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Organization, Regulations, and Courses 2017-18


Physics and Astronomy - Undergraduate

Chair: John R. Thorstensen

Professors M. P. Blencowe, R. R. Caldwell, B. C. Chaboyer, R. A. Fesen, M. Gleiser, M. K. Hudson, J. W. LaBelle, K. A. Lynch, R. M. Millan, R. Onofrio, A. J. Rimberg, B. N. Rogers, R. Sarpeshkar, J. R. Thorstensen, L. Viola, M. N. Wybourne; Associate Professors R. C. Hickox, C. Ramanathan; Assistant Professors Y-H Liu, D. G. E. Walker, J. D. Whitfield, K. C. Wright; Visiting Professor Y. J. Brown; Adjunct Professors P. Crane, W. Lotko, B. W. Pogue, J. B. Weaver; Adjunct Associate Professors A. H. Barnett, B. T. Kress, C. G. Levey, T. P. Smith, A. Ukhorskiy; Adjunct Assistant Professor F. Ticozzi; Research Professors R. E. Denton, J. G. Lyon, H-R Mueller.

 

To view Astronomy Undergraduate courses, click here. 

To view Physics Undergraduate courses, click here.

To view Physics and Astronomy Graduate requirements, click here.

To view Astronomy Graduate courses, click here.

To view Physics Graduate courses, click here.

 

Courses for Students in the Humanities and Social Sciences

 

The following courses are especially recommended for students not majoring in one of the sciences: PHYS 1/2 and PHYS 5, and ASTR 1 and ASTR 2/3.

Requirements for the Major in Physics

Prior to the class of 2018:

Prerequisite: MATH 3, MATH 8, MATH 13, and MATH 23; PHYS 13 and PHYS 14. Students with advanced placement may substitute PHYS 15 and PHYS 16 for PHYS 13 and PHYS 14.

Students completing a major in physics are required to take a minimum of eight courses in physics, including PHYS 19, PHYS 24, PHYS 41, PHYS 42, PHYS 43, PHYS 44, and two electives including the culminating experience. Students taking PHYS 15 may substitute a third elective for PHYS 19. The major requires one upper-level laboratory course: PHYS 47, PHYS 48, PHYS 76 or ASTR 61. Elective courses are PHYS 30, PHYS 31, PHYS 47, PHYS 48, ASTR 15 or ASTR 25, and all physics and astronomy courses numbered in the sixties, seventies and nineties. Courses numbered in the forties may be taken in any order. Students planning graduate study in physics or another science are encouraged to take PHYS 66, PHYS 76, PHYS 91 and other advanced courses in physics and astronomy. Graduate courses in physics and astronomy are open to qualified undergraduates. Students should consult the Undergraduate Advisor about additional courses in mathematics and other science departments.

Students are required to complete a culminating activity in the major. For the physics major this requirement may be satisfied by receiving credit for one of the following courses: PHYS 68, Introductory Plasma Physics; PHYS 72, Introductory Particle Physics; PHYS 73, Introductory Condensed Matter Physics; PHYS 74, Space Plasma Physics; PHYS 77, Introduction to General Relativity and Gravitation; PHYS 76, Methods of Experimental Physics; PHYS 82, Special Topics Seminar; ASTR 74, Astrophysics; ASTR 75, High Energy Astrophysics; ASTR 81, Special Topics in Astronomy; PHYS 87, Undergraduate Research, or any PHYS or ASTR course numbered 100 or above. The culminating experience is included in, not in addition to, the eight courses required for the major. Graduate courses taken as part of the culminating experience may only be used toward the undergraduate degree.

All major programs require an average GPA of 2.0 in all courses counted toward the major, including prerequisites.

A typical program is outlined below. In addition to these courses, a physics major may be completed with almost any Dartmouth Plan attendance pattern, provided that at least one summer and one fall term are spent on campus.

 

Year

Fall

Winter

Spring

First

MATH 3

MATH 8

(MATH 13)

 

 

PHYS 13

PHYS 14

Subsequently

(MATH 13)

MATH 23

PHYS 24

 

PHYS 19

PHYS 24

PHYS 44

It is desirable that those students who plan to complete more than the minimal major in physics take PHYS 13 and PHYS 14 in the first year, and PHYS 19 and PHYS 24 in the sophomore year. Students taking PHYS 13 in the fall must have AP credit for Math 3. Those beginning Physics in their sophomore year, however, can easily complete at least the minimal major.

