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Physics Programs

Current Physics Undergraduate Bulletin

Schedule of upper-level course offerings

The physics department offers 3 primary degree paths, each of which confers a BS in Physics:

(links are to one-page curricular planner details)

and six degree specializations:

  • Astrophysics
  • Biomedical Physics
  • Chemistry and Physics of Condensed Matter (New)
  • Computational Physics
  • Geophysics
  • Graduate Physics Preparatory

Physics curricular requirements are the same for each degree path; however, the Physics/Secondary Education program and 7-yr BS/MD program include additional prescribed coursework.

The physics major can, by proper choice of electives, prepare for graduate work in physics, astronomy, geophysics, interdisciplinary sciences, engineering, or graduate school in professions such as medicine or law. Students may also choose to work in industry, public service, or teaching. Prospective teachers may to teach various courses ranging from high school physics to science in the junior high and middle schools, depending on the courses elected.

The physics major has been designed to promote thorough preparation in physics and flexibility for students to engage in academic opportunities across campus.  Through advisement, physics students are able to avail themselves of 2nd majors, minors, liberal learning concentrations, and study abroad experiences.  To optimally prepare for graduate study, students are encouraged to work with their advisors to select additional courses in physics and mathematics beyond the basic major requirements.

One basic set of curricular requirements applies to all TCNJ physics majors:

Physics Major Requirements

  • 7 Core Courses
  • 5 Physics Options
  • 5 Specialization Options
  • 1 Capstone Course

Physics students planning to become certified to teach physics in NJ public schools should indicate this preference to the physics department in order to ensure adequate advising through the required school of education courses.

Physics Major Specializations

All physics majors are encouraged to select a pre-designed major specialization from among the following:

  • Astrophysics
  • Biomedical Physics
  • Chemistry and Physics of Condensed Matter (New)
  • Computational Physics
  • Geophysics
  • Graduate Physics Preparatory

Students are also welcome to design their own specializations within physics subdisciplines.

Specializations are a coherent set of 7 option courses that are chosen from within the 10 required major option courses.  The specifications for the specializations may be found at the TCNJ bulletin.

Four-Year Schedule for Most Physics Majors

 Fall Freshman Year:

  • PHY 201 General Physics I
  • MAT 127  Calculus A
  • FSP – (Liberal Learning, or LL 1)
  • Foreign Language
  • PHY 99 (0 credit orientation course)

Spring Freshman Year:

  • PHY 202 General Physics II
  • MAT 128 Calculus B
  • CSC 215 or 220: Introductory Computer Science
  • Foreign Language or other Liberal Learning

Fall Sophomore Year:

  • PHY 321 Modern Physics
  • PHY 306 Mathematical Physics
  • CSC 215 or 220 if not taken earlier
  • Liberal Learning or complete Foreign Language Requirement  (LL 2)

Spring Sophomore Year:

  • PHY 356 Thermal Physics (previously PHY 416)
  • MAT 326 Differential Equations
  • [PHY 401 Classical Mechanics (only if doing very well in PHY 321 & 306 in the fall and taking MAT 326 as a corequisite]; otherwise LL 2
  • Specialization Course, e.g., PHY 220, PHY 261, PHY 311*, PHY 316; PHY 370/371. Note that these courses are taught every other year, so some may not be available and would need to be taken in the junior year.   Some of these are mid-level writing intensive courses: one of those is must be taken by the end of your 3rd year.
  • PHY 299 Research Fundamentals (0.25 credit)

Fall Junior Year:

  • PHY 421 Electromagnetic Theory I
  • PHY 431 Quantum Mechanics
  • Math course (e.g. MAT 205) by advisement OR Option or Specialization Course, e.g., PHY 370, PHY 411 Optics*, PHY 413
  • Liberal Learning LL3 or Option or Specialization Course
  • PHY 393 Independent Study I (for 0.5 credit)

Spring Junior Year:

  • PHY 401 Classical Mechanics (this is the normal time to take this course) or Physics Option/Specialization (if taken earlier)
  • PHY 422  Electromagnetic Theory II (if available that year; otherwise take as senior)
  • [PHY 451* Advanced Lab (if available that year, but preferably take as senior – this is a capstone course)]
  • LL 4 or Specialization Course
  • PHY 393 Independent Study I (for 0.5 credit or 1.0 credit in lieu of another class)
  • [PHY 299 Research Fundamentals (0.25 credit – if not taken earlier)]

Fall Senior Year:

  • PHY 493 Independent Research II (preferable in fall if planning on grad school but also good as a capstone course in the spring)
  • [PHY 431 Quantum Mechanics (if not taken as a junior)]
  • Option or Specialization Course
  • Option or Specialization Course
  • LL 5 or LL4

Spring Senior Year:

  • PHY 451* Advanced Lab (if not available as a junior and better for seniors)
  • [PHY 422 Electromagnetic Theory II (if not available as a junior)]
  • Option or Specialization Course: MAT 370 (when taught as Partial Differential Equations, is strongly recommended); MAT 320, Complex Analysis, would also be a good choice for those aiming for graduate school.
  • Option or Specialization Course, e.g. PHY 436, 466 (or LL 5)
  • LL 6

Courses in bold are required core and correlate courses.

 *Courses marked with asterisks (PHY 311, Electronics; PHY 411, Optics; PHY 451, Advanced Lab) are upper-level laboratory courses.  All majors must take at least one of them, but two or more are strongly advised.   Note that these lab courses are normally offered only every other year; PHY 311 may be taken by sophomores but the others are reserved for juniors and seniors.

Courses in italics are writing-intensive Capstone courses.  At least one must be taken, preferably in the senior year.

 [Brackets indicate required, strongly advised or capstone courses when they are offered or taken at an alternative, but non-preferred, time.]

Physics Minor