Physics

Requirements & Courses

  • Physicists seek to understand natural phenomena at the fundamental level of space, time, matter and motion. This quest encompasses everything from the formation of stars to the best design for a bridge. Alma’s Physics Department offers a balanced program of pure and applied physics, introducing essential scientific understanding and investigating its applications. Physics is appropriate for students seeking careers in engineering, product development or in areas of sales or management requiring technical expertise. Careers in basic research or college or university teaching require advanced degrees.

  • Major or Teaching Major Requirements
    1. Thirty-six credits, including PHY 121, 122, 220, 221, 312, 321, 323, 421; and either 333, 380, 499, 500 or Astronomy 225.
    2. Twenty cognate credits, including Mathematics 121, 122, 210, 211 and Computer Science 120.
  • Minor or Teaching Minor Requirements

    Twenty-four credits, including Physics 121, 122, 220, 221 and eight credits from Physics and Astronomy courses numbered 200 or above. Twenty cognate credits, including Mathematics 121, 122, 210, 211 and Computer Science 120.

  • Four credits from PHY, with the exception of practicum or independent study courses, count towards the Distributive Requirements in the Natural Sciences — Physical Sciences.

Courses

  • PHY
    101
    .
    Making of the Atomic Bomb
    4 credits
    Review of the scientific, engineering, military and social factors involved in the development of the atomic bomb from 1900-1945. Does not count toward Physics major.

    Students may not receive credit for both Physics 112-113 and 121-122.
  • PHY
    112
    .
    General Physics I
    4 credits
    $7
    MTH 112, 113, or 121; or Permission
    First half of an introductory survey of physics with emphasis on problem-solving. Uses algebra and trigonometry, but not calculus. Appropriate for students who plan no further study in physics. Topics include motion, forces, rotation, conservation laws and thermal physics. Laboratory.
  • PHY
    113
    .
    General Physics II
    4 credits
    $7
    PHY 112
    Second half of the introductory survey of physics started in PHY 112. Uses algebra and trigonometry, but not calculus. Topics include vibrations and waves, sound, electricity and magnetism, optics and modern topics. Laboratory.
  • PHY
    121
    .
    Introduction to Physics I
    4 credits
    $7
    MTH 121 concurrently or Permission
    First half of an introductory survey of physics with emphasis on problem solving. Uses calculus. Appropriate for students who plan to major in physics, chemistry or mathematics, and pre-engineering and pre-medical students who have had calculus. Includes mechanics, dynamics and rotation. Laboratory. Permission will be immediately granted to students who have credit for MTH 113 or 121.
  • PHY
    122
    .
    Introduction to Physics II
    4 credits
    $7
    PHY 121; MTH 122 recommended
    Second half of the introductory survey of physics started in PHY 121. Uses calculus. Includes oscillations, waves, gravity, sound, fluids and thermal physics. Laboratory.
  • PHY
    140
    .
    Machine Shop
    2 credits
    $7
    Permission
    Introduction to machine shop tools and techniques.
  • PHY
    *
    212
    .
    Mechanics I: Statics
    4 credits
    PHY 121 and CSC 120; MTH 210 concurrently
    Study of static equilibrium of rigid bodies. Includes translational and rotational equilibrium; stresses, strains and deformations; strengths of materials.
  • PHY
    *
    220
    .
    Introduction to Electromagnetism
    4 credits
    $7
    PHY 122; and MTH 210 or Permission
    Continuation of survey of physics begun in PHY 121-122. Study of fundamentals of electricity and magnetism: charge, current, fields, potentials, resistance, capacitance, inductance and an introduction to electromagnetic waves.
  • PHY
    *
    221
    .
    Modern Physics
    4 credits
    $7
    PHY 122; and MTH 210 or Permission
    Survey of fundamentals of modern physics: special relativity, atomic physics, nuclear physics, and introductory quantum wave mechanics.
  • PHY
    *
    225
    .
    Astrophysics
    4 credits
    PHY 221 concurrently
    Study of the physics of stellar constituents of the universe: distances, magnitudes, colors, spectra and motions of stars; multiple and variable stars; stellar structure and evolution; star clusters; structure and rotation of the Milky Way galaxy, galaxies and cosmology.
  • PHY
    *
    299
    .
    Independent Study
    1-4 credits
    Permission
    Planned program of study. Topic selected by instructor and student.
  • PHY
    *
    312
    .
    Mechanics II: Dynamics
    4 credits
    PHY 122 and MTH 210
    Study of motion. Includes particle dynamics, central force motion, rigid body motion, Lagrange’s and Hamilton’s equations of motion.
  • PHY
    *
    321
    .
    Electricity and Magnetism
    4 credits
    PHY 220 and MTH 210
    Study of electric and magnetic fields. Introduces and uses vector calculus. Includes integral and differential forms of Maxwell’s equations; electric, scalar and vector potentials; radiation; and electric and magnetic properties of matter.
  • PHY
    *
    323
    .
    Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
    4 credits
    PHY 221 and MTH 210
    Study of thermodynamics as seen and derived from a quantum statistics perspective. Includes first, second and third laws of thermodynamics; kinetic theory of gasses; Maxwell-Boltzman statistics; thermal equilibrium; and fluctuations and irreversibility.
  • PHY
    *
    333
    .
    Optics
    4 credits
    $7
    PHY 122; PHY 220 recommended
    Study of geometric and physical optics. Includes mirror and lens systems, apertures and stops, photography, fiber optics, Fourier techniques, interference and diffraction, limits of resolution, optical image processing, electro optics, lasers and holography. Laboratory.
  • PHY
    *
    380
    .
    Topics in Physics
    4 credits
    Permission
    Study of topic of current or historical importance chosen by instructor. Prerequisites vary with selections.
  • PHY
    *
    399
    .
    Independent Study
    1-4 credits
    Permission
    Planned program of study. Topic selected by instructor and student.
  • PHY
    *
    421
    .
    Quantum Mechanics
    4 credits
    PHY 221 and MTH 310
    Study of wave and matrix mechanics, the harmonic oscillator, the hydrogen atom and angular momentum and spin.
  • PHY
    *
    480
    .
    Topics in Physics
    4 credits
    Permission
    Study of topic of current or historical importance chosen by instructor. Prerequisites vary with selections.
  • PHY
    *
    499
    .
    Independent Study
    1-4 credits
    Permission
    Planned program of study. Topic selected by instructor and student.
  • PHY
    *
    500
    .
    Senior Thesis
    2-4 credits
    $2.50 each credit
    Planned program of research performed on campus or as part of research group at major university or national laboratory.