[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Undergraduate Physics


Back to Physics home page 


Overview

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, nanotechnology, and materials physics, condensed matter physics and gravitation and particle 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. Graduates from the Wake Forest Physics Department hold rewarding positions at colleges, universities, industry and government laboratories, and not-for-profit institutes.

Careers in Physics

Physics, the most basic of the sciences, has intellectual and useful aspects. The intellectual component resides in our innate desire to understand the physical characteristics of our universe. The usefulness is evident everywhere in high-tech products and computerized communications. Productive citizens in this technological age have a liberal education which includes an understanding of science. For example, not only congressmen, but citizens need an understanding of physics when they annually debate appropriations for scientific research, such as the future of the Space Program and the Superconducting Supercollider. Many of the technological advances in our modern society flow directly from physics laboratories, such as, the many applications of lasers, or the possibility of high speed levitated trains relying on high temperature superconductors. These are just two examples of exciting applications which resulted from intellectual endeavors to unlock the secrets of the universe.

There are a variety of different opportunities for students majoring in physics. Research jobs are found in industrial laboratories, government laboratories, and universities. Teaching jobs are available at all levels of education, from middle school to the university. University physicists normally teach and do research with students.

The computer industry values the analytical and problem solving skills that physics majors bring. Computational physics is the fastest growing research area with the discipline of physics, and the skills acquired by physics majors in pursuing computational physics nicely complement the expertise they learn in computer science courses. Such students are finding rewarding careers in programming and systems design.

The physics major is also excellent preparation for students planning to enter science related businesses, MBA School, Medical School, or Law School. Medical Schools seek out students with majors in physics because of the high-tech nature of medical care. MBA schools consider a major in physics outstanding preparation for an understanding of manufacturing and the high-tech aspect of our economy.

Also see our Careers in Physics web page.

Facilities

Our Department of Physics, housed in the Olin Physical Laboratory, has the following excellent facilities for the study of physics: lecture halls, teaching laboratories, study space for majors, student physics society room, machine shop, research computer, and research laboratories.

The Physics Major

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 Kerr, the advisor 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 MAY MAJOR IN PHYSICS WITHOUT ANY DIFFICULTY. Schedules are included for students starting the major as freshmen or sophomores.

There are four different degree tracks for physics majors:

The B.A. Degree

The BA degree in physics requires 25 hours in physics and must include the following courses: 113, 114, 215, 262, 265, 266, and 230. The remaining six hours may be satisfied with any other 300-level courses in the department except 381, 382. Mathematics 251 also is required. Depending on what other physics courses the student takes, additional mathematics courses may be required; e.g., Mathematics 301 is a prerequisite for Physics 339. Typical schedules follow.

BA major in physics starting in the freshman year

Year

Fall

 

Spring

 
 

Course

Hours 

Course

Hours 

Freshman

General Phy 113 
Calculus 111 


4

General Phy 114 
Calculus 112 


4

Sophomore 

Elem Mod Phy 215 
Intermediate Lab 265 
Ordinary Diff Eq 251



3

Mechanics 262 
Intermediate Lab 266 
Electronics 230 



3

Junior

Physics Seminar 301 

0

Physics Seminar 301

0

Senior

300 Level Elective 
Physics Seminar 301 


0

300 Level Elective 
Physics Seminar 302 


0

BA major in physics starting in the sophomore year

Year

Fall

 

Spring

 
 

Course

Hours

Course

Hours

Sophomore

General Phy 113 
Calculus 111 


4

General Phy 114 
Calculus 112 

4
4

Junior

Elem Mod Phy 215 
Intermediate Lab 265 
Ordinary Diff Eq 251 
Physics Seminar 301 




0

Mechanics 262 
Intermediate Lab 266 
Electronics 230 
Physics Seminar 302 




0

Senior

300 Level Elective 
Physics Seminar 301 


0

300 Level Elective 
Physics Seminar 302 


0

Physics for students planning careers in medicine, law or business

The BA degree with a major in physics is ideal for students planning careers in medicine, law, or business. Backgrounds in physics are especially useful in our society which is rapidly becoming more and more dependent on technology. 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-medical 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. Pre-medical students should also consider the B.A. in Physics with a Concentration in Biophysics and Biochemistry.

