Undergraduate Programs

The Wake Forest Physics Department offers an outstanding educational program for the undergraduate student, with the option to pursue either the BS or the BA degree.  The program is designed to give the student a broad understanding of physics, with the opportunity to pursue researchStudents learning in Physics Lab at the forefront of biophysics, nano-technology and materials physics, condensed matter physics, gravitation and particle physics, and optical and laser physics. The Department thus provides the unique mix of research opportunities similar to those found at large research universities with the atmosphere of a small liberal arts university.  Many of our undergraduate students have worked in our research laboratories and are co-authors on the resulting publications--visit the Undergraduate Honors Research Topics page for past graduates and their research topics and our Profiles page to see various research activities in which our current students are involved. Graduates from the Wake Forest Physics Department have held positions at colleges, universities, industry and government laboratories, and not-for-profit institutes (for details, see Outcomes, on the "Why Wake Forest?" page).

 

Details on our undergraduate programs are provided below. For more information or questions, please contact Professor G. Cook or Professor F. Salsbury, the undergraduate program advisers. Prof. Cook is the adviser for students entering Wake Forest in odd years and Professor Salsbury for students entering Wake Forest in even years.

 

 

 

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Physics Majors and Physics MinorStudents

 

The study of physics is exciting, challenging, and brings out the student's intellectual best. We have an ideal environment for learning physics: a small department committed to excellence in teaching in both the classrooms and the research laboratories. Majors take a set of core courses in which they learn the fundamentals of physics before they take elective courses and do directed research.

 

A major typically starts with introductory Physics 113-114 in the freshman year. If you have had a good high school course, and feel that you know the material in the 113-114 course, you should discuss moving to Physics 215 with your instructor and Professor Salsbury or Cook, the advisors for physics majors. In your freshman year you should also begin taking a sequence of mathematics courses, starting with Calculus 111 and 112. It is essential that your mathematics courses parallel your physics courses.

 

IF YOU ARE A SOPHOMORE WHEN YOU FIRST TAKE PHYSICS 113-114, YOU CAN MAJOR IN PHYSICS WITHOUT ANY DIFFICULTY. Options for starting the BS degree as a freshman or sophomore, or the BA degree as a freshman or sophomore are provided below.

 

There are four degree tracks for physics majors and one option for the physics minor:

 

© Ken Bennett, WFU Creative Services

 

The BS degree is for students planning careers in physics or related areas such as engineering. It provides rigorous, in-depth coverage in the areas of mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics. Students also acquire knowledge of electrical circuits and the laboratory skills necessary to succeed in experimental physics. With this degree students are well prepared for graduate studies in physics.  Some of our BS majors have also gone on to study optics, medical physics, and engineering in graduate school.

 

The BA degree provides a broad exposure to physics without the rigorous detail offered in the BS degree. BA students are well prepared for careers in science education, technical writing or journalism, or for working in science-related businesses. The physics BA degree is also a popular major for students who plan to enter professional schools such as Medicine, Business, or Law or whose primary major is in another area such as mathematics or chemistry.

 

The BS degree in biophysics is a degree that is like the BS physics degree, but with a focus on the biosciences. Students obtain a BS in Biophysics which includes a core set of biophysics and biochemistry courses that provide a rigorous and quantitative training and focus, with application to the biosciences. Students obtain a knowledge base making them highly qualified to pursue research careers in the biotechnology industry or additional graduate education in biochemistry, biophysics, or the pharmaceutical sciences. Students who are pursuing the physics BA degree and following the pre-health professions curriculum would complete the requirements for this degree, if specific selections for required physics elective courses were chosen.

 

The BA/MS degree is an alternative to the BS degree for students planning on graduate study.  It provides the same rigorous and in-depth coverage of core physics subjects at the undergraduate level as the BS degree does.  In this program, at the end of the third year, the physics requirements for the BA degree are complete, and thus, the student may receive graduate credit for courses taken in the fourth year. During the fourth year of the BA/MS program, the student finishes the University requirements for the BA degree and graduates with his/her class. In the fifth year the remaining course requirements and a thesis for the MS degree are completed. Students interested in the 5-year BA/MS degree should apply for admission to the Graduate School at the end of their junior year.

