2018-2019 Academic Catalog 
    Feb 21, 2024  
2018-2019 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Physics Major

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Physics Overview

Physics is the most fundamental of the sciences and is an important part of a liberal-arts education. Introductory courses are designed for students in all majors and provide a background in physical principles, the observation of natural processes, the logic and nature of science, and the diverse applications of physics.  For more information, please visit the Physics Department’s website.


Major Requirements

A major in physics can be structured to meet the interests of individual students, including graduate study in physics, related sciences, engineering, and careers in environmental studies, management, government, law, medicine and teaching. Starting in Fall 2017, the Physics Department will offer three tracks leading to the B.A. in physics: The Comprehensive Physics track, the Applied Physics track, and the General Physics track.  The requirements for the three tracks will enable the students to choose their courses in line with their specific career goals. During their first year, prospective physics majors are urged to enroll in PHYS 120  and PHYS 121  (those students interested in the General Physics track may enroll in PHYS 110/111) and to consult the undergraduate physics adviser about their program of study.  Physics majors are strongly encouraged to enroll in PHYS 123 during their sophomore year.  Physics major requirements for each of the three tracks are detailed below. The requirements are flexible and, through consultation with the undergraduate physics adviser, may be modified to satisfy the particular needs and interests of each student. Information about each available physics track is listed below:

Comprehensive Physics Track - This track is the broadest and designed to prepare students for graduate studies and careers in physics and related areas.

Required courses:
Math (4): 120 or 124, 121 or 125, 130, 131
Core Physics (12): 120, 121, 130, 131, 123, 127, 150, 160, 161, 171, 251*, 299
Electives (2)
*PHYS 251 (Statistical Mechanics) is a new course which will be offered in AY 2018-2019.

Applied Physics Track - This track is designed to prepare students for pre-engineering, applied sciences, and technology related programs and careers.

Required courses:
Math (4): 120 or 124, 121 or 125, 130, 131
Core Physics (9): 120, 121, 130, 131, 123, 150, 160, 161, 299
Electives (5): An elective of either 127 and 219 is required.  One additional elective from Phys 127, 167, 169, 171, 219, 243, 251.  Three additional electives taken from within the physics department or courses outside of the department including CS 120, CS 121, Math 244, and engineering/applied courses at WPI. Additional courses may be counted as electives in consultation with an adviser in the physics department

General Physics Track - This track is designed to prepare students for teaching, education, pre-health and science policy programs.

Required courses:
Math (2): 120 or 124, 121 or 125
Core Physics (8): 120 (or 110 if no calculus background), 121 (or 111 if no calculus background), 130, 131, 123, 150, 160, 299
Introductory Courses from Outside of Physics (2): A choice of 2 from the following Chem 101, Chem 102, Chem 103, Bio 101, Bio 102, Bio 103, CS 120, CS 121
PLA Experience (1): A student is required to serve as a PLA in an introductory physics course (Phys 20, Astro 001, Astro 002, Phys 110, or Phys 111)
Education Courses (1): Educ 152
Electives (4):  An elective of either 127 and 219 is required. Three additional electives (may include other courses within the physics department or courses within the education, math, computer science, chemistry, and biology departments upon consultation with an adviser in the physics department).


Additionally, students interested in using physics as the basis for an engineering career should inquire about the 3/2 Engineering Program offering students a five-year option that combines a B.A. from Clark and a B.S. in engineering from Columbia University.

Course offerings include:

Total number of required courses for any physics major track: 18


Students with strong backgrounds in physics and mathematics may replace lower-level required courses with appropriate advanced courses with adviser approval. Advanced-placement credits may count toward major requirements. Advanced undergraduates may take graduate-level courses. Majors must meet with the undergraduate physics adviser prior to registration every semester to plan their course of study and to ensure that all requirements for the major are being satisfied. With careful planning, it is possible to complete all requirements for the major within three years. However, we strongly encourage our students to begin the study of physics in the first year.

Information about career opportunities and further information about courses and major requirements can be obtained from the undergraduate physics adviser and other physics faculty members.

The Capstone Experience

An independent research project is the appropriate capstone experience for most physics majors. Students are encouraged to “do physics” at the earliest opportunity. Majors must take a capstone course satisfied by one semester of PHYS 299 - Directed Studies in Physics , or an approved course of comparable scope. Near the end of the junior year (or earlier) a physics major should choose a topic for his or her senior project with department faculty. Work is conducted under the guidance of a faculty member, often with the assistance of graduate students. These projects often lead to publication in refereed physics journals. Majors with a special interest in research may continue their research by enrolling in additional semesters of PHYS 299 .


Students can apply for departmental honors in recognition of meritorious academic achievement and creativity in research. An honors candidate must maintain a minimum overall ‘B’ (3.0) average. All eligible majors are encouraged to participate. Written applications should be submitted to the undergraduate adviser by the end of the junior year. Candidates will conduct a research project under faculty member guidance during the junior and/or senior years. A thesis describing the work must be submitted no later than April 1 of the senior year and be defended orally in a special departmental convocation about two weeks later. Recommendation for honors, and the level of honors, in physics is made on the basis of the quality of the thesis and student performance in the defense. Students may gain credit for thesis research by registering for PHYS 299 or PHYS 297.

Physics Faculty


Charles Agosta, Ph.D.
Michael Boyer, Ph.D.
Barbara Capogrosso Sansone, Ph.D.
Arshad Kudrolli, Ph.D.
Alexander Petroff, Ph.D.
Ranjan Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D.



Shuanghong Huo, Ph.D.


S. Leslie Blatt, Ph.D.
Harvey Gould, Ph.D.
Roger P. Kohin, Ph.D.
Christopher P. Landee, Ph.D.

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