Typical schedules for a Pre-Medical student are:

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

Freshman

Sophomore 

Phys 113, 114 
Math 111, 112 

Phys 215, 262 
Phys 265, 266 
Chemistry 111 (or 109), 122 
Math 251 

Junior

Senior 

Phys 230
Chem 223, 230/260 
Bio 111, 112


Two 300 level physics electives, such as 307 (Biophysics) and 320 (Physics of Macromolecules)
Bio 214, Biochemistry

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

Many pre-med 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, 112 
Chem 111 (or 109), 122 
Math 111, 112 

Phys 113, 114 
Math 251

   

Junior

Senior 

Phys 215, 262 
Phys 265 , 266 
Chem 223, 230/260 

Physics 230 
Two 300 level electives, such as Physics 307 (Biophysics) and Physics 320 (Physics of Macromolecules)

Pre-medical students should also visit the web page of the Health Professions program, http://www.wfu.edu/~lane/hpp/.

The B.S. Major

The BS major in physics requires 38 hours in Physics and must include the following courses: 113, 114, 215, 262, 265, 266, 230, 301, 302, 343, 344, 337, 339, 340, and 341. The remaining hours may be satisfied with any other 300-level course in the department. In addition, Mathematics 251, 301, 302, and 304 are required; Mathematics 303 and computer Science 111 are strongly recommended.

BS major in physics starting freshman year

Year

Fall

 

Spring

 
 

Course

Hours 

Course

Hours 

Freshman

General Phy 113 
Calculus 111 


4

General Phy 114 
Calculus 112 


4

Sophomore

Elem Mod Phy 215 
Intermediate Lab 265 
Ordinary Diff. Eq. 251



Mechanics 262 
Intermediate Lab 266 
Electronics 230 
Matrix Algebra 302 




1.5

Junior

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

1.5
1.5
3
1.5
0

Elec. & Mag 340 
Quantum Phys 344 
Applied PDE's 304 
Physics Seminar 302 



1.5 
0

Senior

Physics Seminar 301
Thermodynamics 341

0
3

Physics Elective 
Physics Seminar 302 


0

 

BS major in physics starting sophomore year

 

Fall

 

Spring

 

Year

Course 

Hours

Course 

Hours

Sophomore

General Phy 113 
Calculus 111 


4

General Phy 114 
Calculus 112 


4

Junior

Elem Mod Phy 215 
Intermediate Lab 265 
Ordinary Diff Eq 251 
Vector Analysis 301 
Physics Seminar 301 




1.5 
0

Mechanics 262 
Intermediate Lab 266 
Electronics 230 
Matrix Algebra 302 
Physics Seminar 302 




1.5 
0

Senior

Analytical Mech. 337 
Elec. & Mag 339 
Quantum Phys 343
Thermodynamics 341

Physics Seminar 301

1.5
1.5
3
3
0

Elec. & Mag 340 
Quantum Phys 344 
Applied PDE's 304 
Elective 
Physics Seminar 302 



1.5 

Elective courses at the 300 level are:  

Course

Hours 

Biophysics 307 3

Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology 310

3

The Physics of 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 

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

The BA Physics Major with a Concentration in Biophysics and Biochemistry

The Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics with concentration in biophysics and biochemistry requires 27.5 hours in physics and must include the following courses: 113, 114, 215, 262, 265, 266, 230, 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 251; Chemistry 111/111L, 122/122L, 230; two of the three courses Biology 112, 213, 214; one of the four courses Biology 370, Biology 371, Chemistry 370, Chemistry 371.