 

The physics minor is for students who wish to obtain some experience in physics, beyond the two introductory courses. Students may minor in physics by completing 17 hours in physics. These 17 hours must include the following courses: 113 (General Physics I), 114 (General Physics II), 215 (Elementary Modern Physics), and 262 (Mechanics). MTH 205 (Applied Multivariable Mathematics) is a prerequisite for PHY 262.

 

Academic requirements for Majors: No student may be a candidate for a degree with a major in physics with a grade less than C in General Physics without special permission of the Department. Graduation with a major in Physics also requires a Minimum GPA of 2.0 in all Physics Classes.

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The BS Major

 

The BS major in physics requires 38 hours in Physics and must include the following courses: 113, 114, 215, 230, 262, 265, 266, 301, 302, 337, 339, 340, 341, 343, and 344. The remaining four hours may be satisfied with any other 300-level course(s) in the department. In addition, Mathematics 205, 306, and one math elective are required. The math elective can be satisfied by any 3-hour 200 or higher level mathematics or computer science course except MTH 381, 391, 382, and 392 and CSC 391 and 393. MTH 317 and CSC 111 are strongly recommended as preparation for graduate school.

 

Students may substitute MTH 113 and 121 in place of MTH 205 and MTH 251 and 352 in place of MTH 306. Students availing themselves of both these replacements may wish to consider pursuing a minor in mathematics.

 

BS major in physics starting freshman year

 

[tables problem]

 

Year

 

 

Fall

 

 

Spring

 

 

 

Course

 

 

Hours

 

 

Course

 

 

Hours

 

Freshman

 

 

General Phy 113

Calculus MTH 111

 

 

4

4

 

 

General Phy 114

Calculus MTH 112

 

 

4

4

 

Sophomore

 

 

Elem Mod Phy 215

Intermediate Lab 265

Multivariable MTH 205

 

 

3

1

3

 

 

Mechanics 262

Intermediate Lab 266

Electronics 230

Advanced MTH 306

 

 

3

1

3

3

 

Junior

 

 

Analytical Mech. 337

Elec. & Mag 339

Quantum Phys 343

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

1.5

1.5

3

0.5

 

 

Elec. & Mag 340

Quantum Phys 344

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

3

3

0.5

 

Senior

 

 

Physics Seminar 301

Thermodynamics 341

PHY/MTH elective

 

 

0.5

3

3

 

 

MTH/PHY elective

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

3/4

0.5

 

 

BS major in physics starting sophomore year

 

 

Fall

 

 

Spring

 

 

Year

 

 

Course

 

 

Hours

 

 

Course

 

 

Hours

 

Sophomore

 

 

General Phy 113

Calculus MTH 111

 

 

4

4

 

 

General Phy 114

Calculus MTH 112

 

 

4

4

 

Junior

 

 

Elem Mod Phy 215

Intermediate Lab 265

Multivariable MTH 205

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

3

1

3

0.5

 

 

Mechanics 262

Intermediate Lab 266

Advanced MTH 306

Electronics 230

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

3

1

3

3

0.5

 

Senior

 

 

Analytical Mech. 337

Elec. & Mag 339

Quantum Phys 343

Thermodynamics 341

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

1.5

1.5

3

3

0.5

 

 

Elec. & Mag 340

Quantum Phys 344

PHY/MTH elective

MTH/PHY elective

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

3

3

3

3

0.5

 

The BS major in physics requires 38 hours in physics. The remaining three hours may be satisfied with any course or courses from the following list. These courses may be taken at any time after the necessary prerequisites have been satisfied.

 

Course

 

 

Hours

 

Biophysics 307

 

 

3

 

Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology 310

 

 

3

 

The Physics of Biological Macromolecules 320

 

 

3

 

Computational Biophysics Laboratory 323

 

 

1

 

Biophysical Methods Laboratory 325

 

 

1

 

Bioinformatics 385

 

 

3

 

Physical Optics and Optical Design 352

 

 

4

 

Introduction to Solid State Physics 354

 

 

3

 

Research 381, 382

 

 

1.5h/3h, 1.5h/3h

 

 

The BA Degree

 

The BA degree in physics requires 25 hours in physics and must include the following courses: 113, 114, 215, 230, 262, 265, and 266. The remaining six hours may be satisfied with any other 300-level courses in the department except 301, 381, 382. Mathematics 205 also is required. Students may substitute MTH 113 and 121 in place of MTH 205. Typical schedules follow.

