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Department of Physics
Undergraduate Students

Overview of Physics Major

Overview of the Physics Major

Requirements for the Major

Undergraduate Colloquium

University Physical Society

Physics Mentor Program

Other Programs

Non-L&S Students Earning a Physics Major

Honors in the Major

Thesis of Distinction

Distinction in the Major

Introductory Courses

Recommended Program for Majors

Courses

2320 Chamberlin Hall, 1150 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706; 608/262-4526; www.physics.wisc.edu

Professors Balantekin, Barger, Bruch, Carl-smith, Coppersmith, Cox, DeLuca, DeStasio, B. Durand, Eom, Halzen, Han, Himpsel, Hashimoto, Huber, Joynt, Knutson, Lagally, Larbalestier, Lawler, Lin, McCammon, Mon-taruli, Morse, Nickles, Ogelman, Olsson, Onellion, Pondrom, Prager, Prepost, Reeder, Reynolds, Roesler, Rzchowski, L. Smith, W. Smith, Sprott, Terry, Timbie, Uhlenbrock, Walker, Winokur, Wu, Zweibel; Associate Professors Forest; Assistant Professors Chung, Dasu, Eriksson, Karle, Klemm, Mueller, Pan, Saffman, Shiu

Undergraduate advisors in the major: See the department office for a current listing of undergraduate advisors.

Faculty diversity liaison: Dan McCammon, mccammon@wisp.physics.wisc.edu

The physics curriculum is intended to provide a broad and thorough understanding of the fundamental properties and interactions underlying physical phenomena (including mechanical behaviors, electrical and magnetic sources and interactions, light and optics, heat, relativity of space time, quantum mechanics, atomic and nuclear structure, solid state matter, etc). Many students who major in physics as undergraduates enter graduate schools for work leading to the M.S. or Ph.D. degrees. Others seek employment in a wide range of fields in government, business, and industry. Since current research, both pure and applied, involves interdisciplinary efforts, the broad training of physics with its stress on fundamentals proves to be a valuable experience.

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Requirements for the Major

Students with an interest in physics should obtain a copy of the Physics Major Handbook from the department. Along with a variety of invaluable information, it provides a detailed description of the requirements and options available. It is important for prospective majors to discuss plans and curriculum with a physics advisor and/or mentor as early as possible, preferably during the first year of undergraduate study.

Students considering the physics major should contact the physics department undergraduate secretary, 2320 Chamberlin Hall, to add their e-mail addresses to the undergraduate information network.

Forms for declaring a physics major are available in the department office, 2320 Chamberlin Hall. To be accepted as a physics major, a student must have a minimum grade point average of 2.5 in university mathematics and physics taken in the first semester of study.

The major requires 30 credits from selected physics courses to include:
(a) 247-248-249;
or
(b) 207-208 and (241 or 205 or 244);
or
(c) 201-202, and (205 or 241 or 244);
and
311 and 322

Students starting with Physics 103 and 104, or some other preparation, should consult with an advisor. The remaining credits must be from courses numbered above 300 (excluding 371, 472, and any courses used to satisfy the lab requirement). If more than the minimum required credits are taken from among 307, 308, 407, 321, 623, or 625, the additional credit(s) may be counted as part of the remaining 30.

The lab requirement is normally satisfied
by additional lab credits from 307 (1 cr), 308 (1 cr), 407 (1 or 2 cr), 321 (1 lab cr), 623 (1 lab cr), and/or 625 (1 lab cr). Students taking Physics 249 (in sequence "a" above) must enroll in Physics 307 lab concurrently and must obtain 2 additional lab credits before graduation. Students taking one of the alternate introductory sequences ("b" or "c" above) also need a total of 2 lab credits, which may include the 307 lab.

Note that equivalent research experience or nonphysics lab courses, if approved in advance by an advisor in the department and an instructor of Physics 407, may be substituted for lab course credit. This is of particular interest to science and engineering students contemplating a second major in physics. (See below for a list of preapproved substitutions.)

