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Undergraduate Program

physics

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Undergraduate Program Description

The Department of Physics offers a rich and comprehensive program of study leading to the B.S. degree in Physics. This program is designed to prepare students not only for advanced graduate studies in physics, but also for employment upon graduation in physics and other disciplines related to science and technology. Basic courses give the student a solid foundation in the concepts of classical and modern physics, and assist the students in developing their analytical reasoning and problem-solving skills. Laboratory courses complement this experience with an opportunity to develop experimental skills and a working knowledge of advanced technology. Students are strongly encouraged to further develop all these skills by participating in advanced experimental, analytical, or computational research under the supervision of faculty mentors. The department offers a 100% guarantee of a research opportunity to every major that seeks one.

Boston College has adopted a credit-based requirement system with the admission of the class of 2014.

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Major Requirements Beginning with the Class of 2014 and Beyond

The minimum requirements for the B.S. degree with a major in Physics include 45 credits in Physics, as described below, and additional corequisites in Mathematics and other sciences.

Physics requirements:

  • PHYS2200 Introductory Physics I (Fall: 4 credits)
  • PHYS2201 Introductory Physics II (Spring: 4 credits)
  • PHYS2050 Introductory Physics Lab I (Fall: 1 credit)
  • PHYS2051 Introductory Physics Lab II (Spring: 1 credit)
  • PHYS3301 Vibrations and Waves (Fall: 4 credits)
  • PHYS3300 Modern Physics (Spring: 4 credits)
  • PHYS4100 Mechanics (Fall: 4 credits)
  • PHYS4200 Electricity and Magnetism (Spring: 3 credits)
  • PHYS4400 Quantum Physics I (Fall: 3 credits)
  • PHYS4401 Quantum Physics II (Spring: 3 credits)
  • PHYS3510 Contemporary Electronics Laboratory (Fall: 2 credits)
  • PHYS4600 Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics (Fall: 4 credits)
  • At least three credits of an advanced laboratory course*, chosen from:

PHYS4300 Numerical Methods and Scientific Computing** (Spring: 4 credits)
PHY4951 Senior Thesis*** (Spring: 3 credits)
PHYS4350 Experiments in Physics (Spring: 3 credits)

* A&S Honors Program Thesis or Scholar of the College Thesis when supervised by a Physics faculty member will also meet this requirement.
** Students need a background in computer programming, for example, CSCI2227 Introduction to Scientific Computation.
*** Students will need prior agreement from a physics faculty supervisor to enroll in this course.

  • At least six credits of an advanced (at or above the 4000 level) elective course. Courses vary from year-to-year, but recent offerings include:

PHYS4505 Nuclear and Particle Physics (3 credits)
PHYS4515 The Physics of Conventional and Alternative Energy (3 credits)
PHYS4525 Foundations of Plasmonics (3 credits)
PHYS4535 Nanoscale Integrated Science (3 credits)
PHYS4545 Introduction to Condensed Matter Physics (3 credits)
PHYS4555 Optics (3 credits)
PHYS4565 Cosmology and Astrophysics (3 credits)
MATH4440 Introduction to Chaos/Dynamical Systems (3 credits)

Students should consult with the Undergraduate Program Director regarding current elective offerings.

Corequisites

Students are also required to take the following mathematics courses:

  • MATH2202 Multivariable Calculus (4 credits)
  • MATH3305 Advanced Calculus (4 credits), which can be substituted by the combination of MATH2210 Linear Algebra and MATH4410 Differential Equations

(Note that students without advanced math placement will need to take introductory calculus courses as well, which are prerequisites for MATH2202 and MATH3305)

Physics majors are also required to take eight credits of CHEM1109-1110 and associated labs; other science courses, along with their associated labs, may qualify, but require prior approval by the Department Chair.

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Minor Requirements Beginning with the Class of 2014

The minimum requirements for a Minor in Physics include 24 credits in Physics and eight corequisite credits, as described below:

  • PHYS2200 Introductory Physics I (Fall: 4 credits)
  • PHYS2201 Introductory Physics II (Spring: 4 credits)
  • PHYS2050 Introductory Physics Lab I (Fall: 1 credit)
  • PHYS2051 Introductory Physics Lab II (Spring: 1 credit)
  • PHYS3100 Vibrations and Waves (Fall: 4 credits)
  • PHYS3300 Modern Physics (Spring: 4 credits)

Also required are six credits in courses at or above the 4000 level. Students should discuss course selection with the Undergraduate Program Director.

Corequisites*

  • MATH1102 Calculus I (4 credits) and MATH1103 Calculus II (4 credits) or
  • MATH1105 Calculus II-AP (4 credits) are required

* Students who have been placed by the Mathematics Department at a level above MATH1105 will have satisfied this corequisite.

MATH2202 (4 credits) and MATH3305 (4 credits) are required as prerequisites for some of the upper-level physics courses.

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Departmental Honors Program

A Physics major with a satisfactory scholastic average (3.3 or higher) may apply for entry into the Departmental Honors Program. Application must be made to the Undergraduate Affairs Committee no earlier than the beginning of the junior year and no later than the first quarter of the senior year. Each applicant must solicit a faculty advisor to supervise the proposed research project. Honors will be granted upon (1) satisfactory completion of a thesis based on the research project and (2) demonstration through an oral examination of a broad comprehension of physics generally and the special field of the thesis. The examining committee shall be appointed by the Chairperson and will consist of a 2-member faculty Honors Committee, and one additional examiner from the Physics faculty or graduate student body.

Advanced undergraduate Physics majors may, with the approval of the Chairperson, enroll in first-year graduate courses, such as PHYS7711, 7732, or 7741.

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Information for First Year Majors and Non-Majors

Physical science, computer science, and mathematics majors planning on physics in the freshman year should enroll in PHYS2200 and the associated lab PHYS2050. Biology majors and premedical students should enroll in PHYS2100 and the associated lab PHYS2050. Depending on high-school background, Physics majors take either the Calculus I–II sequence MATH1102–1103, or calculus II–AP MATH1105, or start with Multivariable Calculus MATH2202. Note that MATH1100–1101 is intended for Biology and Premedical students and is not sufficient calculus preparation for Physics Majors.

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Information for Study Abroad

Before undertaking study abroad, it is strongly recommended that the Physics major complete PHYS2200, PHYS2201 (or PHYS2100, 2101) with labs, PHYS3100, PHYS3300 (also with labs), and the corequisite math courses MATH1102, MATH1103, MATH2202, and MATH3305. The Department typically allows a maximum of four courses taken abroad to count for major credit. Of these four courses, two should be major requirements, plus two Physics electives. The department recommends any program with a solid teaching and research program in physics.

Students who are interested in studying abroad are strongly encouraged to do so during the spring semester of their junior year. While planning their study abroad program, Physics majors should meet with the Undergraduate Program Director. Students should inquire early at the Office of International Programs, and with possible host institutions, to arrange for a course of study appropriate for physics majors.

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Course Offerings

Courses numbered below 2000 are introductory courses directed primarily towards non-science majors. These courses have no prerequisites and need no mathematics beyond ordinary college entrance requirements. The courses that satisfy the Science Core requirement are noted in the individual course descriptions. PHYS2100–2101 Introductory Physics I, II (Calculus) or PHYS2200–2201 Introduction to Physics I, II (Calculus) and PHYS2050–2051 Introductory Physics Laboratory I and II are required of all Chemistry and Physics majors; Biology majors should consult the Biology Department regarding Physics requirements. Courses numbered above 3000 are advanced offerings primarily for Physics majors.

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