Double Majors including Physics

Students majoring in physics can have a second major in another field. In the past, dual majors included not only technical fields such as mathematics, applied mathematics biology, mechanical engineering, optics, electrical engineering, and computer science, but also fields in the humanities and social science (e.g. religion, economics, English, history, psychology, music). Some dual major programs are easy to set up because Physics courses can be used to satisfy degree requirements in other major departments, and vice versa. Engineering programs require clusters in social sciences/humanities similar to those in Arts and Sciences, and comparable upper-level writing courses. Therefore, general requirements for both Engineering and Arts and Science students can be satisfied by an appropriate choice of social sciences/humanities courses.

Students must fulfill the upper-level writing requirement and can do so by taking two upper-level writing courses within the department. In particular, courses that can be used to satisfy this requirement are: AST 231, AST 232W, AST 391W, AST 393W, "AST 395W", PHY 235W, PHY 258W, PHY 243W, PHY 244W, PHY 245W, PHY 391W, PHY 393W, "PHY 395W".

On occasion, the Department of Physics and Astronomy may allow an upper-level writing course from Mathematics, or another Science, or an Engineering Department to be used to satisfy the upper-level writing requirement, but only with prior approval of the physics or physics and astronomy advisor.

Here are a few examples of how students can satisfy double major requirements.

1. BS in Optics and BA or BS in Physics

Dual degrees in physics and optics can be easily accommodated within a student's schedule. Such dual degrees provide excellent preparation for graduate studies in physics or optics. A strong background in physics is very useful to students who wish to pursue industrial research in optics. Interested students should recognize that PHY 217 and PHY 218 can be taken instead of OPT 262, and PHY 237 can be taken in place of OPT 223 or OPT 221. In addition, PHY 261 is cross listed with OPT 261.

For a BA in Physics, students can take, for example, PHY 217, PHY 218, PHY 235, PHY 237, PHY/OPT 261 (thereby satisfying any need for OPT 262 or OPT 221). For a BS in Physics, students can take in addition to the above, PHY 227, PHY 246, and PHY 243W or PHY 244W or 245W.

2. BS in Electrical Engineering and BA in Physics

Students take PHY 217, PHY 235, PHY 237, ECE 230 (satisfies PHY 218 requirement), and either PHY 227 or PHY 246.

3. BS or BA in Mathematics and BS or BA in Physics

This combination provides good preparation for students who wish to do theoretical work in mathematics, applied mathematics, mathematical physics or theoretical physics. Physics satisfies the allied field requirement for a mathematics major.

Advice to Dual Majors

Since dual programs have to be tailored to suit the student's interest, students should work with an advisor in physics and with an advisor in the other department before embarking on a dual major program (two Bachelors degrees).

Solutions to Possible Scheduling Conflicts

When scheduling conflicts arise for courses in physics and courses in other departments, students should work with the undergraduate advisors to resolve difficulties, and consider the following possible options:

  1. Investigate the possibility of taking summer courses, although these are generally not available at advanced levels in physics and mathematics.
  2. Arrange with physics, mathematics, or mechanical engineering faculty to take a special topics course (391) in the Fall, Spring, or Summer (sometimes, students can arrange to study a subject during the summer and then take any exams with the regularly scheduled class the following Fall.
  3. Substitute undergraduate physics courses with corresponding graduate level courses, or with courses in other departments (with special permission of the undergraduate advisor). Possible courses include PHY 407/408 (Graduate Quantum Mechanics), OPT 221 (Quantum Mechanics), ECE 230 (Electromagnetic Waves), OPT 262 (Electromagnetic Waves), PHY/OPT 261 (Geometrical Optics), and courses in physical chemistry.

Go to Undergraduate Programs page.