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Major in Physics

Physics is an appropriate major for students with career interests in areas like physics, astronomy, atmospheric science, engineering, materials science, or nuclear science as well as medicine and dentistry in some cases.

It can also be a valuable second major for students in such diverse areas as mathematics, chemistry, computer science, biology, geography, economics and business. An interdepartmental major combining any of these areas with physics can be designed to match specific student interests.

The Major

As a physics major, you’ll begin with the fundamentals and then develop progressively advanced knowledge of both theoretical and experimental physics. You’ll also learn sound research methods and technical writing skills, which are essential in the academic and business worlds.

All physics majors complete at least one full course of independent study or research during their final four terms. This period is intended to give them a chance to draw together the material they have been studying and bring it to bear on a particular project. By working closely with a faculty member on such a project, students learn how to focus their ideas toward a goal while developing skills necessary for more independent work after graduation.

For a bachelor of arts with a major in physics, five courses beyond the basic sequence are required, plus one course of independent study or research (PHY 492, PHY 494, or HON 404). The preferred sequence is as follows:

  • PHY 121 General Physics I
  • PHY 122 General Physics II
  • PHY 304 Intermediate Physics
  • PHY 305 Modern Physics of Atoms, Nuclei and Particles
  • MTH 151, 152 and 251 (Calculus I, II and III) and MTH 341 Differential Equations—or their equivalents—also must be completed

Students then complete three of the following courses:

  • PHY 311 Analytical Mechanics
  • PHY 312 Electricity and Magnetism
  • PHY 313 Thermodynamics
  • PHY 414 Modern Optics
  • PHY 421 Quantum Mechanics

Students who qualify for advanced placement may receive credit for all or part of the introductory sequence.

For a bachelor of science with a major in physics, seven courses beyond the basic sequence are required, plus one course of independent study or research (PHY 492, PHY 494, or HON 404). The preferred sequence is as follows:

  • PHY 121 General Physics I
  • PHY 122 General Physics II
  • PHY 304 Intermediate Physics
  • PHY 305 Modern Physics of Atoms, Nuclei and Particles
  • PHY 311 Analytical Mechanics
  • PHY 312 Electricity and Magnetism
  • PHY 313 Thermodynamics
  • PHY 414 Modern Optics
  • PHY 421 Quantum Mechanics
  • MTH 151, 152 and 251 (Calculus I, II and III) and MTH 341 Differential Equations—or their equivalents
  • CS 220 Computer Science I
  • CHM 211 and CHM 212 (Chemical Principles I and II) or CHM 220 Advanced Chemical Principles

Students who qualify for advanced placement may receive credit for all or part of the introductory sequence.

MTH 342 Applied Analysis and MTH 346 Statistics for Scientists are strongly recommended. For many students, this leads to a mathematics minor or to a double major. Introductory courses in chemistry (CHM 211 and 212), computer science (CS 201, 220, 315, and IS 221), and PHY 370 Physical Electronics are also recommended.

Licensure for Secondary Teaching

Students should convey their intentions to teach Secondary Physics (grades 5-12) as soon as possible to the chair of the Department. Physics majors will earn a double major in Physics and Secondary Science Education, and they are eligible for the Elmhurst Noyce STEM Teachers Scholarship program.

  • EDU 104 Cultural Foundations of Education in the United States
  • SEC 100 Introductory Seminar to Teaching as a Caring Profession (.25 credit) 
  • SEC 300 Intermediate Seminar for Teaching in Diverse and Inclusive Schools (.25 credit) 
  • SEC 223 Education of PK–12 Learners with Exceptionalities
  • SEC 311 Educational Psychology
  • SEC 310 Methods and Best Practices in Middle and Secondary Education
  • TEL 317 Teaching English Language Learners
  • SEC 360 The Middle School: History, Philosophy, Organizational Structures and Best Practices (J-Term and Spring)
  • SEC 421 Theory and Practice for Developing Academic Literacies in K-12 Classrooms
  • SEC 450 Advanced Seminar in Teacher Collaboration and Professional Practice (.25 credit)
  • SEC 440 Methods for teaching middle and secondary school science (Fall Term only)
  • SEC 455 Student Teaching in Secondary and Middle School

The Minor

Physics can be a valuable minor for students in such diverse areas as mathematics, chemistry, computer science, biology, geography, economics and business.

For a minor in physics, at least five courses are required. These will normally be PHY 121, 122, 304, 305 and one other upper-level physics course. At least three of the five courses must be completed at Elmhurst University.

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