Major in Physics

The Physics major is divided into three main concentrations designed to give the student the greatest possible flexibility in preparation for graduate study in physics, astrophysics, medicine, engineering or other allied fields, and for professional practice as a physicist in industrial, governmental or institutional laboratories.

In order to provide students a broad and solid base in physics and also to provide the flexibility which enables students to take courses in areas where physics can be applied, all Physics majors take a series of basic physics courses. The first courses are General Physics I, II and III (PHYS 241 [or PHYS 251], PHYS 242 [or PHYS 252] and PHYS 243). They provide an introduction to fundamental classical physics. The junior and senior physics courses treat classical and modern physics in greater depth.

It is recommended that those who intend to pursue graduate studies in physics or astrophysics, take the General Physics Concentration or the Astrophysics Concentration, as well as additional physics electives and mathematics courses. Those who intend to participate in fundamental or applied research and development in industrial or government laboratories are encouraged to take the Applied Physics Concentration and other physics electives.

Students may wish to elect a foreign language as preparation for graduate study. Students may also supplement the program of study by participation in a guided independent study and/or ongoing research project. Up to 6 units of such courses (Independent Study, Directed Readings, Research Problems, etc.) may count toward required physics electives. A combination of well-grounded preparation in fundamentals plus the availability of an individually tailored program of study is designed to optimize students’ preparation for graduate school or a professional career. In addition to physics courses, all majors are required to complete courses in mathematics and chemistry. Additional mathematics electives especially recommended are Linear Algebra, Advanced Calculus, Fourier Analysis with Applications,  and Numerical Analysis I, II.

Students who intend to major in Physics should contact the department in order to be assigned a faculty adviser. The faculty adviser will assist students in planning a program that will meet their special needs. Advisers are also available for advising on career opportunities and employment. Physics majors are required to complete 16, and minors 8, of the required upper-division units in physics at TU. Students should be aware that most advanced physics courses (300- and 400-level) may be offered in either the first or second term, but not in both terms. Some physics electives are only offered every other year. Advisers will have information on the courses offered and on the schedules.

Most required upper-level physics courses are taught in the late afternoon or early evening on a rotating schedule. This should enable a non-traditional student who can only attend classes at these times to complete the major, although the time required will usually exceed the normal four years. Students should contact the department office or their advisers for information about the scheduling of these courses.

Students must see their advisers no later than the time of their matriculation for the third term in General Physics, which is normally the beginning of the spring term of their sophomore year. Students, after consultation with their advisers, will propose a tentative plan for completing all graduation requirements, including those for the major. This selection of electives for the various concentrations must be approved by an adviser. The plan may be modified from time to time, but the modification must be approved by the major adviser. Students may also organize an individualized course of studies. This gives students the option to select a plan that reflects their interest in a special area of physics. The array of courses must have internal coherence and be approved by the major adviser.

Requirements for the Physics Major

All Physics majors must take these required courses (34 units of Physics courses and 8 units of non-Physics courses) in addition to the requirements specified by their chosen concentration or track (see below). All courses that count toward the major must be completed with a grade equivalent of 2.00 or higher.

Required Physics Courses
PHYS 185INTRODUCTORY HONORS SEMINAR IN PHYSICS1
Select one of the following sequences:8
GENERAL PHYSICS I CALCULUS-BASED
and GENERAL PHYSICS II CALCULUS-BASED
HONORS GENERAL PHYSICS I CALCULUS-BASED
and HONORS GENERAL PHYSICS II CALCULUS-BASED
PHYS 243GENERAL PHYSICS III4
PHYS 270COMPUTERS IN PHYSICS4
PHYS 307INTRODUCTORY MATHEMATICAL PHYSICS3
PHYS 311MODERN PHYSICS I3
PHYS 341INTERMEDIATE PHYSICS LABORATORY I3
PHYS 351MECHANICS4
PHYS 354ELECTRICITY & MAGNETISM4
Required Non-Physics Courses
MATH 273CALCULUS I4
MATH 274CALCULUS II4
Total Units42

General Physics Concentration

The common physics and non-physics requirements must be completed, as well as the following courses. All required courses in this concentration must be completed with a grade equivalent of 2.00 or higher.

Advanced Physics Courses
PHYS 312MODERN PHYSICS II3
PHYS 342INTERMEDIATE PHYSICS LABORATORY II3
PHYS 352THERMODYNAMICS AND KINETIC THEORY3
PHYS 385PHYSICS SEMINAR1
PHYS 455INTRODUCTORY QUANTUM MECHANICS3
PHYS 486PHYSICS SEMINAR II1
Non-Physics Courses
CHEM 131
131L
GENERAL CHEMISTRY I LECTURE
and GENERAL CHEMISTRY I LABORATORY
4
CHEM 132
132L
GENERAL CHEMISTRY II LECTURE
and GENERAL CHEMISTRY II LABORATORY
4
MATH 275CALCULUS III4
MATH 374DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS3
Physics/Astrophysics Upper-Level Electives 19
HIGH ENERGY ASTROPHYSICS
BASIC ELECTRONICS
DIGITAL ELECTRONICS
OPTICS FUNDAMENTALS
GRAVITATION, RELATIVITY, AND COSMOLOGY
SOLID STATE PHYSICS
MAGNETISM AND MAGNETIC MATERIALS
NUCLEAR AND PARTICLE PHYSICS
Total Units38
1

A full list of allowed PHYS and ASTR electives for the concentration can be found on the Physics Department website. A maximum of 3 units may be fulfilled with independent-format courses.

