Physics

The physics major is designed so that students following the physics curriculum need not decide between physics and mathematics majors until registration for the fourth semester.

The physics major curriculum is highly structured, and the first four courses in this curriculum have specific mathematics co-requisites. It is thus important for prospective physics majors to begin taking both physics and mathematics courses in the first year. Most physics majors begin with PHY 131 (General Physics I) and MAT 131 (Calculus I), including students with AP Physics B credits (which do not count toward the physics major). Students with IB Physics or AP Physics C - Mechanics credits and math placement beyond MAT 131 may begin in PHY 132 (General Physics II) and MAT 133 (Calculus II). Students with AP Physics C-E&M credits and Math Placement beyond MAT 133 may start in PHY 232 (Modern Physics) and MAT 215 (Linear Algebra). The physics faculty can help determine the appropriate placement for a student.

It is important for a prospective physics major to consider whether the Traditional or Workshop version of the General Physics (PHY 131-132) better suits his or her learning style. The traditional format involves three one-hour lectures and one three-hour lab meeting per week, while the discovery-based workshop format involves three two-hour lab meetings per week with more extensive group work. It is also important to recognize that the traditional format sequence begins in the fall, while the workshop format sequence begins in the spring.

Sample schedules for a physics major are listed below, with asterisks designating required courses.

Traditional 131-132 with no advanced placement:

1st YEAR FALL PHY 131* and MAT 131*
1st YEAR SPRING PHY 132* and MAT 133*
2nd YEAR FALL PHY 232* and MAT 215*
2nd YEAR SPRING PHY 234* and MAT 220*
3rd YEAR FALL PHY 335*
3rd YEAR SPRING PHY 337*
4th YEAR FALL PHY 456
4th YEAR SPRING PHY 314 and PHY 462*

Workshop 131-132 with no advanced placement:

1st YEAR FALL MAT 131*
1st YEAR SPRING PHY 131* and MAT 133*
2nd YEAR FALL PHY 132* and MAT 215*
2nd YEAR SPRING PHY 234* and MAT 220*
3rd YEAR FALL PHY 232* and PHY 335*
3rd YEAR SPRING PHY 337*
4th YEAR FALL PHY 456
4th YEAR SPRING PHY 314 and PHY 462*

Most physics majors who study off-campus either take no physics or take a physics course that is not part of Grinnell's physics core. The physics department recommends that physics majors who study abroad do so in spring of the 3rd year or fall of the 4th year. Students considering off-campus study should consult with a physics faculty member well in advance. Sample schedules can be found at http://www.grinnell.edu/academics/areas/physics-astronomy