 

BA major in physics starting in the freshman year

 

Year

 

 

Fall

 

 

Spring

 

 

 

Course

 

 

Hours

 

 

Course

 

 

Hours

 

Freshman

 

 

General Phy 113

Calculus MTH 111

 

 

4

4

 

 

General Phy 114

Calculus MTH 112

 

 

4

4

 

Sophomore

 

 

Elem Mod Phy 215

Intermediate Lab 265

Multivariable MTH 205

 

 

3

1

3

 

 

Mechanics 262

Intermediate Lab 266

Electronics 230

 

 

3

1

3

 

Junior

 

 

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

0.5

 

 

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

0.5

 

Senior

 

 

300 Level Elective

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

3

0.5

 

 

300 Level Elective

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

3

0.5

BA major in physics starting in the sophomore year

 

Year

 

 

Fall

 

 

Spring

 

 

 

Course

 

 

Hours

 

 

Course

 

 

Hours

 

Sophomore

 

 

General Phy 113

Calculus MTH 111

 

 

4

4

 

 

General Phy 114

Calculus MTH 112

 

 

4

4

 

Junior

 

 

Elem Mod Phy 215

Intermediate Lab 265

Multivariable MTH 205

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

3

1

3

0.5

 

 

Mechanics 262

Intermediate Lab 266

Electronics 230

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

3

1

3

0.5

 

Senior

 

 

300 Level Elective

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

3

0.5

 

 

300 Level Elective

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

3

0.5

 

 

Physics for students planning careers in medicine, law or business

 

A major in physics is ideal for students planning careers in medicine, law, or business. Careers in medicine include allopathic, naturopathic and osteopathic medicine, dentistry, podiatry, optometry and veterinary medicine. Backgrounds in physics are especially useful in our society which is rapidly becoming more and more dependent on technology. Student interested in a career in medicine have several choices:

 

    The 25 hours required for the BA degree leaves ample elective hours which can be used to take courses required or recommended for admission to the professional school of choice. For example, the pre-health professions student would take the biology and chemistry courses required by most medical schools for admission. Study toward the BA degree may be started by taking Physics 113-114 in either the freshman or sophomore year.

    With careful planning, students can complete a BS degree in physics, as well as the requirements for medical school. Please consult one of the Physics undergraduate advisors, Professor G. Cook or Professor F. Salsbury, for early planning.

    Pre-health professions students should also consider the BS Biophysics Major. Students who are following the pre-health professions curriculum would complete the requirements for this degree, with specific choices for required physics elective courses.

 

Pre-health professions students should also visit the web page of the Health Professions program and consult with the pre-health professions advisor, Professor Lord. Typical schedules for a pre-health professions student (including allopathic, naturopathic and osteopathic medicine, dentistry, podiatry, optometry and veterinary medicine) are:

 

BA Major in physics for a pre-health professions students starting physics in the freshman year

 

Freshman

 

 

Sophomore

 

PHY 113, 114

MTH 111, 112

 

 

PHY 215, 262

PHY 265, 266

CHM 111, 122

MTH 205

 

Junior

 

 

Senior

 

PHY 230

CHM 223, 280

BIO 111, 114, 214

 

 

 

Two 300 level physics electives, such as 307 (Biophysics) and 320 (Physics of Biological Macromolecules)

CHM 370 or BIO 370

 

BA Major in physics for a pre-health professions students starting physics in the sophomore year

 

Many pre-health professions students who begin their sequence with biology and chemistry in the freshmen year choose to change their major to physics when they take Phy 113-114 as sophomores. Following is a typical sequence for such students.

 

Freshman

 

 

Sophomore

 

BIO 111, 114

CHM 111 (or 109), 122

MTH 111, 112

 

 

PHY 113, 114

MTH 205

 

 

Junior

 

 

Senior

 

PHY 215, 262

PHY 265 , 266

CHM 223, 280

BIO 214

 

 

PHY 230

Two 300 level electives, such as PHY 307 (Biophysics) and PHY 320 (Physics of Biological Macromolecules)

CHM 370 or BIO 370

 

 

The BS Biophysics Major

 

The Bachelor of Sciences degree in Biophysics requires 27.5 hours in physics and must include the following courses: 113, 114, 215, 230, 262, 265, 266, and two of the following: 307/325, 320/323, 341. A student must take Physics 381 or 382 for a minimum of 1.5 hours. Also required are Mathematics 205; Chemistry 111/111L, 122/122L, 280; two of the three courses Biology 114, 213, 214; and either Biology 370 or Chemistry 370.