Applied Physics Concentration

The common physics and non-physics requirements must be completed, as well as the following courses. All required courses in this concentration must be completed with a grade equivalent of 2.00 or higher.

Advanced Physics Courses
PHYS 312MODERN PHYSICS II3
PHYS 335BASIC ELECTRONICS4
or PHYS 337 DIGITAL ELECTRONICS
PHYS 342INTERMEDIATE PHYSICS LABORATORY II3
PHYS 361OPTICS FUNDAMENTALS4
PHYS 385PHYSICS SEMINAR1
PHYS 486PHYSICS SEMINAR II1
Non-Physics Courses
CHEM 131
131L
GENERAL CHEMISTRY I LECTURE
and GENERAL CHEMISTRY I LABORATORY
4
CHEM 132
132L
GENERAL CHEMISTRY II LECTURE
and GENERAL CHEMISTRY II LABORATORY
4
MATH 275CALCULUS III4
MATH 374DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS3
Physics/Astrophysics Upper-Level Electives 19
BASIC ELECTRONICS (whichever course not selected as required)
DIGITAL ELECTRONICS
THERMODYNAMICS AND KINETIC THEORY
INTRODUCTORY QUANTUM MECHANICS
SOLID STATE PHYSICS
MAGNETISM AND MAGNETIC MATERIALS
Total Units40
1

A full list of allowed PHYS and ASTR electives for the concentration can be found on the Physics Department website. A maximum of 3 units may be fulfilled with independent-format courses.

Astrophysics Concentration

The common physics and non-physics requirements must be completed, as well as the following courses. All required courses in this concentration must be completed with a grade equivalent of 2.00 or higher.

Physics and Astrophysics Courses
ASTR 261INTRODUCTION TO ASTROPHYSICS4
ASTR 303ASTROPHYSICAL TECHNIQUES3
ASTR 331STELLAR ASTROPHYSICS3
ASTR 385ASTROPHYSICS SEMINAR1
ASTR 432GALAXIES AND COSMOLOGY3
PHYS 312MODERN PHYSICS II3
PHYS 486PHYSICS SEMINAR II1
Non-Physics Courses
CHEM 131
131L
GENERAL CHEMISTRY I LECTURE
and GENERAL CHEMISTRY I LABORATORY
4
CHEM 132
132L
GENERAL CHEMISTRY II LECTURE
and GENERAL CHEMISTRY II LABORATORY
4
MATH 275CALCULUS III4
MATH 374DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS3
Physics/Astrophysics Upper-Level Electives 16
PLANETARY ASTRONOMY
HIGH ENERGY ASTROPHYSICS
BASIC ELECTRONICS
DIGITAL ELECTRONICS
THERMODYNAMICS AND KINETIC THEORY
OPTICS FUNDAMENTALS
GRAVITATION, RELATIVITY, AND COSMOLOGY
INTRODUCTORY QUANTUM MECHANICS
NUCLEAR AND PARTICLE PHYSICS
Total Units39
1

A full list of allowed PHYS and ASTR electives for the concentration can be found on the Physics Department website. A maximum of 3 units may be fulfilled with independent-format courses.

Computational Physics Concentration

The common physics and non-physics requirements must be completed, as well as the following courses. All required courses in this concentration must be completed with a grade equivalent of 2.00 or higher.

Advanced Physics Courses
PHYS 337DIGITAL ELECTRONICS4
PHYS 385PHYSICS SEMINAR1
PHYS 486PHYSICS SEMINAR II1
Non-Physics Courses
COSC 236INTRODUCTION TO COMPUTER SCIENCE I4
COSC 237INTRODUCTION TO COMPUTER SCIENCE II4
COSC 290PRINCIPLES OF COMPUTER ORGANIZATION4
COSC 336DATA STRUCTURES AND ALGORITHM ANALYSIS4
MATH 263DISCRETE MATHEMATICS3
MATH 265ELEMENTARY LINEAR ALGEBRA4
MATH 275CALCULUS III4
MATH 374DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS3
MATH 435NUMERICAL ANALYSIS I3
Total Units39

Engineering Dual Degree Track

This track is only available to those students participating in the Dual Degree Program. The common physics and non-physics requirements must be completed, as well as the following courses. All required courses in this track must be completed with a grade equivalent of 2.00 or higher. Please see the Department of Physics, Astronomy and Geosciences for further details.