 

Beginning with the class of 2018:

Prerequisite: MATH 3, MATH 8, MATH 13, and MATH 22 or MATH 23; PHYS 13 and PHYS 14. Students with advanced placement may substitute PHYS 15 and PHYS 16 for PHYS 13 and PHYS 14.

Students completing a major in physics are required to take a minimum of eight courses in physics, including PHYS 19, PHYS 40, PHYS 41, PHYS 43, PHYS 44 [ENGS 72 may be substituted], PHYS 50 and two electives including the culminating experience. Students taking PHYS 15 may substitute a third elective for PHYS 19. Students taking ENGS 72 instead of PHYS 44 must take MATH 23 or ENGS 22.

The major requires one upper-level laboratory course: PHYS 47, PHYS 48, PHYS 76 or ASTR 61. Elective courses are PHYS 30, PHYS 31, PHYS 47, PHYS 48, ASTR 15 or ASTR 25, and all physics and astronomy courses numbered in the sixties, seventies and nineties. Courses numbered in the forties may be taken in any order. Students planning graduate study in physics or another science are encouraged to take PHYS 66, PHYS 76, PHYS 90 and other advanced courses in physics and astronomy. Graduate courses in physics and astronomy are open to qualified undergraduates. Students should consult the Undergraduate Advisor about additional courses in mathematics and other science departments.

Students are required to complete a culminating activity in the major. For the physics major this requirement may be satisfied by receiving credit for one of the following courses: PHYS 68, Introductory Plasma Physics; PHYS 72, Introductory Particle Physics; PHYS 73, Introductory Condensed Matter Physics; PHYS 74, Space Plasma Physics; PHYS 77, Introduction to General Relativity and Gravitation; PHYS 76, Methods of Experimental Physics; PHYS 82, Special Topics Seminar; ASTR 74, Astrophysics; ASTR 75, High Energy Astrophysics; ASTR 81, Special Topics in Astronomy; PHYS 87, Undergraduate Research, or any PHYS or ASTR course numbered 100 or above. The culminating experience is included in, not in addition to, the eight courses required for the major.  Graduate courses taken as part of the culminating experience may only be used toward the undergraduate degree.

All major programs require an average GPA of 2.0 in all courses counted toward the major, including prerequisites.

 
Students who plan to complete an ambitious physics major suitable for graduate school in physics should take PHYS 13 and PHYS 14 in the freshman year, combined with PHYS 19 either spring term first year or fall term sophomore year, or they should take PHYS 15 and PHYS 16 in the first year, in all cases taking MATH 13 and MATH 22 or MATH 23 as soon as their math preparation allows. Any of these combinations allows the student to start taking the intermediate courses (PHYS 40-41-43-44) in the sophomore year and to start taking advanced courses in the junior year. Those students beginning physics in the sophomore year can, however, easily complete the major. Note that PHYS 15 is intended for students who had calculus-based classical mechanics in high school, and students must pass a placement exam in order to take it. Entering students taking PHYS 13 in the Fall quarter must have placement into MATH 8 or higher.

Typical programs are outlined below. A physics major may be completed with almost any Dartmouth Plan attendance pattern.

First-year students with no advanced placement can do an ambitious physics major and might follow the following example program.

 

Year

Fall

Winter

Spring

First

MATH 3

MATH 8

MATH 13

 

 

PHYS 13

PHYS 14

Subsequently

MATH 22 or MATH 23

 

 

 

PHYS 19

 

 

The intermediate courses PHYS 40, 41, 42, 43, 44 can be started as soon as winter term of the sophomore year.

First-year students with advanced placement in mathematics qualify for taking Physics 13 fall term and might follow the following example program:

 

Fall

Winter

Spring

MATH 8 or 11

MATH 13

MATH 22 or MATH 23

PHYS 13

PHYS 14

PHYS 19

First-year students with advanced placement in physics and mathematics qualify for Physics 15-16 and might follow the following example program:

 

Fall

Winter

Spring

MATH 8 or MATH 11

MATH 13

MATH 13 or MATH 22 or MATH 23

PHYS 15

PHYS 16

PHYS 31

 In either case, MATH 22 or MATH 23 could be taken fall term of the sophomore year, concurrently with PHYS 43.  The intermediate courses PHYS 40, 41, 43, 44 can be started as early as first-year spring (40), or in the sophomore year.

