Academic Bulletin 2022-2023 
    Jun 18, 2024  
Academic Bulletin 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Physics Major

Physics Major Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete a major in Physics are expected to

  • Demonstrate strong analytical and problem-solving skills and some degree of physical intuition;
  • Have a broad understanding of the fundamentals of physics, the connections between the different areas of physics and the limitations of each;
  • Be able to design and carry-out an independent research project;
  • Understand the societal impacts of science and technology;
  • Appreciate physics as a valuable human endeavor.

The Physics Major

A major in Physics leads to the Bachelor of Science degree and usually requires a minimum of 60 credit hours, including at least 44 credits in Physics as well as additional credits in mathematics and other sciences. Physics majors are required to have a GPA of at least 2.0 in Physics at graduation. All Physics courses taken at Allegheny on a letter-grade basis are included in the calculation, with the following exceptions: 1) courses below the 100-level (e.g. PHYS 021  and PHYS 065 ); 2) repeated courses for which only the most recent grade counts. Only the first Physics course taken at Allegheny (usually 101 or 110) may be taken on a Credit/No Credit basis. The following courses are required for the major:

Not all courses are offered each year, and the College reserves the right to cancel or reschedule courses for enrollment, staffing, or other reasons.

Core Courses:


12 credits

Core Physics Courses:

22 credits

With departmental approval, students may use PHYS 101  and PHYS 102  in place of PHYS 110  and PHYS 120 .

Basic Science Courses:

  • At least 4 credits from the Natural Science Division that are at the 100-level or above and are not in Physics or Mathematics. The department strongly recommends that these credits be taken during the first or second year.

Intermediate Courses:

  • A minimum of 12 credits in Physics at the 300-level is required

Advanced Courses:

  • At least 4 credits (that is, two 2 credit courses) in Physics at the 400-level.
  • 2 credits of Junior Seminar (PHYS 580 )
  • At least 4 credits of Senior Project (PHYS 620 , or PHYS 600  and PHYS 610 ).


Physics has become rather broad, ranging from interdisciplinary subdisciplines in astrophysics, biophysics and chemical physics, to traditional subdisciplines in condensed matter physics and optical physics. In order to provide some focus for the student, each student who declares physics as a major must work with an advisor in the physics department to plan a course of study which may be either a standard physics emphasis or a major with an interdisciplinary emphasis. With the aid of his or her advisor, the student must prepare, for departmental approval, a written description and rationale for the course of study. This description must be submitted by the end of the fourth week of the junior year (typically fall semester). It must include a plan of courses to be taken and how those courses satisfy the student’s goals.

The standard physics emphasis is for those students interested in pursuing a more traditional course of study. These students would consider taking PHYS 310 , PHYS 340 , PHYS 330  or PHYS 350 , PHYS 365 , and PHYS 370  or PHYS 380 . Any Physics course at the 400-level would be useful to this emphasis.

Examples of possible interdisciplinary emphases and possible courses beyond the core courses are described below:

Students are advised that if they are interested in pursuing graduate studies, there may be courses beyond the minimum requirements that they should consider. Such courses might include specific upper level physics courses as well as additional math, computer science, chemistry, or biology depending on the student’s particular interest.