The department seeks to meet its program mission through a curriculum that emphasizes the four skill sets.
Student Learning Outcomes for the Physics Major
- Theoretical and computational skills
- Six of the required physics classes provide a broad theoretical foundation for understanding a physical description of the natural world. In addition, one of these classes (thermal physics) has a focus on using computer-based data-acquisition systems, while one of the elective physics classes (Wave phenomena) has a focus on mathematical methods used in physics. The math and computer programming classes provide the students with further theoretical and computational background.
- Laboratory skills
- Three of the required physics classes (intro I, intro II, and modern) consist of both a classroom component and a complementary laboratory component. This allows students to supplement their theoretical knowledge with experience-based learning. In addition, students learn both how to use lab equipment to collect data and how to appropriately analyze and present the data. Two of the upper-level required physics classes (ATEP and SYE) are research based classes, and have been described in detail above.
- Writing and presentation skills
- For all physics classes that contain a lab component, students are required to turn in a lab report in which they describe their methods of collecting data and analyze their results. In addition, two of the required upper-level physics classes (ATEP and SYE) are research based classes that culminate in both a written thesis and an oral presentation. In ATEP, students learn to present their results in writing of various styles, from a technical paper, to a publication-style paper and a thesis. They also learn how to effectively write proposals.
- General research skills
- These skills are emphasized in all of our laboratory components due to the open-ended nature of most of our labs. However, the strongest exposure to research-like projects happens in ATEP and SYE as both courses mimic the full arc of research from the writing of a proposal, to the design and assembly of an experiment, the data taking and analysis, and the final report in form a paper or presentation. Students learn how to pose and solve physical problems on their own. Research skills are also acquired during summer research participation as part of SCRP or an external REU.