • One advanced course in laboratory or observational techniques (PHYS 226 or ASTR 337)
  • A course that examines the intersection of physics with history and society (ASTR/PHYS 255 or CHEM 250; approval from the department is required for a different course prior to enrollment)*
  • Two advanced elective courses on physics, the application of physics in other disciplines, or techniques used in physics. These courses must be approved by the chair of the department in consultation with the faculty of the department. One must be a 300-level PHYS course. At most one may be counted towards a second major.

All Physics majors must demonstrate satisfactory performance on an approved standardized test in general physics. All Physics majors must also attend at least nine public physics or astronomy lectures during the senior year. (Department Colloquium Schedule)

Students who place out of a course are excused from that requirement.

NOTE: For courses taken in Spring 2020, Fall 2020, January 2021, or Spring 2021, the department will accept a grade of P for any major requirement. Before electing to convert a grade to P, we strongly encourage you to discuss the decision with your advisor. It may have repercussions when applying for jobs or graduate and professional schools.

* This requirement is waived for members of the class of 2025 and earlier.  Students waived from this requirement must take three elective courses.


The goal of the elective courses is to allow students to explore at an advanced level their own interests in physics. Elective courses should be beyond the introductory level. Below are some examples of electives pre-approved by the department. The list is not exhaustive, and we encourage students to seek approval for other courses. Also included is a list of courses that do not count as electives.

Examples of courses that satisfy the elective requirement:

  • Any PHYS or ASTR course at the 200- or 300-level not already required for the major
  • Special topics courses PHYS 490 or ASTR 490
  • Quantum Chemistry and Spectroscopy (CHEM 351)
  • Environmental and Solid Earth Geophysics (GEOL 341)
  • Groups, Rings, and Fields (MATH 350)
  • Stochastic Processes (MATH 365)
  • Neurophysiology (NEUR 351)
  • Molecular and Cellular Biophysics (PHYS 400)
  • Theoretical Statistics (STAT 370)

Examples of courses that do not satisfy the elective requirement:

  • Any PHYS or ASTR course at the 100-level
  • Senior departmental honors courses
  • Introductory coursework in other departments (for example COSC 111, STAT 135)
  • Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics (PHYS 230) and Physical Chemistry (CHEM 361)
  • Coursework at the 200-level in Mathematics, Statistics, or Computer Science (for example Differential Equations (MATH 260), Linear Algebra (MATH 271/272), Data Structures and Algorithms (COSC 201))