Nov 29, 2023  
Undergraduate Record 2007-2008 
Undergraduate Record 2007-2008 [ARCHIVED RECORD]


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Requirements for Major

The Department of Physics offers both Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees. In addition, there is an Astronomy/Physics B.A. offered jointly by the Astronomy and Physics departments. The basic B.A. is designed for students interested in physics and planning to enter other fields including medicine, education, business, and law, and for liberal arts students seeking a strong background in physics. Students planning graduate study in physics or physics-related areas should elect the B.S., the B.A. with a Distinguished Major course sequence, or the Astronomy/Physics B.A. Two special concentrations can be pursued by students in either the B.A. or the B.S. programs: a Computational Physics Concentration (PHYS 553 & 554 Computational Physics I & II); or an Optics Concentration (PHYS 531 Optics,  PHYS 532 Fundamentals of Photonics). Students are urged to contact a physics undergraduate advisor as early as possible to design a program to fit their specific needs.

There are several course sequences leading to the physics major. For all of them it is highly desirable to complete MATH 131, 132 or equivalent courses in calculus by the end of the first year. However, it is possible to begin calculus in the second year and complete the requirements for the B.A.



Requirements for the B.A. in Physics

There are two options leading to the B.A. in physics, each having three components:

For either of the options, a year of chemistry may be substituted for one of the 300-level physics courses in component (3). MATH 325 is not required for the B.A. degree, but it is a prerequisite for many of the courses at 300-level and above. Students choosing Option II who want more extensive preparation in basic physics and those planning to take physics courses numbered 315 and higher should replace PHYS 203, 204 in component (2) with the higher-level laboratory sequence PHYS 221, 222, to be taken after completing PHYS 231, 232. It is also possible to enter the physics sequence through PHYS 142E. Students wishing to use this route should consult one of the physics undergraduate advisors.

Option I

  1. Prerequisites - MATH 131, 132 and PHYS 151, 152
  2. MATH 231 and PHYS 221, 222, 251, 252
  3. Three courses chosen from PHYS 254 and/or 300-level physics courses

Option II

  1. Prerequisites - MATH 131, 132
  2. MATH 231 and PHYS 231, 232, 203, 204, 252
  3. Four courses chosen from PHYS 254 and/or 300-level physics courses

Bachelor of Arts with Distinguished Major Course Sequence

This sequence may be entered using components (1) and (2) of either option I or II above. Component (3) is replaced by the following requirements: MATH 325, PHYS 254, 317, 321, 331, 342, 355, 356, 393 and one 300-500-level physics elective.

Requirements for the B.S. in Physics

The requirements for the B.S. in Physics are the completion of the Distinguished Major course sequence plus Math 521, 522 (or equivalent APMA courses) and PHYS 343. Except for Echols scholars, the requirements for the B.S. in Physics include completion of the standard College of Arts and Sciences competency and area requirements.

A minimum cumulative 2.000 GPA in all required courses must be achieved for graduation as a physics major.

Distinguished Major Program

The Distinguished Major Program provides recognition of outstanding academic performance in a challenging sequence of physics courses including an independent study project. Students who complete the distinguished majors course sequence or the B.S. requirements with final grade point averages exceeding 3.400, 3.600, or 3.800, are given departmental recommendation to receive their degrees (B.A. or B.S.) with distinction, high distinction, or highest distinction, respectively.

Requirements for the Bachelor of Arts in Astronomy-Physics

This program is offered jointly by the Astronomy and Physics departments and prepares students for graduate study in astronomy, physics, computer science, and related fields. The students take MATH 131, 132, 231, 325, 521, 522; PHYS 151, 152, 251, 252, 254, 221, 222, 321, 331, 342, 343, 355; and ASTR 211, 212, 313, 395, 498 (Senior Thesis), and six additional credits of 300-500 level astronomy courses. Prospective astronomy-physics major are strongly urged to consult with a physics undergraduate advisor during registration week of their first semester. Students in this program have advisors in both departments.

Requirements for Minor

A minor in physics can be earned through one of the following course sequences: (1) PHYS 151, 152, 251, 252 and either 221 or any 300-level physics course; (2) PHYS 231, 232, 203, 204, 252 and any 300-level physics course; (3) PHYS 142E and 142W, 241E and 241W, 252, and any 300-level physics course.

Additional Information

For more information, contact Bascom Deaver, Chair of the Undergraduate Program Committee, Physics Department Office, Jesse W. Beams Laboratory of Physics, P.O. Box 400714, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4714, (434) 924-3781;; A detailed departmental brochure is available.

Course Information

Overview of Courses in Introductory Physics

The Physics Department offers a wide range of courses and course sequences in introductory physics available to students with no previous preparation in physics. Some satisfy specific requirements for science, engineering and premedical students, while others are intended primarily for liberal arts students. They should be considered in the following three categories:

Courses for Non-Science Majors

PHYS 101, 102, 105, 106, 109, 111, and 115 are intended primarily for students desiring an introduction to some important topics in physics but whose primary interests are in areas other than science. All of them satisfy the College science requirement and all use only high school-level mathematics.

Introductory Physics without Calculus

The two-semester sequence PHYS 201, 202 provides a comprehensive introduction to physics requiring only algebra and trigonometry. Taken together with the associated laboratory courses PHYS 203 and 204, they satisfy the requirements for medical and dental schools. This sequence is not sufficient preparation for more advanced courses in physics, except for PHYS 304.

Introductory Physics with Calculus

There are three course sequences that provide the basis for taking more advanced courses in physics and for entering a physics major or minor:

PHYS 151, 152, 251, 252: Introductory Physics

This four-semester calculus-based sequence is designed to provide a broad background in introductory physics for potential physics and other science majors. This sequence is particularly appropriate for students ready to begin the study of physics during their first semester. Calculus (MATH 131, 132) is taken concurrently with Physics 151, 152. The associated laboratory courses, PHYS 221, 222 and MATH 231, 325P are normally taken concurrently with PHYS 251, 252 during the second year.

PHYS 231, 232: Classical and Modern Physics

This is a two-semester, calculus-based introductory sequence for science majors. A year of calculus (usually MATH 131, 132) is a prerequisite. These courses taken with the laboratory courses, PHYS 203, 204 satisfy the physics requirements of medical and dental schools. They are normally taken in the second year. Students desiring more extensive preparation in basic physics, and particularly those planning to take physics courses numbered 315 and higher should replace PHYS 203, 204 with the higher level laboratory sequence PHYS 221, 222 to be taken after completing PHYS 231, 232.

PHYS 142E, 241E: General Physics

This is a two-semester calculus-based introductory sequence primarily for engineering students. One semester of calculus is prerequisite for PHYS 142E, which is offered in the spring semester; the second semester of calculus is usually taken concurrently with PHYS 142E. These courses include workshops, PHYS 142W and 241W respectively, that include experiments and group problem solving. Students completing the PHYS 142E, 241E sequence who need an introduction to modern physics topics (relativity, quantum physics, atomic structure, nuclear and elementary particle physics, solid state physics and cosmology) should enroll in PHYS 252.

Students may offer for degree credit only one of PHYS 142E, 151, and 231; only one of PHYS 232, 241E, and 251.

Course Descriptions

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