Degree Programs

BA in Physics: Interdisciplinary Option

This option provides students with a strong physics preparation, but also allows them the flexibility to pursue an interdisciplinary academic program combining physics with training in a related science or engineering department or program: Astronomy, Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Sciences, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Energy & Environmental Studies, Geography, Mathematics, or Mechanical Engineering. It is well suited for students planning to pursue graduate studies in a discipline other than physics or to enter a career in a related field upon graduation.

Students pursuing this option must consult closely with their physics advisor and file a formal plan of study with the department. This plan is a contract, signed by the student, his or her physics advisor, his or her advisor from the other participating department, and the Director for Undergraduate Studies in Physics. The student’s proposal requires a statement of purpose and motivation regarding the interdisciplinary plan, and a semester-by-semester list of courses to be completed.

Interdisciplinary Option Form

Prerequisites

Calculus I and II (MA 123*, 124) OR Enriched Calculus (MA 127); Principles of Physics (PY 251, 252) and Modern Physics (PY 351) OR General Physics (PY 211, 212) and Elementary Modern Physics (PY 313); Methods of Theoretical Physics (PY 355). Please note that both mathematics and physics should normally be started in the freshman year.

Principal Courses

Electromagnetic Fields and Waves I (PY 405), Intermediate Mechanics (PY 408), and Quantum Physics (PY 451). Two additional physics courses at the 300 level or above (but not including PY 313, 351, 355, 401, 402, 482, 491, 492, or 581) are also required. In addition, three coordinated courses from a participating science or engineering department are required. If the participating department is in CAS, at least one of these courses must be at the 300 level or higher, and the other two must be at the 200 level or higher. If these are mathematics courses, they must be different from the required courses mentioned below. If the participating department is in ENG, all three courses must be at the junior level or above. PY 581 may be used to satisfy the requirement of a 300-level course from a participating department in CAS or a course from a participating department in ENG. A grade of C or higher must be attained in all principal courses.

Required Related Courses

Multivariate Calculus (MA225) and one other mathematics course at the 200 level or higher chosen in consultation with the student’s physics advisor.

Recommended Courses

Modern Physics (PY 352), Electronics for Scientists (PY 371), Electromagnetic Fields and Waves II (PY 406), Advanced Scientific Computing in Physics (PY 421), Statistical Thermodynamics (PY 410), Quantum Physics (PY 452) , Undergraduate Physics Seminar (PY 482)

* All courses are taken through the College of Arts and Sciences unless otherwise noted.

Sample Schedule

MA XXX: any of MA 226, MA 242
I1-I5: 3 interdisciplinary courses + 2 prerequisites for them
PY XXX: any of PY 352, PY 371, PY 406, PY 410, PY 421, PY 452, PY 500+
Elective: any other four-credit course

Accelerated (Three-Year) Interdisciplinary Option

The Interdisciplinary Option can also be completed in three years if the student starts the program later than the fall of his/her freshman year. Calculus I (MA 123) should be taken sometime prior to the fall of his/her sophomore year.

MA XXX: any of MA 226, MA 242
I1-I5: 3 interdisciplinary courses + 2 prerequisites for them
E1: any of PY 352, PY 371, PY 421
E2: any of PY 352, PY 371, PY 421, PY 410, PY 406, PY 500+

BA in Physics: Graduate Option

This option provides students with a comprehensive and rigorous education in classical and modern physics. It is well suited for students intending to pursue graduate study in physics or a closely related field, or planning to enter a technical physics-related career upon graduation.

Graduate Option Form

Prerequisites

Calculus I and II (MA 123, 124) OR Enriched Calculus (MA 127) OR Honors Calculus (MA 129); Principles of Physics (PY 251, 252) and Modern Physics (PY 351) OR General Physics (PY 211, 212) and Elementary Modern Physics (PY 313); Methods of Theoretical Physics (PY 355). Please note that both mathematics and physics should normally be started in the freshman year.

Principal Courses

Electromagnetic Fields and Waves I and II (PY 405, 406), Intermediate Mechanics (PY 408), Statistical Thermodynamics (PY 410), Quantum Physics (PY 451, 452) and Advanced Laboratory (PY 581). An additional physics course is also required. This may be any physics course at the 300 level or higher with the exceptions of PY 313, 351, 401, 402, 482, 491, and 492. A grade of C or higher must be attained in all principal courses.

Required Related Courses

Multivariate Calculus (MA225) and one other mathematics course at the 200 level or higher chosen in consultation with the student’s physics advisor.

