Students may complete a major or minor in physics. Within the major, students may complete a minor in computational methods or educational studies, or complete the requirements for secondary education certification. Students may complete an M.A. in the combined A.B./M.A. program.
Peter A. Beckmann, Professor and Chair
Christian Bracher, Lecturer
Mark Matlin, Senior Lecturer and Laboratory Coordinator
Elizabeth F. McCormack, Professor (on leave 2005-06)
David Nice, Visiting Assistant Professor
Michael W. Noel, Assistant Professor
The courses in physics emphasize the concepts and techniques that have led to our present state of understanding of the physical universe. They are designed to relate the individual parts of physics to the whole rather than to treat them as separate disciplines. In the advanced courses, the student applies these concepts and techniques to increasingly independent studies of physical phenomena. Opportunities exist for interdisciplinary work, for participation by qualified majors in research with members of the faculty, and for training in electronics, instrumentation and experimentation, including computer interfacing and programming.
Required Introductory Courses for the Major and Minor
The introductory courses required for the physics major and minor are Physics 103, 104 or 101, 102 and Mathematics 101, 102. Advanced placement and credit is given for a score of 4 or 5 on the AP tests. Alternatively, students may take the departmental advanced placement examinations just prior to or during the first week of classes. Entering students are strongly urged to take departmental placement examinations in physics and mathematics if they had reasonably strong courses in high school. It is best for a student considering a physics major to complete the introductory requirements in the first year. However, the major sequence is designed such that a student who completes the introductory sequence by the end of the sophomore year can major in physics.
Beyond the four introductory physics and mathematics courses, nine additional courses are required for the major. (Haverford courses may be substituted for Bryn Mawr courses where appropriate.) Five of the nine courses are Physics 206, 214, 215, 306 and Mathematics 201. The remaining four courses must be chosen from among the 300-level physics courses, any one course from among Astronomy 305, 320 and 322, or any one course from among Mathematics 303, 312 and 322.
The department has been very successful in preparing students for graduate school in physics, physical chemistry, materials science, engineering and related fields. To be well prepared for graduate school, students should take Physics 302, 303, 308, 309 and 331. These students should also take any additional physics, mathematics and chemistry courses that reflect their interests, and should engage in research with a member of the faculty by taking Physics 403. Note that Physics 403 does not count toward one of the 13 courses required for the major.
Typical plans for a four-year major in physics are listed below.
Four-Year Plan meeting the minimum requirements for the major:
Physics 103, 104
Mathematics 101, 102
Physics 214, 215, 206
Physics 306 and one (or two) other 300-level physics course(s)
Three (or two) other 300-level physics courses
Four-Year Plan providing adequate preparation for graduate school:
Physics 103, 104
Mathematics 101, 102
Physics 214, 215, 206
Physics 306 and either 303, 309 or 308, 302
Physics 331 and either 308, 302 or 303, 309
The physics program at Bryn Mawr allows for a student to major in physics even if the introductory courses are not completed until the end of the sophomore year, as long as calculus is taken in the first year. It is also possible, although difficult, for the student majoring in three years to be adequately prepared for graduate school. To do this, the outline below should be supplemented with (at least) Physics 403 in the 4th year.
Three-Year Plan meeting the minimum requirements for the major:
Mathematics 101, 102
Physics 103, 104, 206
Physics 214, 215, 306 and 302 or 331
Three 300-level physics courses
The A.B. degree may be awarded with honors in physics. The award is based on the quality of original research done by the student and a minimum grade point average. The research must be described in a senior thesis presented to the department. A grade point average of 3.4 or higher in 200- and 300-level physics courses (excluding Physics 380 and 390) and an overall grade point average of at least 3.0, both calculated at the end of the senior year, must be achieved.
The requirements for the minor, beyond the introductory sequence, are Physics 206, 214, 215, 306; Mathematics 201; and two additional 300-level physics courses.
