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Course Majors

Course Majors

Requirements for the Major

PHYS 007, 008, 013*, 015*, 017*, 018*
PHYS 111, 112, 113, 114
PHYS 063*, 081*, 082*
MATH 015, 025, 027, 033

*Half-credit course

The above are the requirements for the physics major. Additional upper level classes are recommended for students intending to go on for graduate study. For the astrophysics major, PHYS 63, 81, and 82 are not required and instead ASTR 16 or ASTR 14 and two astronomy seminars are required. For astronomy majors, PHYS 5, 7, and 8 are required, as is ASTR 14 or ASTR 16 and 61 and four astronomy seminars (ASTR 14 or 16 can be substituted for one seminar).

A student applying to become either a physics major in the core program or an astronomy major should have completed or be completing PHYS/ASTR 005 and either PHYS 004 or PHYS 007. Otherwise it will be impossible to fulfill all program requirements. To be accepted as a major, the applicant must have received grades of C+ or better in Physics, Astronomy, and Math courses.

A student applying to become a physics major in either the enhanced program in course or the honors program should have completed or be completing courses through PHYS 008, and the half-credit courses PHYS 013, PHYS 015, PHYS 017, and PHYS 018. In addition, to be accepted into the course major, these courses must be completed with an average grade of C+ or better. To be accepted into the honors program as a major, the average grade should be a B or better. Grades in math courses should be at a similar level.

If applying for an astrophysics or astronomy major, students should also have completed ASTR 014 or ASTR 016, though exceptions can be made for astrophysics if the class is taken in the fall of junior year.

Since almost all advanced work in physics and astronomy at Swarthmore is taught in seminars where the student participants share the pedagogical responsibility, an additional consideration in accepting (retaining) majors is the presumed (demonstrated) ability of the students not only to benefit from this mode of instruction but also to contribute positively to the seminars. Grades in prior courses are the best criteria in admitting majors, since they tend to indicate reliably whether or not the student can handle advanced work at Swarthmore levels without being overwhelmed. However, other factors, such as constructive participation in classes and laboratories is also considered.

Advanced Laboratory Program

The advanced laboratory courses, namely, PHYS 081, PHYS 082, and PHYS 083 (each 0.5 credit) require approximately one afternoon a week. PHYS 083 is an option for students with prior preparation in electronics who are taking or have already taken ENG 072 or the equivalent (otherwise, majors take 81 and 82). Students enrolled in these must arrange their programs so that they can schedule a time for lab each week, free of conflicts with other classes, seminars, extracurricular activities, and sports.

Independent Work

Physics and astronomy majors are permitted to undertake independent research projects for credit (PHYS/ASTR 094). Many opportunities exist for students to work with faculty members on research projects during the summer or semester. In preparation for independent experimental work, prospective physics majors are urged to take the required course PHYS 063: Procedures in Experimental Physics during the fall semester of their sophomore year, which will qualify them to work in the departmental shops.