Recommended Courses

Modern Physics (PY 352), Electronics for Scientists (PY 371), Senior Independent Work (PY 401, 402), Advanced Scientific Computing (PY 421), Undergraduate Physics Seminar (PY 482), Introduction to Solid State Physics (PY 543), and Introduction to Particle Physics (PY 551). Students planning to pursue a graduate program in physics or a closely related discipline are strongly encouraged to enhance their mathematics education with some or all of the following: Linear Algebra (MA 242), Advanced Calculus (MA 411), Complex Variables (MA 412), and Methods of Applied Mathematics (MA 561)

Additional Information

Transfer students or students deciding to become physics concentrators after the first semester may substitute PY 211, 212, and 313, or their equivalents, for the introductory courses PY 251, 252, and 351, 352 respectively. The same option is available for students whose academic experience has not prepared them for PY 251, 252. However, it is strongly recommended that interested students join the mainstream physics program as early as possible in their undergraduate careers. In that case, substitution of PY 252 for PY 212 and PY 352 for PY 313 is encouraged.

MA XXX: any of MA 226, MA 242
PY XXX: any of PY 352, PY 371, PY 421, PY 500+
Elective: any other four-credit course

BA in Philosophy & Physics

With this degree option, the Physics and Philosophy departments enable students to study the fundamental, philosophical questions underlying modern physics, the study of matter and energy, and how they interact. This joint degree program provides a framework within which students can better understand some of the more theoretical aspects of the field of Physics.

Prerequisites

One course in philosophy at the 100 level; Principles of Physics (PY 251, 252) OR General Physics (PY 211, 212); PY 353 (Offered depending on student interest); Calculus I and II (CAS MA 123, 124)

Principal Courses

At least five courses in Philosophy and eight courses in Physics, with a grade of C or higher, are required.

Philosophy Requirements

History of Ancient Philosophy (PH 300), History of Modern Philosophy (PH 310), Philosophy of Science (PH 270); Symbolic Logic (PH 360), PH 467 OR Philosophical Problems of Logic and Mathematics (PH 468); Philosophy of Physics (PH 470) OR a directed study in philosophy.

Physics Requirements

Multivariate Calculus (MA 225); Modern Physics (PY 351, 352), Methods of Theoretical Physics (PY 355), Electromagnetic Fields and Waves I and II (PY 405, 406), Intermediate Mechanics (PY 408), Quantum Physics (PY 451, 452)

BA in Astronomy & Physics

Physics when paired with Astronomy helps students understand how physical concepts are applied in our universe. Whether students are interested in solar flares or the Big Bang, this joint-degree program arms them with the knowledge and skills to observe physics in our solar system and beyond. Students who choose this concentration will be prepared to enter graduate school to study astronomy or astrophysics.

Prerequisites

Principles of Astronomy I and II (AS 202, 203); Principles of Physics (PY 251, 252) OR General Physics (PY 211, 212).

Principal Courses

Planetary Physics (AS 311), Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics (AS 312); Observational Astronomy (AS 441) OR Advanced Laboratory (PY 581); Calculus I and II (MA 123, 124) OR Enriched Calculus (MA 127); Multivariate Calculus (MA 225); Modern Physics (PY 351) OR Elementary Modern Physics (PY 313); Methods of Theoretical Physics (PY 355), Electromagnetic Fields and Waves I and II (PY 405, 406), Intermediate Mechanics (PY 408), Statistical Thermodynamics (PY 410), Quantum Physics (PY 451); and at least two courses from the following list: Extragalactic Astrophysics and Cosmology (AS 413), Solar and Space Physics (AS 414), and Quantum Physics (PY 452).

Recommended Courses

Any from the above-required list if not taken as a principal course, as well as Electronics for Scientists PY 371; Remote Sensing of Environment (GE 302), Climate and the Environment (GE 310); Introduction to Computer Science (CS 111, 112).

BA in Physics & Education

Perhaps you were inspired to become a physics major by one of your own teachers in high school. You, too, can go on to inspire new generations of students to study science or engineering at the university level, by becoming an inspiring teacher yourself. There has always been a need for qualified physics teachers in this country. Recently, that need has increased significantly because many school districts (including the Boston Public Schools) have adopted a Physics First curriculum, with many students taking a conceptual physics course in grade 9. To be able to teach effectively, a teacher needs a solid background in their subject area. This is where you come in. As a physics major, you will learn many different things about how the world works. Becoming a physics teacher, deciding to share your knowledge with others, could be the best decision you ever make. There are three possible routes to become a physics teacher, please consult below:

Route 1 – Get a regular physics degree, in four years, and then go on to do a Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program, which is a one-year program offered by the School of Education.