Minor in Computational Methods
Students may major in physics and receive a minor in computational methods. Students would need to complete the requirements for the Physics major including two of the following courses: Physics 305 (or 316 at Haverford), 306 and 322. Further, students would have to complete Computer Science 110, 206 and 231 and one of Computer Science 212, 225 (at Haverford), 245, 246, 330 or 340 (at Haverford).
Minor in Educational Studies or Secondary-School Teacher Certification
Students majoring in physics may pursue a minor in educational studies or state certification to teach at the secondary-school level. Students seeking the minor need to complete the requirements for the physics major including one of Physics 380, 459 (at Haverford) or 460 (at Haverford), and five additional courses in the Education Program, including a two-semester senior seminar, which requires five to eight hours per week of fieldwork. To earn secondary-school certification (grades 7-12) in physics students must: complete the physics major plus two semesters of chemistry and one semester as a teaching assistant in a laboratory for introductory or intermediate physics courses; complete one year of biology (recommended); complete six education courses; and student-teach full-time (for two course credits) second semester of their senior year.
To earn an M.A. degree in physics in the College’s A.B./M.A. program, a student must complete the requirements for an undergraduate physics major and also must complete six units of graduate level work in physics. Of these six units, as many as two units may be undergraduate courses at the 300 level taken for graduate credit (these same two courses may be used to fulfill the major requirements for the A.B. degree), at least two units must be graduate seminars at the 500 level, and two units must be graduate research at the 700 level leading to the submission and oral defense of an acceptable M.A. thesis. Students must also demonstrate skill in computing or in a foreign language.
Courses at Haverford College
Many upper-level physics courses are taught at Haverford and Bryn Mawr in alternate years. These courses (numbered 302, 303, 308, 309 and 322) may be taken interchangeably to satisfy major requirements.
PHYS B101, B102 Introductory Physics
Two introductory courses on the study of the physical universe. Emphasis is on developing an understanding of how we study the universe, the ideas that have arisen from that study, and on problem solving. Physics 101 includes topics from among Newtonian kinematics and dynamics, relativity, gravitation, fluid mechanics, and waves and sound. Physics 102 includes electricity and magnetism, electrical circuits, light and optics, quantum mechanics, atomic and nuclear physics, and particle physics and cosmology. Calculus is introduced and used throughout. An effective and usable understanding of algebra and trigonometry is assumed. Lecture three hours, laboratory three hours a week. (staff, Division IIL and Quantitative Skills)
PHYS B103, B104 Foundations of Physics
These two courses present an integrated introduction that develops physical insight and problem-solving skills, and an appreciation for the conceptual and mathematical processes by which scientists model the universe. Calculus is used throughout. Topics include: particle physics; cosmology; the fundamental forces of nature; attempts at unifying the forces; Newtonian kinematics and dynamics; conservation laws; gravitation; electricity and magnetism; weak force and radioactive decay; nuclear physics; particle physics; sound waves; electromagnetic waves; quantum mechanics; atoms and molecules; and general relativity. Students are advised against taking Physics 104 without having taken Physics 103. Lecture three hours, laboratory three hours a week. (staff, Division IIL and Quantitative Skills)
PHYS B107 Conceptual Physics
This course is an introduction to our modern understanding of the physical universe. Special emphasis is placed on how the laws of physics are inferred and tested, how paradigms are developed and how working principles are extrapolated to new areas of investigation. The systematic and serendipitous nature of discoveries is explored. Examples and illustrations are typically drawn from particle physics, cosmology, nuclear physics, relativity and mechanics. This is a terminal course open to all students who have not taken college-level physics. Lecture three hours, laboratory three hours a week. (staff, Division IIL and Quantitative Skills) Not offered in 2005-06.