Typical sequence:

Year

BA, Physics with a concentration in biophysics and biochemistry

Freshman

 

 

PHY 113, 114 (General Physics)

MTH 111, 112 (Calculus)

 

Sophomore

 

 

 

 

 

PHY 215 (Elementary Modern Physics)

CHM 111, 111L (College Chemistry)

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

1 of 3 Biology courses:

BIO 112 (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 230 (Analytical Biochemistry)

MTH 251 (Ordinary Differential Equations)

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 or 371 (Biochemistry: Macromolecules and Metabolism)

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

 

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 111 


4

General Phy 114 
Calculus 112 

4
4

Sophomore

Elem Mod Phy 215 
Intermediate Lab 265 
Ordinary Diff Eq 251 
Vector Analysis 




1.5

Mechanics 262 
Intermediate Lab 266 
Electronics 230 
Matrix Algebra 302 




1.5

Junior 

Analytical Mech. 337 
Elec. & Mag. 339 
Quantum Phys 343 
Physics Seminar 302 

1.5 
1.5 

0

Elec. & Mag. 340 
Quantum Phys 344 
Applied PDE 304 
Physics Seminar 302 



1.5 
0

Senior

Physics Seminar 301 

0

Thermodynamics 341 
Elective 
Physics Seminar 302 



0

   

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

 

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.

Physics minor

Students may minor in physics by completing 17 hours which must include courses 113, 114, 215, and 262.

Undergraduate Research

Physics 381-382 are research courses in which the student has an opportunity to work on an individual basis with a professor. In most cases the student joins an ongoing research project where he/she has a unique opportunity to: 1) do physics and to experience the thrill associated with searching for a better understanding of our universe. And 2) to work with physicists, to see what they do, and to observe how they go about their research work. Activities in these research courses may involve computer searches of the literature, conferences with professors and students, computer computations, and work in the laboratory with the most modern instruments. All majors are strongly urged to have a research experience by taking research courses. Of all our courses, research courses are often the most rewarding. Research options are described on our Research Facilties and Interests web page.

Honors

Students are encouraged to work toward graduating with honors as the culmination of their research experience. To be graduated with the designation "Honors in Physics", students must pass Physics 381, write a paper on the results of the research in that course, pass on oral exam on the research and related topics, and obtain a GPA of 3.3 in physics and 3.0 overall. Graduation with honors is an achievement noted on the Wake Forest transcript.

Speas award

The Speas Award is given in honor of William E. Speas who taught physics at Wake Forest from 1920 to 1959. The Award is given at the discretion of the faculty to the graduating physics major who best exemplified Professor Speas' spirit and enthusiasm for physics. The typical student who has received this award has had outstanding grades, has graduated with honors, and has demonstrated a genuine dedication to and enthusiasm for physics.† The award has a monetary component, and the studentís name is inscribed on a plaque permanently located in the lounge of Olin Physical Laboratory.

Society of Physics Students

The Student Physics Society, SPS, is an undergraduate 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. These societies sponsor 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. For undergraduate majors with unsatisfactory study space elsewhere, we will try very hard to find study space in Olin.

Seminars

We have seminars each Thursday afternoon at 4:00 PM after refreshments in the foyer of Olin. The seminars are used to acquaint undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty with physics activities elsewhere. At times our students and professors give the seminars on their research. This is an important learning opportunity for students and faculty members.

Library

We have a large collection of physics books and journals in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library. There you will find many books on any homework subject. When you do research you may use the current research journals housed on the third floor of Olin, or the online editions of journals available through the library web page.

Machine shop

At times the appropriate instrument for a particular experiment cannot be purchased and must be designed and made by the researcher. Metal components can be made in our machine shop. Physics majors are encouraged to take the non-credit machine shop course offered by our machinist. Last year the course consisted of 12 lessons each term on Friday afternoons. When the student's machine shop skills reach a satisfactory level he/she will be given permission to use the shop without supervision.

Research Facilities and Interests

Visit our Research Facilities and Interests page.

Current Courses

Visit our Courses page.


Related pages:

 

[an error occurred while processing this directive]