Advanced Physics Courses
PHYS 385PHYSICS SEMINAR1
Minimum two upper (300-400) level engineering courses 6
Non-Physics Courses
CHEM 131
131L
GENERAL CHEMISTRY I LECTURE
and GENERAL CHEMISTRY I LABORATORY
4
CHEM 132
132L
GENERAL CHEMISTRY II LECTURE
and GENERAL CHEMISTRY II LABORATORY
4
MATH 275CALCULUS III4
MATH 374DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS3
Total Units22

By its very nature, physics is more hierarchical in its course structure than typical humanities or social science disciplines. Therefore, many courses depend heavily on prerequisite courses (such as calculus and general physics). Any time that is required to prepare for calculus, such as taking MATH 119, must be added to the four-year minimum. Normally, progress in mathematics and general physics is the pacesetter.

General Concentration in Physics Suggested Four-Year Plan

Based on course availability and student needs and preferences, the selected sequences will probably vary from those presented below. Students should consult with their adviser to make the most appropriate elective choices.

Freshman
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
CHEM 131
131L (Core 7)
4CHEM 132
132L
4
MATH 273 (Core 3)4MATH 2744
PHYS 1851PHYS 241 or 251 (Core 8)4
Core 1 (or Core 2)3Core 2 (or Core 1)3
Core 43 
 15 15
Sophomore
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
MATH 2754MATH 3743
PHYS 242 or 2524PHYS 2434
Core 53PHYS 2704
Core 63PHYS 3073
 14 14
Junior
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
PHYS 3113PHYS 3123
PHYS 3413PHYS 3423
PHYS 3514PHYS 3544
Core 93PHYS 3851
Core 103Core 113
 Core 123
 16 17
Senior
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
PHYS 4553PHYS 3523
PHYS 4861PHYS Elective3
PHYS Elective3PHYS Elective3
Core 133Core 143
Elective3Elective3
Elective3 
 16 15
Total Units 122

Applied Concentration in Physics Suggested Four-Year Plan

Based on course availability and student needs and preferences, the selected sequences will probably vary from those presented below. Students should consult with their adviser to make the most appropriate elective choices.

Freshman
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
CHEM 131
131L (Core 7)
4CHEM 132
132L (Core 8)
4
MATH 273 (Core 3)4MATH 2744
PHYS 1851PHYS 241 or 2514
Core 1 (or Core 2)3Core 2 (or Core 1)3
Core 43 
 15 15
Sophomore
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
MATH 2754MATH 3743
PHYS 242 or 2524PHYS 2434
Core 53PHYS 2704
Core 63PHYS 3073
 14 14
Junior
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
PHYS 3113PHYS 3123
PHYS 3413PHYS 3423
PHYS 3514PHYS 3544
Core 93PHYS 3851
Core 103Core 123
 Core 133
 16 17
Senior
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
PHYS 3614PHYS 335 or 3374
PHYS 4861PHYS Elective3
PHYS Elective3PHYS Elective3
Core 143Core 113
Elective3Elective3
 14 16
Total Units 121

Astrophysics Concentration Suggested Four-Year Plan

Based on course availability and student needs and preferences, the selected sequences will probably vary from those presented below. Students should consult with their adviser to make the most appropriate elective choices.

Freshman
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
MATH 273 (Core 3)4MATH 2744
PHYS 1851PHYS 242 or 252 (Core 8)4
PHYS 241 or 251 (Core 7)4PHYS 2704
Core 1 (or Core 2)3Core 2 (or Core 1)3
Core 43 
 15 15
Sophomore
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
ASTR 2614PHYS 2434
MATH 2754PHYS 3123
PHYS 3113Core 53
PHYS 3413Elective3
 14 13
Junior
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
CHEM 131
131L
4ASTR 3033
MATH 3743ASTR 3313
Core 63ASTR 3851
Core 93CHEM 132
132L
4
Core 103PHYS 3073
 16 14
Senior
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
ASTR 4323PHYS 3544
PHYS 3514PHYS Elective3
PHYS 4861Core 123
PHYS Elective3Core 133
Core 113Core 143
Elective3 
 17 16
Total Units 120

Computational Physics Concentration Suggested Four-Year Plan

Based on course availability and student needs and preferences, the selected sequences will probably vary from those presented below. Students should consult with their adviser to make the most appropriate elective choices.

Freshman
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
MATH 273 (Core 3)4COSC 2364
PHYS 1851MATH 2744
PHYS 241 or 251 (Core 7)4PHYS 242 or 252 (Core 8)4
Core 1 (or Core 2)3PHYS 2704
Core 43 
 15 16
Sophomore
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
COSC 2374MATH 2633
MATH 2754MATH 3743
PHYS 3113PHYS 2434
PHYS 3413PHYS 3073
Core 2 (or Core 1)3Core 53
 17 16
Junior
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
COSC 2904COSC 3364
MATH 2654PHYS 3544
PHYS 3514PHYS 3851
Core 63Core 93
 Core 103
 15 15
Senior
Term 1UnitsTerm 2Units
MATH 4353Elective3
PHYS 3374Elective3
PHYS 4861Core 133
Core 113Core 143
Core 123 
 14 12
Total Units 120
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of fundamental principles of physics and major concepts in a student’s chosen track and be able to apply these principles to solve quantitative problems.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the nature of scientific research.
  3. Communicate scientific information effectively in both oral and written formats.
  4. Utilize and apply technology to investigate experimental and theoretical scientific problems.