PHYS B109 How Things Work
This course provides nonscience majors the opportunity to explore the physical principles that govern the objects and activities familiar in their everyday lives. For example, objects such a roller coasters, rockets, light bulbs and Xerographic copiers will be used to explore motion, fluids, heat and electricity. (staff, Division IIL and Quantitative Skills)
PHYS B206 Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences I
This course is the first of a two-course sequence with Physics 306 presenting topics in applied mathematics and computational methods useful to students studying any of the natural sciences including physicists, engineers, physical chemists, geologists and computer scientists. Topics typically covered include vector and complex algebra and analysis, linear systems of equations, probability and statistics, an introduction to first and second order differential equations and partial differential equations, and numerical methods for solving differential equations, solving linear systems of equations, pseudo-random number generation, numerical integration and curve fitting. Lecture and discussion four hours a week. Prerequisites: Mathematics 201.
PHYS B214 Modern Physics and Quantum Mechanics
Survey of particles and fields, experimental origins of quantum theory; Schrödinger's equation, one-dimensional quantum mechanical problems; classical and quantum mechanical treatments of the harmonic oscillator and motion in an inverse square field; the hydrogen atom. Lecture three hours, laboratory in modern physics and physical optics three hours a week. Prerequisite: Physics 102 or 104, or permission of instructor. Corequisite: Mathematics 201 or Haverford equivalents. (staff, Division IIL and Quantitative Skills)
PHYS B215 Special Relativity, Electromagnetism and Particle Physics
Topics covered in lecture include electro- and magnetostatics, electrodynamics, Maxwell's equations, light and physical optics. Maxwell's theory is used to motivate the study of the special theory of relativity; its impact on Newtonian mechanics is considered. The covariant formalism is introduced. Other fundamental forces of nature and their possible unification are studied. The laboratory covers topics in direct and alternating current and digital circuitry. Lecture three hours, laboratory three hours a week. Prerequisite: Physics 102 or 104 and Mathematics 201, or Haverford equivalents. (staff, Division IIL and Quantitative Skills)
PHYS B302 Quantum Mechanics and Applications
This course presents nonrelativistic quantum mechanics, including Schrödinger's equation, the eigenvalue problem, the measurement process, the hydrogen atom, the harmonic oscillator, angular momentum, spin, the periodic table, time-dependent perturbation theory and the relationship between quantum and Newtonian mechanics. Lecture and discussion four hours a week. Prerequisites: Physics 214 and 306. Alternates between Bryn Mawr and Haverford; 2005-06 at Bryn Mawr.
PHYS B303 Statistical and Thermal Physics
This course presents the statistical description of the macroscopic states of classical and quantum systems, including conditions for equilibrium; microcanonical, canonical and grand canonical ensembles; and Bose-Einstein, Fermi-Dirac and Maxwell-Boltzmann statistics. Examples and applications are drawn from thermodynamics, solid state physics, low temperature physics, atomic and molecular physics and electromagnetic waves. Lecture and discussion four hours a week. Prerequisite: Physics 214. Corequisite: Physics 306. Alternates between Bryn Mawr and Haverford; 2005-06 at Haverford.
PHYS B305 Advanced Electronics
This laboratory course is a survey of electronic principles and circuits useful to experimental physicists and engineers. Topics include the design and analysis of circuits using transistors, operational amplifiers, feedback and analog-to-digital conversion. Also covered is the use of electronics for automated control and measurement in experiments, and the interfacing of computers and other data acquisition instruments to experiments. Laboratory eight hours a week. Prerequisite: Physics 215 or Haverford Physics 213.
PHYS B306 Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences II
This course is the second of a sequence with Physics 206 presenting topics in applied mathematics and computational methods useful to students studying the natural sciences including physicists, engineers, physical chemists, geologists and computer scientists. Topics covered include coordinate transformations and tensors, vector spaces, Fourier series, integral transforms, advanced ordinary and partial differential equations, special functions, boundary-value problems, functions of complex variables, an introduction to group theory and numerical methods for matrix diagonalization, solving systems of ordinary differential equations, solving partial differential equations, and Monte Carlo simulations. Lecture and discussion four hours a week. Prerequisites: Mathematics 201 and Physics 206.
