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Undergraduate Program


 Table of Contents


  • Graduate Program Director, Prof. Rein Uritam, 617-552-8471,
  • Undergraduate Program Director, Prof. Jan Engelbrecht, 617-552-0642,
  • Director, Administration, Guillermo Nuñez, 617-552-3541,
  • Department Administrator: Jane Carter, 617-552-3576,
  • Programs Administrator, Stephanie Zuehlke, 617-552-2195,
  • Faculty Support Assistant: Nancy Chevry, 617-552-3575,
  • Administrative Assistant: Gisele Byda, 617-552-0968,
  • Fax: 617-552-8478

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.


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:

  • PH 209 Introductory Physics I (Fall: 4 credits)
  • PH 210 Introductory Physics II (Spring: 4 credits)
  • PH 203 Introductory Physics Lab I (Fall: 1 credit)
  • PH 204 Introductory Physics Lab II (Spring: 1 credit)
  • PH 301 Vibrations and Waves (Fall: 4 credits)
  • PH 303 Modern Physics (Spring: 4 credits)
  • PH 401 Mechanics (Fall: 4 credits)
  • PH 402 Electricity and Magnetism (Spring: 3 credits)
  • PH 407 Quantum Physics I (Fall: 3 credits)
  • PH 408 Quantum Physics II (Spring: 3 credits)
  • PH 409 Contemporary Electronics Laboratory (Fall: 2 credits)
  • PH 420 Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics (Fall: 4 credits)
  • At least three credits of an advanced laboratory course*, chosen from:

PH 430 Numerical Methods and Scientific Computing** (Spring: 4 credits)

PH 532 Senior Thesis*** (Spring: 3 credits)

PH 535 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, CS 127 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 400 level) elective course. Courses vary from year-to-year, but recent offerings include:

PH 412 Particle Physics (3 credits)

PH 416 The Physics of Conventional and Alternative Energy (3 credits)

PH 422 Foundations of Plasmonics (3 credits)

PH 424 Nanoscale Integrated Science (3 credits)

PH 425 Introduction to Condensed Matter Physics (3 credits)

PH 441 Optics (3 credits)

PH 540 Cosmology and Astrophysics (3 credits)

PH 545/MT 440 Introduction to Chaos/Dynamical Systems (3 credits)

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


Students are also required to take the following mathematics courses:

  • MT 202 Multivariable Calculus (4 credits)
  • MT 305 Advanced Calculus (4 credits), which can be substituted by the combination of MT 210 Linear Algebra and MT 410 Differential Equations

(Note that students without advanced math placement will need to take introductory calculus courses as well, which are prerequisites for MT 202 and MT 305)

Physics majors are also required to take eight credits of CH 109-110 and associated labs; other science courses, along with their associated labs, may qualify, but require prior approval by the Department Chair.


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:

  • PH 209 Introductory Physics I (Fall: 4 credits)
  • PH 210 Introductory Physics II (Spring: 4 credits)
  • PH 203 Introductory Physics Lab I (Fall: 1 credit)
  • PH 204 Introductory Physics Lab II (Spring: 1 credit)
  • PH 301 Vibrations and Waves (Fall: 4 credits)
  • PH 303 Modern Physics (Spring: 4 credits)

Also required are six credits in courses at or above the 400 level. Students should discuss course selection with the Undergraduate Program Director.


  • MT 102 Calculus I (4 credits) and MT 103 Calculus II (4 credits) or
  • MT 105 Calculus II-AP (4 credits) are required

* Students who have been placed by the Mathematics Department at a level above MT 105 will have satisfied this corequisite.

MT 202 (4 credits) and MT 305 (4 credits) are required as prerequisites for some of the upper-level physics courses.


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 PH 711, 732, or 741.


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 PH 209 and the associated lab PH 203. Biology majors and premedical students should enroll in PH 211 and the associated lab PH 203. Depending on high-school background, Physics majors take either the Calculus I-II sequence MT 102 – 103, or calculus II-AP MT 105, or start with Multivariable Calculus MT 202. Note that MT 100 – 101 is intended for Biology and Premedical students and is not sufficient calculus preparation for Physics Majors.


Information for Study Abroad

Before undertaking study abroad, it is strongly recommended that the Physics major complete PH 209, PH 210 (or PH 211, 212) with labs, PH 301, PH 303 (also with labs), and the corequisite math courses MT 102, MT 103, MT 202, and MT 305. 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.


Course Offerings

Courses numbered below 200 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. PH 209-210 Introductory Physics I, II (Calculus) or PH 211-212 Introduction to Physics I, II (Calculus) and PH 203-204 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 300 are advanced offerings primarily for Physics majors.