The Modified Physics Major

A modified physics major may be desirable for students interested in a broad range of careers such as medicine, the health professions, public policy, or journalism. The prerequisites for the modified major are the same as those for the physics major. The modified major consists of ten additional courses, of which at least six must be in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Courses selected in other departments (science or otherwise) should form a unified whole with the physics courses, and should draw on and relate to a physics background. It is also possible to modify the physics major with courses outside the science division, subject to these same general guidelines. A written rationale explaining the intellectual coherence of the proposed program of courses, approved by the Undergraduate Advisor, is required in all cases. Interested students are urged to consult the Undergraduate Advisor.

Requirements for the Engineering Physics Major

The Department of Engineering Sciences and the Department of Physics and Astronomy offer a major in Engineering Physics. This major features a 5/5 split in courses, unlike a modified major which requires six courses from one field and four from the other.

The prerequisite courses for the Engineering Physics major are MATH 3, MATH 8, MATH 13, MATH 23; PHYS 13, PHYS 14; CHEM 5; and COSC 1 and COSC 10 or ENGS 20.

The Engineering Physics major is a ten-course program consisting of three Engineering Sciences core courses (ENGS 22, ENGS 23, ENGS 24); three Physics core courses (PHYS 19, PHYS 40 [formerly 24], PHYS 43 [Students taking PHYS 15 and PHYS 16 should substitute a third physics elective for PHYS 19]); and four electives, two from each department. Two electives must be selected from the following list: ENGS 25, ENGS 33, ENGS 34; PHYS 50 [formerly 42], PHYS 68, PHYS 90 [formerly 91]; PHYS 73 or ENGS 131; PHYS 66 or ENGS 64; PHYS 44 or ENGS 72. The other two electives may be courses from the Engineering Sciences Department numbered above 20, excluding ENGS 80 and ENGS 87, or courses from the Physics and Astronomy Department which fulfill the straight physics major.

A culminating experience is required in the major which can be taken instead of one of the electives above. It must be one of the following: a project or a thesis, ENGS 86, ENGS 88 or ENGS 89*; an advanced engineering sciences course with a significant design or research project, normally taken in the senior year, chosen from an approved list (consult the Engineering Sciences Department for the most recent list); or PHYS 68, PHYS 72, PHYS 73, PHYS 74, PHYS 76, PHYS 82, or PHYS 87.

*ENGS 89 must be taken as part of the two-course design sequence ENGS 89/ ENGS 90 [formerly ENGS 190/ ENGS 290]. Prior to enrollment in ENGS 89 [formerly ENGS 190], at least six engineering sciences courses must be completed: ENGS 21 plus five additional courses numbered 22 - 76.

All major programs require an average GPA of 2.0 in all courses counted toward the major, including prerequisites.

For more information contact Professor Lynch (Physics and Astronomy) or Professor Liu (Engineering Sciences).

Students who major in Engineering Physics or major in Physics with an Engineering Sciences minor can enter the professionally-accredited Bachelor of Engineering (B.E.) program at the Thayer School and complete the requirements for the B.E. degree with an additional year of study beyond the A.B.  Students interested in pursuing the B.E. are strongly encouraged to work closely with their major advisor to choose their elective courses. 
A detailed description of the B.E. requirements can be found on the Engineering Sciences ORC page.

Requirements for the Major in Astronomy

Prerequisite: MATH 3, MATH 8, MATH 13; and two courses from the introductory physics sequence: PHYS 3 and 4, or PHYS 13 and 14, or PHYS 15 and 16.

Students completing a major in astronomy are required to take ASTR 15, ASTR 25, ASTR 61 and one elective from ASTR 74, ASTR 75, ASTR 81, ASTR 87.  Two additional courses must be selected from Physics and Astronomy courses numbered 19 or above. The remaining two courses may be selected from any Physics and Astronomy course numbered 19 or above, or given the interdisciplinary nature of astronomy, two suitable advanced courses from other science departments may be taken as part of the astronomy major, subject to department approval.

Graduate courses in Physics and Astronomy are open to qualified undergraduates. Students are required to complete a culminating activity in the major. For the astronomy major this requirement may be satisfied by receiving credit for one of the following courses: ASTR 74, Astrophysics; ASTR 75, High Energy Astrophysics; ASTR 81, Special Topics in Astronomy; ASTR 87, Undergraduate Research in Astronomy; PHYS 77, Introduction to General Relativity and Gravitation. The culminating experience is included in, not in addition to, the eight courses required for the major.

All major programs require an average GPA of 2.0 in all courses counted toward the major, including prerequisites.

Requirements for Physics and Astronomy Minors

Physics Minor

Prerequisite: MATH 3, MATH 8, MATH 13, MATH 22 or MATH 23, or equivalents; PHYS 13 and PHYS 14 (or PHYS 3 and PHYS 4, or PHYS 15 and PHYS 16).