PHYS B308 Advanced Classical Mechanics
This course presents kinematics and dynamics of particles and macroscopic systems using Newtonian, Lagrangian and Hamiltonian techniques. Topics include oscillations, normal mode analysis, inverse square laws, nonlinear dynamics, rotating rigid bodies and motion in noninertial reference frames. Lecture and discussion four hours a week. Corequisite: Physics 306. Alternates between Bryn Mawr and Haverford; 2005-06 at Bryn Mawr.
PHYS B309 Advanced Electromagnetic Theory
This course presents the mathematical structure of classical field theories. Topics include electrostatics and magnetostatics, dielectrics, magnetic materials, electrodynamics, Maxwell's equations, electromagnetic waves and relativity. Examples and applications may also be drawn from superconductivity, plasma physics and radiation theory. Lecture and discussion four hours a week. Prerequisites: Physics 215 and 306. Alternates between Bryn Mawr and Haverford; 2005-06 at Haverford.
PHYS B313 Particle Physics
This course presents models of the structure and interactions of the fundamental particles. Topics include relativistic kinematics; symmetries and conservation laws; the Feynman diagram formalism; quantum theories of the electromagnetic, weak and strong forces; the Standard Model; gauge theories; unification of the fundamental forces; and an introduction to string theory. Prerequisite: Physics 302.
PHYS B322 Solid State Physics
This course presents the physics of solids. Topics include crystal structure and diffraction; the reciprocal lattice and Brillouin zones; crystal binding; lattice vibrations and normal modes; phonon dispersion; Einstein and Debye models for the specific heat; the free electron model; the Fermi surface; electrons in periodic structures; the Bloch theorem; band structure; semiclassical electron dynamics; semiconductors; and superconductivity. Lecture and discussion four hours a week. Prerequisites: Physics 303 and 306. Alternates between Bryn Mawr and Haverford; 2005-06 at Haverford.
PHYS B325 Unified Grand Tour of Theoretical Physics
This course presents an introduction to the successful mathematical models of physical systems developed over the last 100 years. Topics will be taken from the geometry of spacetime, special relativity, general relativity and gravitation, quantum theory, second quantization and quantum field theory, relativistic quantum mechanics, gauge fields, the standard model of the particles and forces, grand unified theories, gravity and supersymmetry, and string theory. Lecture and discussion four hours a week. Prerequisites: Physics 306 and 308. Corequisite: Physics 302.
PHYS B331 Advanced Modern Physics Laboratory
This laboratory course consists of set-piece experiments as well as directed experimental projects to study a variety of phenomena in atomic, molecular, optical, nuclear and solid state physics. The experiments and projects serve as an introduction to contemporary instrumentation and the experimental techniques used in physics research laboratories in industry and in universities. Laboratory eight hours a week. Prerequisites: Physics 214 and 306. Corequisite: Physics 215.
PHYS B380 Assistant Teaching in Physics
Students have the opportunity to work with an experienced faculty member as they serve as assistant teachers in a college course in physics. Students will participate in a directed study of the literature on teaching and learning pedagogy; participate in constructing and designing a course, and engage in teaching components of the course. Supervised work 12 hours a week. Prerequisite: Physics 103/104 or equivalent, and permission of the instructor.
PHYS B390 Independent Study
At the discretion of the department, juniors or seniors may supplement their work in physics with the study of topics not covered in regular course offerings. Supervised work 12 hours a week. Prerequisite: Physics 306 and permission of the instructor.
PHYS B403 Supervised Units of Research
At the discretion of the department, juniors and seniors may supplement their work in physics with research in one of the faculty research groups. At the discretion of the research supervisor, a written paper and an oral presentation may be required at the end of the semester or year. The available areas of supervised research projects include molecular spectroscopy and dynamics, nonlinear dynamics, condensed matter physics and physical chemistry. Students are encouraged to contact individual faculty members and the departmental Web pages for further information.