 

Typical sequence:

 

Year

 

 

BS Biophysics

 

Freshman

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHY 113, 114 (General Physics)

 

MTH 111, 112 (Calculus)

 

CHM 111, 111L (College Chemistry)

 

Sophomore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHY 215 (Elementary Modern Physics)

 

MTH 205 (Applied Multivariable Mathematics)

 

CHM 122, 122L (Intro Organic Chemistry & Lab)

 

1 of 3 Biology courses:

 

BIO 114 (Comparative Physiology)

 

BIO 213 Genetics and Molecular Biology

 

BIO 214 (Cellular Biology)

 

PHY 262 (Mechanics)

 

PHY 265, 266 (Intermediate Lab)

 

Junior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 of the following three Physics courses:

 

    PHY 307/325 (Biophysics and Biophysical Methods & Laboratory). Taught in the spring of even-numbered years.

 

    PHY 320/323 (Physics of Biological Macromolecules & Computational Biophysics Laboratory). Taught in the fall of even-numbered years.

 

    PHY 341 (Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics)

 

1 of 3 Biology Courses (listed above)

 

CHM 280 (College Chemistry II)

 

Research (PHY 381/382, CHM 391/392, or BIO 391/392/393/394)

 

Senior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 of 3 physics courses (listed above for junior year)

 

PHY 230 (Electronics)

 

BIO/CHM 370 (Biochemistry: Macromolecules and Metabolism)

 

Research (PHY 381/382, CHM 391/392, or BIO 391/392/393/394)

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BA/MS major in physics

 

The BA/MS five year program allows a student to earn both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Science degree in five years.

 

At the end of the third year, the Physics requirements (25 hours) for the BA degree are complete. The requirements for the MS degree include 24 hours of course work and 6 hours of thesis research. The 300 and 400 level math and physics courses taken in the senior year count toward the 24 hours of course work. At least three of these courses should be taken in the senior year. Elective courses at the 300 level are:

 

 

Course

 

 

Hours

 

Biophysics 307

 

 

3

 

Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology 310

 

 

3

 

The Physics of Biological Macromolecules 320

 

 

3

 

Computational Biophysics Laboratory 323

 

 

1

 

Biophysical Methods Laboratory 325

 

 

1

 

Bioinformatics 385

 

 

3

 

Physical Optics and Optical Design 352

 

 

4

 

Introduction to Solid State Physics 354

 

 

3

 

Research 381, 382

 

 

1.5h/3h, 1.5h/3h

 

Typical schedule

 

 

Fall

 

 

Spring

 

 

Year

 

 

Course

 

 

Hours

 

 

Course

 

 

Hours

 

Freshman

 

 

General Phy 113

Calculus MTH 111

 

 

4

4

 

 

General Phy 114

Calculus MTH 112

 

 

4

4

 

Sophomore

 

 

Elem Mod Phy 215

Intermediate Lab 265

Multivariable MTH 205

 

 

3

1

3

 

 

Mechanics 262

Intermediate Lab 266

Electronics 230

Advanced MTH 306

 

 

3

1

3

3

 

Junior

 

 

Analytical Mech. 337

Elec. & Mag. 339

Quantum Phys 343

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

1.5

1.5

3

0.5

 

 

Elec. & Mag. 340

Quantum Phys 344

MTH/PHY elective

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

3

3

3

0.5

 

Senior

 

 

Thermodynamics 341

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

3

0.5

 

 

PHY/MTH elective

Physics Seminar 301

 

 

3

0.5

 

 

Hours

 

 

Hours

 

Fifth

 

 

Mechanics 711

Quantum Mech. 741

Elective

Thesis Research 791

 

 

3

3

3

3

 

 

Elec. & Mag. 712

Quantum Mech. 742 or other 700 level

Thesis Research 792

 

 

3

3

3

 

Engineering

 

Many physics majors pursue careers in engineering. Our students frequently become mechanical, civil, electrical, biomedical, and acoustical engineers. For options for pursuing a career in engineering, see our Engineering page.

