Sep 28, 2023  
2023-2024 Undergraduate Catalog 
2023-2024 Undergraduate Catalog

Physics, B.S.

Students who major in physics are usually interested in the fundamental laws that describe how nature works. These laws are inherently mathematical in nature, so physics majors also are typically interested in and skilled at mathematics. Studying physics will educate students in the core areas of physics, from Newtonian mechanics to electromagnetism, optics, and quantum mechanics. In addition, students will have advanced courses available from optics, electronics, computational physics, and astrophysics. In the junior year, all physics majors take Intermediate Physics laboratory, where they work together in groups to perform more advanced laboratory experiments, learn more serious data and error analysis techniques, learn to present data in a 10-minute talk, and learn to prepare reports in a format suitable for professional journal publication. Physics majors will graduate with an excellent skill set for further scientific research or graduate school.

All majors are strongly encouraged to get involved in research with a member of the faculty, as there is no better way to learn physics. Students who do well in their courses and are engaged in research within the department typically have a very good acceptance rate to Ph.D. programs in physics. Past graduates have attended graduate programs at State University of New York at Stony Brook, University of Rhode Island, Brandeis University, UCLA, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Texas at Austin, all with full paid scholarships.

The physics program is small, but it has a dedicated faculty that teach all lectures and discussion sections, which students will not find at larger institutions. The department features a renovated machine shop, modern  introductory laboratories, a Linux server running JupyterHub, and a physics lounge where students socialize and learn physics.

Program Requirements

Minimum number of credits in physics and related areas (exclusive of the University’s Core Curriculum) required for the physics major: 66. A student majoring in physics must take 43 credit hours of physics courses including requirements and electives as outlined below. In addition, the major requires 15 credits of mathematics courses and 8 credits of chemistry courses.

Note: All Physics majors should enroll in PHY 261 Computational Physics  during their second semester, typically concurrent with enrollment in PHY 123 , because all upper level physics courses require PHY 261 as a prerequisite.

To graduate as a physics major, a student must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 in all courses that satisfy the major requirement, and a minimum overall GPA of 2.0.

Electives: (3 credits)

In addition to the required courses, students must take at least one course listed below.

Capstone Requirement

The capstone requirement can be satisfied either by taking PHY 242 - Intermediate Laboratory II  or completing an approved research project with a department faculty member.

Required Mathematics courses: (16 credits)

USM Core Requirements

The USM Core Curriculum is a coherent, integrative, and rigorous liberal education that enables our graduates to be world-minded, intentional, life-long learners and captures your general education degree requirements. 

Please Note: Core requirements may be part of your major and/or minor, and Core may have been fulfilled with transfer credit. Please consult your MaineStreet Degree Progress Report (DPR) and review your degree progress with your Advisor.  For additional information, access the USM Core webpage.