The Physics Major

A major in Physics consists of the following courses

PHYS 131 Introduction to Physics:Newtonian Mechanics or 132 Introduction to Physics: Gravity and the Earth or 141 Introduction to Physics: Gravity and the Cosmos or 142 Introductory Mechanics: Matter and Interactions, and PHYS 151 Introduction to Physics: Relativity and Particles 

PHYS 228 Atomic and Nuclear Physics

PHYS 229 and PHYS 230 Analytical Mechanics and Computational Mechanics

PHYS 235 Electricity and Magnetism

PHYS 335 Quantum Mechanics

PHYS 342 Contemporary Experimental Physics

PHYS 400 Integrative Exercise

Plus one applied physics course chosen from the following list of courses:  PHYS 234 Computer Simulations in Complex Physical Systems,PHYS 260 Materials Science, PHYS 261 Medical Physics, PHYS 341 Waves,PHYS 343 Electronics, PHYS 344 Classical and Quantum Optics, PHYS 347 General Relativity or PHYS 354 Solid State Physics ; ASTR 232 Astrophysics I or 233 Astrophysics II, BIO 360 Seminar in Biophysics, ENTS 262 Materials Science or others upon consultations with the department.

Required math courses are MATH 111, 121, 211, and 232.

Additional courses that are often recommended include Physics 123, 223, 336, 340, 352, 355, 356, Astronomy 113, 356, Chemistry 123, Mathematics 241, 341, 351 and Computer Science 111.  Students considering graduate school in physics are strongly encouraged to take Physics 346, 352, and 355.

Typical Programs of Study

In the programs suggested below, the courses in parentheses are optional; the others are required for the major. Keep in mind that these programs are flexible and are intended only as guidelines for planning a sequence of courses for the physics major. 

PROGRAM A: The most common sequence.

Fall Term Winter Term Spring Term
Frosh Math 111: Intro to Calculus

Math 121: Calculus II

PHYS 1311/1512 or PHYS 1411/1512: Intro sequence

MATH 221: Multivariable Calculus
[CHEM 123: Principles]
[CS 117: Intro.]
Soph Math 232: Linear Algebra
PHYS 228: Atomic and Nuclear
[MATH 241: Ordinary Diff Eq]
PHYS 2291/2302: Mechanics
[MATH 341: Fourier Series]
PHYS 235: Electricity and Magnetism
Junior PHYS/ASTR Elective

PHYS 335:Quantum Mechanics PHYS 342: Contemporary Experimental Physics
PHYS/ASTR Elective

The senior year is open except for comps, which normally demand work equivalent to a six-credit course. For students planning on graduate work in physics, a typical senior year is as follows:

Fall Term Winter Term Spring Term
Senior [PHYS 355: Advanced Mechanics]

PHYS 400: Comps PHYS/ASTR Elective


* Note that 131 may be skipped upon successfully passing the departmental placement exam, with 141 strongly suggested as a replacement for 131.

1 Three-credit course offered first half of term

2 Three-credit course offered second half of term

[] Strongly recommended elective course

PHYS/ASTR Elective courses

PHYS 234: Computer Simulations in Complex Physical Systems
PHYS 261: Medical Physics
PHYS 341: Waves
PHYS 343: Electronics
PHYS 344: Classical and Quantum Optics
PHYS 346: Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics
PHYS 347: General Relativity
PHYS 352: Advanced Electricity and Magnetism
PHYS 354: Solid State Physics
PHYS 355: Advanced Mechanics
ENTS 265: Materials Science 


PROGRAM B: For a student who begins calculus late and thus must postpone Physics 131*/151 until the sophomore year.

Fall Term Winter Term Spring Term
Frosh MATH 111: Introduction to Calculus

MATH 121: Calculus II

[CHEM 123: Principles of Chemistry]

[CS 117: Intro. to Computer Science]

Soph

MATH 211: Multivariable Calculus

PHYS 131 or 1421/1512: Intro sequence

MATH 232: Linear Algebra

PHYS 2291/2302: Mechanics

PHYS 235: Electricity and Magnetism

PHYS/ASTR Elective

Junior

PHYS 228: Atomic and Nuclear

[PHYS 346: Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics

[Math 241: Ordinary Diff Eq]

PHYS 335:Quantum Mechanics

[Math 341: Partial Diff Eq]
PHYS 342: Contemporary Experimental Physics
Senior Same as program A Same as program A Same as program A

* Note that 131 may be skipped upon successfully passing the departmental placement exam, with 141 strongly suggested as a replacement for 131.

1 Three-credit course offered first half of term

2 Three-credit course offered second half of term

[] Strongly recommended elective course

PHYS/ASTR Elective courses

PHYS 234: Computer Simmulations in Complex Physical Systems
PHYS 261: Medical Physics
PHYS 341: Waves
PHYS 343: Electronics
PHYS 344: Classical and Quantum Optics
PHYS 346: Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics
PHYS 347: General Relativity
PHYS 352: Advanced Electricity and Magnetism
PHYS 354: Solid State Physics
PHYS 355: Advanced Mechanics
ENTS 265: Materials Science


PROGRAM C: For a student who does not begin calculus until the sophomore year.

Same as Program A, delayed by a year. This is possible since the only requirement in the normal senior year is comps, which can be taken concurrently with PHYS 335.


PROGRAM D: For a student pursuing the 3-2 program in engineering with a Carleton major in physics.

Fall Term Winter Term Spring Term
Frosh MATH 111: Introduction to Calculus

MATH 121: Calculus II

PHYS 1311/1512 or 1411/1512: Intro sequence

MATH 211:Multivariable Calculus
CHEM 123: Principles of Chemistry
Soph

MATH 232: Linear Algebra

PHYS 228: Atomic and Nuclear

MATH 241: Ordinary Diff Eq

PHYS 2291/2302: Mechanics

PHYS 235: Electricity and Magnetism

CHEM 230: Equilibrium & Analysis

Junior PHYS/ASTR Elective

Phys 335: Quantum Mechanics

PHYS 400: Comps

PHYS 342: Contemporary Experimental Physics

The non-physics courses listed are required by the engineering schools involved.

* Note that 131 may be skipped upon successfully passing the departmental placement exam, with 141 strongly suggested as a replacement for 131.

1 Three-credit course offered first half of term

2 Three-credit course offered second half of term


Integrative Exercise (Comps)

Passing an integrative exercise, or "comps," is part of the requirement for completion of the baccalaureate degree at Carleton. Comps is usually taken during the senior year, although in some cases (double majors, 3-2 program) comps may be taken during the junior year.

We conceive of comps as a learning and sharing experience for both students and faculty. The integrative exercise in physics consists of an extensive study by each student in some field and/or topic in physics, culminating in a 70-minute presentation during the winter or spring term. In addition two papers are required: a short introduction before the presentation and a longer summary after it. Each year the final papers will be bound and made available to the public in the library and at the departmental office; students also have the option of storing their comps electronically in the library. The topic chosen may involve a currently active field of research, a significant development in the history of physics, or an integrative theme from the physics curriculum. It must be sufficiently broad to allow the student to synthesize material from the various courses required for the major. Past topics have included solar satellite power systems, the aurora borealis, gravitational waves, optical fibers, universality in chaos, controlled nuclear fusion, atmospheric tides, scanning tunneling electron microscopy, residential application of solar power, and superfluid helium and its vortices. Comps represents a stringent test of a student's integration of knowledge, research and independent study skills, and writing and speaking ability. It also involves group interaction, with students listening to, questioning, and offering written criticism of each other's presentations. Seniors are required to attend ten comps talks in the department and write reflection papers on two of the comps talks.