 

Society of Physics Students

 

The Student Physics Society, SPS, is a student organization that promotes the development of students both intellectually and socially. At the end of the sophomore year, achievement in physics courses is recognized by an invitation to membership in the Student Physics Society and Sigma Pi Sigma. The Wake Forest University Chapter of SPS sponsors several lectures and fields trips each year. There are also some socials, such as picnics and hikes. The SPS has a meeting room in Olin, to which only members and faculty have a key. This room is used for meetings and study. Many students benefit from studying and discussing physics in small groups, and the SPS room is ideal for this, furnished with lounge chairs, study carrels, tables, and marker boards.

 

Study space in Olin

 

Students who are members of SPS are encouraged to study in the SPS Room, Olin 108A. Students taking the research courses, Physics 381-382, are given study space either in the research laboratory or somewhere in the building. Study space is also found for majors who grade papers or teach a laboratory section.

 

Current Courses

 

Visit our Courses page.

 

Future Physics and Relevant Math Course Offerings

Spring 2016 Physics  Math

Physics 109 Astronomy  Math 113 Multivariable Calculus

Physics 110 Introductory Physics  Math 121 Linear Algebra 1

Physics 113 General Physics I  Math 352 Partial Differential Equations

Physics 114 General Physics II

Physics 115 The Physics of Music

Physics 120 Physics and Chemistry of the Environment

Physics 230 Electronics

Physics 262 Mechanics

Physics 266 Intermediate Laboratory II

Physics 301 Physics Seminar

Physics 307 Biophysics

Physics 325 Biophysics Methods Laboratory

Physics 340 Electricity and Magnetism

Physics 341 Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics

Physics 344 Quantum Mechanics

Physics 354 Introduction to Solid State Physics

Physics 361 Biophysics Seminar

Physics 363 Condensed Matter Seminar

Physics 391 Special Topics

Fall 2016 Physics  Math

Physics 109 Astronomy  Math 113 Multivariable Calculus

Physics 110 Introductory Physics  Math 121 Linear Algebra 1

Physics 113 General Physics I  Math 205 Applied Multivariable Calculus

Physics 114 General Physics II  Math 251 Ordinary Differential Equations

Physics 215 Elementary Modern Physics

Physics 265 Intermediate Laboratory I

Physics 301 Physics Seminar

Physics 320 The Physics of Biological Macromolecules

Physics 323 Computational Biophysics Laboratory

Physics 337 Analytical Mechanics

Physics 339 Electricity and Magnetism

Physics 343 Quantum Mechanics

Physics 352 Physical Optics and Optical Design

Physics 363 Condensed Matter Seminar

Physics 391 Special Topics

Spring 2017 Physics  Math

Physics 109 Astronomy  Math 113 Multivariable Calculus

Physics 110 Introductory Physics  Math 121 Linear Algebra 1

Physics 113 General Physics I  Math 306 Advanced Mathematics for the Physical Sciences

Physics 114 General Physics II

Physics 115 The Physics of Music

Physics 120 Physics and Chemistry of the Environment

Physics 230 Electronics

Physics 262 Mechanics

Physics 266 Intermediate Laboratory II

Physics 301 Physics Seminar

Physics 340 Electricity and Magnetism

Physics 341 Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics

Physics 344 Quantum Mechanics

Physics 361 Biophysics Seminar

Physics 363 Condensed Matter Seminar

Physics 391 Special Topics

Fall 2017 Physics  Math

Physics 109 Astronomy  Math 113 Multivariable Calculus

Physics 110 Introductory Physics  Math 121 Linear Algebra 1

Physics 113 General Physics I  Math 205 Applied Multivariable Calculus

Physics 114 General Physics II  Math 251 Ordinary Differential Equations

Physics 215 Elementary Modern Physics

Physics 265 Intermediate Laboratory I

Physics 301 Physics Seminar

Physics 310 Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology

Physics 337 Analytical Mechanics

Physics 339 Electricity and Magnetism

Physics 343 Quantum Mechanics

Physics 363 Condensed Matter Seminar

Physics 385 Bioinformatics

Physics 391 Special Topics

 

Notes for Biophysics majors:

All relevant biology courses (114, 213, 214, and 370) are offered every semester.

Chemistry 370 is offered every semester while Chem 111 is only offered in Fall semesters and Chem 122 and Chem 280 are only offered in Spring semesters.

 

 

100 Olin Physical Laboratory, Wake Forest University

Winston-Salem, NC 27109-7507. Phone: (336) 758-5337, E-mail: wfuphys@wfu.edu