The physics department strongly suggests that the student's program include the seminar on Physics Today (301), one course in wave motion/optics (325, 625) and/or one in atomic and quantum physics (448-449 or 531) and/or thermal physics (415). Those considering graduate study in physics should take 448 and 449. Students must obtain approval of their program and changes to it from an undergraduate advisor.

All students must fulfill the L&S requirement of at least 15 credits of upper-level work in the major completed in residence. All physics courses numbered above 300, except 371 and 472, count toward this requirement.

Physics majors should obtain approval of their program from an undergraduate advisor. Advice on the choice of nonphysics electives is found in the Physics Majors Handbook, available from the department office.

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Undergraduate Colloquium

"Physics Today" is a weekly series of talks during the spring semester. A topic of local research is described by one of the physics faculty or staff. The series is open to anyone, and can also be taken as a course, Physics 301. See the Timetable for location and time.

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University Physical Society

Physics students may wish to consider joining the University Physical Society (UPS), a physics club that organizes seminars, tours, and other activities, and offers useful information on employment opportunities. UPS is located in 2328 Chamberlin Hall.

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Physics Mentor Program

Any student contemplating becoming a physics major is encouraged to obtain a faculty mentor. A mentor is a faculty member with whom you can discuss physics, courses, careers, graduate schools, aspirations, etc. Mentors are not primarily academic advisors. Information is available at the department office.

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Other Programs

A program in Applied Math, Engineering and Physics (AMEP) is described in its own section of this catalog.

Students interested in an astronomy-physics major should contact the astronomy department.

A student working toward the Bachelor of Science-Education degree may major or minor in physics. (See the School of Education section in this catalog.) Interested students should contact the School of Education. Upon request, the physics department will assign an advisor.

A suggested curriculum for students interested in graduate study in medical physics is available in the medical physics department office.

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Non-L&S Students Earning a Physics Major

Students earning an undergraduate degree through another UW-Madison school or college may complete an additional major in physics. Such students complete the major requirements detailed above. See "The Physics Major" section of the Physics Major Handbook for preapproved alternative laboratories that may be of use.

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Honors in the Major

To earn the B.A. or B.S. with honors, majors in physics must:

(a) complete the L&S general degree requirements; and

(b) present 35 credits in physics courses with a minimum GPA of 3.3.

The physics courses must include:

(i) core courses

(a) 247-248-249;

or

(b) 207-208, and (241 or 205 or 244);

or

(c) 201-202 and (205 or 241 or 244);

and

311, 322, 448, and 449;

(ii) Students following sequence "i.a" above must take 307 (1 lab cr) concurrently with 249 and must obtain an additional 3 credits of lab experience from 308 (1 lab cr), 407 (1 or 2 lab cr), 321 (1 lab cr), 623 (1 lab cr), or 625 (1 lab cr). Students following sequence "i.b" or "i.c" above must obtain 3 credits of lab experience from 307 (1 lab cr), 308 (1 lab cr), 407 (1 or 2 lab cr), 321 (1 lab cr), 623 (1 lab cr), or 625 (1 lab cr). Credits used to satisfy the laboratory requirement do not count toward the 35-credit total.

(iii) Senior thesis 681 (for 3 cr) and 682 (for 3 cr), or, with the approval of the chair, an equivalent written report on suitable work done under the supervision of a faculty member.

(iv) One or more elective credits in 321, 325, 407, 415, 433, 499 or physics courses numbered 500 or above.

Students should check with the department honors advisor at least once a year regarding current requirements and to discuss their progress. See the department office or the committee assignment list for the name and number of the advisor.

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Thesis of Distinction

An exceptional original thesis will be designated as a Thesis of Distinction upon recommendation by the department.

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Distinction in the Major

The award "Distinction in the Major" will be recommended by the department to the dean for students who substitute elective physics credits for the thesis.

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Introductory Courses

The Department of Physics offers several introductory courses that differ in emphasis and mathematical prerequisites, and are designed for students with different backgrounds, interests, and needs. Students should take the highest level introductory course for which they have the prerequisites.

