Jun 17, 2024  
2023-2024 Undergraduate Bulletin 
2023-2024 Undergraduate Bulletin [ARCHIVED BULLETIN]

Physics and Astronomy



The following areas are administered by this department: Astronomy; Meteorology; and Physics.

Professor, Levine, Chairperson
Professors Bochner, Durst, Lacey, Lawrence, Levine
Associate Professors Burrington, Edwards, Johnson
Assistant Professors Smylie          
Professors Emeritus Hastings, Garuthara


The Department of Physics and Astronomy seeks to prepare students for the future as professionals and citizens. We offer three undergraduate majors: the BA in physics , the BS in physics , and the BS in applied physics , as well as a minor in physics  and a minor in astronomy .

All programs actively engage students in science. Physics majors begin by exploring the foundations of physics, the roles of hypotheses, measurement, and analysis, and the development of scientific theory through small classes and laboratories. Intermediate-level courses in modern physics, mechanics, optics, and electricity and magnetism further prepare students for senior-level courses in quantum mechanics and thermodynamics. Intermediate-level laboratory courses, a wide variety of elective courses, and faculty-guided research internships build upon the prior course and laboratory work to provide exciting preparation for careers or graduate study.

Physics minors take the same introductory classes and laboratories, followed by three intermediate courses.

Astronomy minors take a year of introductory astronomy, at least a semester of introductory physics, and additional courses in astronomy, astrophysics, or physics. Please see the detailed program requirements below.

The Department of Physics and Astronomy takes a personal interest in the education of all of its students – close student-faculty contact is encouraged, and students may join an active chapter of the Society of Physics Students. Faculty are pleased to work with students in developing their programs of study, and students are encouraged to seek faculty advice early in their undergraduate careers. Advanced students may join active faculty research groups in astronomy, astrophysics, condensed matter and solid state physics, laser physics, physics of the heart and excitable chemical systems, and quantum computing.

Other departmental facilities include a Beowulf-class supercomputer, an advanced laboratory, where projects include a scanning tunneling microscope, and a computer laboratory shared by the chemistry and physics departments.

Paid summer internships are available for our best students, supported by grants to physics and astronomy faculty. Grants were recently received from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and Research Corporation.


The BA program in physics  is intended for students seeking careers in physics education or careers not requiring graduate study in physics, and provides extensive opportunities to take courses in the liberal arts and to pursue other minors. Students interested in a dual major in both physics and elementary or secondary education are strongly encouraged to seek advice from both departments early in their careers. The BA in physics is also especially appropriate for students seeking careers in law or medicine.

The BS in physics  will provide students with an in-depth study of physics appropriate for careers that require graduate study in physics, astronomy, engineering, or other physical sciences.

The BS in applied physics  combines the BS in physics with a focused concentration in any one of biochemistry, computer science, or engineering. As focused as many accredited engineering BS programs, it provides more than adequate preparation for students seeking careers that require graduate study in physics, astronomy, engineering, or other physical sciences.

All three programs – the BA in physics, the BS in applied physics, and the BS in physics – share a common first-year program, facilitating student transfer among programs after completion of a year of college study. Students typically begin with PHYS 011A  and 011B  and MATH 071 . Students with advanced placement credit begin at a higher level.

The following courses satisfy the intermediate/advanced laboratory requirement of the BA specialization in physics, the BS specialization in applied physics, and the BS specialization in physics: PHYS 118B , 118C , 157 , 158 , 163 , 164 , 170L , 171L ; ASTR 031L , 190L .

The following courses are considered project courses: PHYS 100 170 , 171 ; ASTR 190 .

Please see detailed program requirements for more information.