Four courses are required in addition to the prerequisites. One of these must be PHYS 19 except that students taking PHYS 15 and PHYS 16 may substitute another elective for PHYS 19. The other three must be chosen from physics courses numbered 30, 31 or 40 and above, and/or astronomy 15 or 25 and above, at least one of which must be numbered above all of these. 

Note that PHYS 19 has PHYS 14 as prerequisite.

Astronomy Minor

Prerequisites: MATH 3 and MATH 8 or equivalents; PHYS 13 and PHYS 14 (or PHYS 3 and PHYS 4, or PHYS 15 and PHYS 16).

Four courses are required in addition to the prerequisites. One of these must be ASTR 15. The other three are ASTR 25, ASTR 61, and ASTR 81. Any physics or astronomy course numbered 20 or above may be substituted for one of these three.

Note that ASTR 25 has PHYS 14 as prerequisite.

Requirements for the Mathematical Physics Minor

This minor is sponsored by the faculty in Mathematics and Physics. It may be combined with majors in either of the two departments, or any other department. Students majoring in both physics and mathematics cannot take the minor.

Prerequisites:  PHYS 13, PHYS 14, PHYS 19 (or PHYS 15 and PHYS 16), and PHYS 40, MATH 3, MATH 8, MATH 13, and MATH 22 or MATH 24.

Requirements: A total of four additional courses are required. These must include MATH 23 and MATH 46. Mathematics majors must choose two elective physics courses from the following list; physics majors must choose two elective mathematics courses; students majoring in a department other than mathematics or physics must choose one mathematics and one physics course.

PHYS 30, PHYS 31, PHYS 41, PHYS 43, PHYS 44, PHYS 47, PHYS 50, PHYS 66, PHYS 72, PHYS 75, PHYS 77, PHYS 90. [Note PHYS 50 requires PHYS 40.]

MATH 31 or MATH 71, MATH 42, MATH 43, MATH 53, MATH 54, MATH 63, MATH 66, MATH 73, MATH 76.

An advanced undergraduate or graduate level physics or mathematics course may be substituted, with permission from the physics or mathematics department undergraduate advisor. No course may count towards both the major and minor.

Off Campus Study

The Department of Physics and Astronomy sponsors a foreign study program (FSP) in South Africa during alternate winter terms, first offered in 15W. Twelve to sixteen students will be selected for the program; MATH 3 and an introductory physics course (Physics 3, or 13 or 15) are the only prerequisite courses. Students on the FSP get credit for three courses: ASTR 15, ASTR 61, and ASTR 81 (all of which count towards the astronomy or physics major). The FSP consists of five weeks of intensive course work on the campus of the University of Cape Town, followed by one week spent at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), which will include data taking, followed by independent research study on the Cape Town campus using the data collected, under close supervision of a faculty member. Dartmouth owns approximately a ten percent stake in the Southern African Large Telescope, which is at SAAO and is the largest optical telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. For further information, see Professors Chaboyer or Thorstensen.

Honors Program in Physics Or Astronomy

An honors student carries out a program of independent work in physics or astronomy under the supervision of a member of the faculty. This independent work may be done in the student’s senior year, but often begins earlier. It may be experimental, theoretical, or observational. A written report on the completed work is required.

Any major meeting the college requirements (as described in the Regulations section of this catalog) is eligible for admission to the departmental Honors Program. To enter the program eligible students should obtain the permission of the Department and of the faculty member who is to supervise the work. Seniors will receive information on the application process and subsequent deadlines early Fall term.  Early consultation with the Department is encouraged.

All departmental Honors are considered individually and awarded by a vote of the faculty. To be considered for High Honors the student must defend an Honors Thesis based upon the independent work before a faculty committee. Students with an average in the major of 3.75 or higher who do not complete an honors thesis may be considered for Honors, as distinct from High Honors, provided they have completed three courses beyond the minimum number required for the major from among the list of courses numbered 60 or higher. One of the courses must be PHYS 76, PHYS 82, ASTR 81 or PHYS 87.

All Honors students must meet the minimum requirements of the regular major, and, ordinarily, should take physics, astronomy, and mathematics courses beyond those requirements. Special programs may be worked out for eligible students who wish to include extensive work in a field related to physics or astronomy.

Courses for Graduate Credit

Physics and astronomy courses offered for graduate credit are those numbered 61 or higher. The Department of Physics and Astronomy will allow graduate credit for any course offered by the Departments of Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Engineering Sciences, or Mathematics that receives graduate credit from that department.