WFU Department of Physics Wake Forest University

 

Wake Forest Physics
Nationally recognized for teaching excellence;
internationally respected for research advances;
a focused emphasis on interdisciplinary study and close student-faculty collaboration.

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.

Physics Majors and Physics MinorStudents solving problems in the electronics labs

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:

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

Year

Fall

 

Spring

 
 

Course

Hours 

Course

Hours 

Freshman

General Phy 113 
Calculus MTH 111 


4

General Phy 114 
Calculus MTH 112 


4

Sophomore

Elem Mod Phy 215 
Intermediate Lab 265 
Multivariable MTH 205



Mechanics 262 
Intermediate Lab 266 
Electronics 230 
Advanced MTH 306  




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 



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

General Phy 114 
Calculus MTH 112 


4

Junior

Elem Mod Phy 215 
Intermediate Lab 265 
Multivariable MTH 205 
Physics Seminar 301 




0.5

Mechanics 262 
Intermediate Lab 266 
Advanced MTH 306  
Electronics 230 
Physics Seminar 301 





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 





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

Computational Biophysics Laboratory 323

Biophysical Methods Laboratory 325

Bioinformatics 385

Physical Optics and Optical Design 352

4

Introduction to Solid State Physics 354

3

Research 381, 382

1.5h/3h, 1.5h/3h 

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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

General Phy 114 
Calculus MTH 112 


4

Sophomore 

Elem Mod Phy 215 
Intermediate Lab 265 
Multivariable MTH 205



3

Mechanics 262 
Intermediate Lab 266 
Electronics 230 



3

Junior

Physics Seminar 301 

0.5

Physics Seminar 301

0.5

Senior

300 Level Elective 
Physics Seminar 301 


0.5

300 Level Elective 
Physics Seminar 301 


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

General Phy 114 
Calculus MTH 112 

4
4

Junior

Elem Mod Phy 215 
Intermediate Lab 265 
Multivariable MTH 205 
Physics Seminar 301 




0.5

Mechanics 262 
Intermediate Lab 266 
Electronics 230 
Physics Seminar 301 




0.5

Senior

300 Level Elective 
Physics Seminar 301 


0.5

300 Level Elective 
Physics Seminar 301 


0.5

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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

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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

Computational Biophysics Laboratory 323

Biophysical Methods Laboratory 325

Bioinformatics 385

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

General Phy 114 
Calculus MTH 112 

4
4

Sophomore

Elem Mod Phy 215 
Intermediate Lab 265 
Multivariable MTH 205 



Mechanics 262 
Intermediate Lab 266 
Electronics 230 
Advanced MTH 306 




3

Junior 

Analytical Mech. 337 
Elec. & Mag. 339 
Quantum Phys 343 
Physics Seminar 301 

1.5 
1.5 

0.5

Elec. & Mag. 340 
Quantum Phys 344 
MTH/PHY elective  
Physics Seminar 301 




0.5

Senior

Thermodynamics 341 
Physics Seminar 301 

3
0.5

PHY/MTH elective 
Physics Seminar 301


0.5

   

Hours 

 

Hours

Fifth

Mechanics 711 
Quantum Mech. 741 
Elective 
Thesis Research 791 




3

Elec. & Mag. 712 
Quantum Mech. 742 or other 700 level
Thesis Research 792 



3

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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.Go to top of 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.

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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.

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Page Links
Physics Major
BA Degree
Careers in Medicine, Law or Business
BS Degree
Biophysics
BA/MS in Physics
Engineering
Minor in Physics
Society of Physics Students
Study Space
Current Courses

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100 Olin Physical Laboratory
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, NC 27109-7507
Phone: (336) 758-5337, FAX: (336) 758-6142
E-mail:
wfuphys@wfu.edu