Wake Forest Physics
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 research 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Visit our Courses page.
100 Olin Physical Laboratory
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, NC 27109-7507
Phone: (336) 758-5337, FAX: (336) 758-6142