Route 2 – Follow the new Interdisciplinary Option with Education track, combining a degree in Physics with several education courses (SED courses SC571, SC572, and CT575). Further coursework would be required at the end of your four-year program to become a licensed teacher, but this would give you a taste of what it means to be a teacher so you can get some idea of whether it is right for you.

Route 3 – In four years, do a Boston University Collaborative Degree Program (BUCOP) combining Physics and Education. A possible four-year program for this route is shown in the table below, leading to a dual degree in Physics and Education, and licensure to teach Physics (after passing the state tests).

 

BA|MA in Physics

This five-year program is intended for students who want to continue their education in Physics at a graduate level, as well as for students who want to extend their knowledge of Physics beyond the undergraduate level before entering the job market.

Students should enroll in this program no later than the end of their sophomore year. No student will be admitted to the program later than the end of the junior year. Before entering the program, students must achieve an overall GPA of 3.0 and a minimum GPA of 2.7 (B–) in sciences and mathematics, as well as complete the 300-level course requirements for the BA with a concentration in Physics. Before award of the dual degree, students must satisfy all CAS degree requirements.

Prerequisites

Calculus I and II (MA 123, 124) OR Enriched Calculus (MA 127); Principles of Physics (PY 251, 252), Modern Physics (PY 351, 352), Methods of Theoretical Physics (PY 355)

Principal Courses

Electromagnetic Fields and Waves I and II (PY 405, 406), Intermediate Mechanics (PY 408), Statistical Thermodynamics (PY 410), Quantum Physics (PY 451, 452), Mathematical Physics (PY 501), Quantum Mechanics I and II (PY 511, 512), Electromagnetic Theory I (PY 521), Statistical Mechanics I (PY 541), Advanced Laboratory (PY 581), and either Introduction to Solid State Physics (PY 543) OR Introduction to Particle Physics (PY 551). In addition, students are required to enroll for two semesters of Directed Research (GRS PY 901, 902) in their final year, in connection with their work on a master’s thesis, or to achieve a “low pass” on the graduate comprehensive examination. In the latter case, the student must also take one additional Physics course at the 500 level or above.

Required Related Courses

Multivariate Calculus (MA 225) and one other mathematics course at the 200 level or higher chosen in consultation with the student’s Physics advisor.

Recommended Courses

Computational Physics (PY 502), Introduction to Solid State Physics (PY 543), Introduction to Particle Physics (PY 551), PY 561 (Offered depending on student interest); Linear Algebra (MA 242), Advanced Calculus (MA 411), Complex Variables (MA 412), Mathematical Logic (MA 531), Methods of Applied Mathematics II (MA 561)

In the principal courses numbered 300–499, a minimum average grade of C must be attained. In the principal courses numbered 500 or above, the minimum passing grade is B–.

BA|MA in Astrophysics & Space Physics

The BA/MA program in Astrophysics and Space Physics is designed for those well-prepared students who wish to obtain a master’s degree by adding a fifth year of intensive study in Astrophysics and Space Physics. The requirements of the BA/MA program consist of those for the BA in Astronomy and Physics plus those of the MA in Astronomy.

Application to the Department of Astronomy Director of Graduate Studies must be completed by March of the junior year. Only those students with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 overall and 3.3 in mathematics, Physics, and astronomy courses will normally be admitted. There are two tracks in the program, one comprising 38 courses plus a master’s thesis, and one comprising 40 courses without a thesis. Further details may be obtained at the Department of Astronomy office or from the Director of Graduate Studies.

Minor in Physics

A minor in Physics is a great way to supplement any science major or simply support a student who would like a well-rounded background. Many math and engineering students decide to enhance their majors with a minor in Physics.

Principal Courses

CAS PY 251, 252 or PY 211, 212; and PY 351 (or 313); and two courses from CAS PY 355, 405, 406, 408, 410, 451, 452. A minimum grade of C in each course must be earned.

CAS Requirements

Candidates for the Bachelor of Arts degree in the College of Arts and Sciences must also satisfy requirements in writing, foreign language, mathematics, general education, the selected concentration, and electives. Each requirement is outlined in the CAS undergraduate bulletin. Print copies are also available in the Dean Ralph W. Taylor Academic Advising Center, located in CAS Room 105.

All College of Arts and Sciences students must complete a minimum of thirty-two 4-credit courses (128 credits). The student is also advised to review the Promotion and Graduation section listed under CAS Policies and Procedures.

Program Assessment

Annual Reports on Program Learning Outcomes Assessment: Graduate Option, Interdisciplinary Option