Physics 107 and 109 are one-semester courses intended for nonscience majors, and are devoted to bridging the gap between the "two cultures," letters and science, with a minimum of mathematics and technical terminology. Physics 115 is a one-semester introduction focusing on the single concept of energy. It is intended for students with no previous college physics and minimal mathematical preparation. These courses are not appropriate for science majors, and they do not satisfy the admission requirements of the Medical School.

Physics 103-104 is a two-semester general physics course taught without calculus. This sequence is intended for students who have had high school algebra, geometry, and basic trigonometry, and provides a general introduction to physics at the non-calculus level.

There are three introductory course sequences at the calculus level—Physics 201-202, 207-208, and 247-248-249. Physics 201-202 is taken primarily by engineering students. Physics 207-208 is taken primarily by science or math majors. Both 201-202 and 207-208 cover the same material except for an introduction to modern physics which is covered only in 208. For those planning to major in physics, the preferred introductory sequence is 247-248-249. Alternatively, 201-202 or 207-208 followed by 205, 241, or 244 can be used to start the physics major. All three sequences provide roughly the same background.

Completion of either 201-202 or 207-208 is a prerequisite for 205, 241, or 244, and all courses numbered above 300, except 371 and 472. Physics 103-104 plus a course in calculus may be substituted with permission. Physics 247-248-248 also serves as a prerequisite for courses above 300.

Physics 265 (Medical Physics) is a one-semester course concerned with the application of physics to medicine and medical instrumentation, primarily for premeds and other students in the medical and biological sciences.

Physics 371 (Acoustics for Musicians) is a one-semester course concerned with the physics of waves and sound, for advanced students of music.

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Recommended Program for Majors

Freshman Year—First Semester

The recommended introductory sequence is 247-248-249. Alternatively, students may choose the 207-208, 241 sequence. Students who enter with preparation in calculus may start the suggested sequence of physics courses in the first semester of their freshman year with 247 A Modern Introduction to Physics, 5 cr Math 222, 5 cr

Second Semester

248 A Modern Introduction to Physics, 5 cr

Math 234, 3 cr

Sophomore Year—First Semester

249 A Modern Introduction to Physics, 4 cr
307 Intermediate Lab, 1 cr Math 319, 320, or 340, 3 cr

Second Semester

308 Intermediate Lab, 1 cr
311 Mechanics, 3 cr
301 Physics Today, 1 cr Math 321, 3 cr

Junior Year—First Semester

322 Electromagnetic Fields, 3 cr Math 322, 3 cr

Second Semester

325 Wave Motion and Optics, 3 cr
407 Advanced Lab, 1-2 cr

Senior Year—First Semester

415 Thermal Physics, 3 cr
448 Atomic and Quantum Physics, 3 cr

Second Semester

449 Atomic and Quantum Physics, 3 cr
Electives

Students who wish to begin graduate studies without deficiencies are advised to adhere closely to this program.

Electives

The senior year could include electives, such as:
522 Advanced Classical Physics
525 Introduction to Plasmas
535 Introduction to Particle Physics
545 Introduction to Atomic Structure
546 Lasers
551 Solid State Physics
623 Electronic Aids to Measurement
625 Applied Optics

Students who plan to teach in secondary schools or seek employment in government or industrial laboratories may wish to replace the courses suggested for the senior year by Physics 531 and more specialized courses chosen from the electives listed above.

Students are also encouraged to take all three of the laboratory courses (307, 308, 407) if possible, although not all are required. The 307, 308 labs teach the fundamentals of lab technique and provide ex-perience with material covered in the lecture courses. The 407 lab, however, is more like a genuine research experience.

Mathematics

Courses in mathematics or computer sciences other than or beyond those suggested should be chosen in consultation with the student's advisor.

Chemistry

A college course in chemistry is advised for all physics students.

Computing

Students should become familiar with scientific pro-gramming using FORTRAN (and probably C). The computer sciences department offers introductory courses (such as 302). The Academic Computing Center also offers short courses to introduce programming.

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Last updated: 4/9/2007
 
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