See our section on Engineering Partnerships
The degree of Bachelor of Arts is awarded with honors in physics in recognition of academic excellence. The award, which is made upon the recommendation of the department, is based on the quality of a Senior Thesis and on an achievement of a GPA of at least 3.4 in 200-level courses and above in physics, astronomy, and mathematics at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges and an overall GPA of at least 3.0.
Many physics majors participate in the college's junior year study abroad program. Undergraduate physics courses are surprisingly standardized throughout the world. The Majors Adviser will work with you to design an appropriate set of courses to take wherever you go.
Preparation for Graduate School
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, at a minimum, these upper-level courses: PHYS 302, 303, 308, and 309. Students should also take any additional courses in physics and allied fields that reflect their interests, and should engage in research with a member of the faculty by taking PHYS 403. (Note that PHYS 403 does not count towards the 14 courses required for the major.) Seniors can take graduate courses, usually PHYS 501: Quantum Mechanics or PHYS 503: Electromagnetism, to get a head start on graduate school.
Minor in Educational Studies or Secondary-School Teacher Certification
Students majoring in physics can pursue a minor in educational studies or state certification to teach at the secondary-school level. Students seeking the minor need to complete six education courses 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 six education courses; and student teach full-time (for two course credits) second semester of their senior year. For additional information, see the "Education" section of the catalog.
A major in physics can be excellent preparation for a career in the health professions. A recent (2010) study by the American Institute of Physics finds that "…as a group, physics bachelor's degree recipients achieve among the highest scores of any college major on the entrance exams for medical school…" In addition to one year of physics, most medical and dental schools require one year of English, one year of biology, one year of general chemistry, and one year of organic chemistry. Students wishing to pursue this path should consult the physics major's advisor early in their studies as well as the Health Professions Advising Office to develop an appropriate major plan. For additional information, see the "Education" section of the catalog.
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.
Courses at Haverford College
Many upper-level physics courses are taught at Haverford and Bryn Mawr in alternate years as indicated in the listings of the specific courses below. These courses (numbered 302, 303, 308, 309, and 322) may be taken at either institution to satisfy major requirements. Haverford 335 and Bryn Mawr 325 are both topics in advanced theoretical physics and they also tend to alternate. In addition, 100- and 200-level courses at Haverford can be used to replace 100- and 200-level courses at Bryn Mawr but these courses are not identical and careful planning is required.