Physics | College Catalog

Majors

Applied Physics

  • Engineering Physics
  • Physics and Technology
  • Physical Science

Physics
Physics and Mathematics

Minors

Physics

Pre-Professional Programs

Engineering

Dual-Degree Programs

Engineering—Virginia Tech

Three different majors in the Department of Physics provide opportunities for students to study the theoretical and applied nature of physics from within a broad liberal arts context. The courses of study in these majors prepare students for a variety of challenging and rewarding careers, not only in the fields of science and technology, but also in education, engineering and architecture, as well as careers emphasizing advanced analytical skills, such as business management, law, medical professions and ministry.

The physics major prepares a student for further study in graduate school or for a career in industry. A number of our graduates have used this route to prepare for study towards a master’s degree in engineering. Others have entered doctoral studies and subsequent vocations in higher education or research. Still others have gone directly into technical jobs in business such as electronics technicians or computer specialists.

The physics and mathematics major is a broad course of study in both physics and mathematics, designed especially for students interested in high school teaching. Upon completion of this program and the necessary education courses, a graduate can become certified to teach both physics and mathematics in high school.

The applied physics major is for students interested in technical careers. Depending on their interests, students will select one of three tracks within this major. The engineering physics track is designed for students preparing for further study in engineering or completing a dual-degree engineering program with Virginia Tech. Students interested in combining interests in physics, electronics and computer science should complete the physics and technology track. The physical science track gives a student a broad background in both physics and chemistry.

The department also offers students the opportunity to minor in physics, which can be a unique way of blending together an interest in traditionally non-science areas with an interest in physics. For example, students interested in careers in technical writing, patent law, philosophy or religion can combine studies in the humanities with physics. In addition, the department offers several courses in astronomy and physics that meet the general education needs of non-science majors.

Physics Major

For students planning on graduate study in physics or engineering or a physics-related career in industry.

Required courses:

During the first term Kinematics Newtons laws of motion conservation laws rotational motion periodic motion and fluid mechanics. During the second term Thermodynamics electricity magnetism optics and modern physics. A combination of lectures and learning by inquiry are employed. Computers are used for data acquisition data analysis and mathematical modeling. Three hours in class one hour in recitation and two hours in lab per week. Prerequisite MATH 130 or 132 or concurrent enrollment in MATH 131 132 respectively.

Unit(s): 4

During the first term Kinematics Newtons laws of motion conservation laws rotational motion periodic motion and fluid mechanics. During the second term Thermodynamics electricity magnetism optics and modern physics. A combination of lectures and learning by inquiry are employed. Computers are used for data acquisition data analysis and mathematical modeling. Three hours in class one hour in recitation and two hours in lab per week. Prerequisite MATH 130 or 132 or concurrent enrollment in MATH 131 132 respectively. PHYS 221is prerequisite to PHYS 222. General Education Natural & Physical Science

Unit(s): 4

Analog electronics including diode and transistor operation mathematical circuit analysis operational amplifier applications. Two hours in class and six hours in lab per week. Prerequisites PHYS 222 and MATH 132 Alternate years offered 2015-2016

Unit(s): 4

A survey of 20th century physics. Topics include relativity wave-particle dualism Schroedinger equation wave functions spectra nuclear physics and elementary particles. Prerequisites PHYS 222 and MATH 132 Alternate years offered 2015-2016

Unit(s): 3

Kinematics and dynamics in one two and three dimensions including oscillating systems central force motion Lagrangian and Hamiltonian dynamics motion of rigid objects and wave motion. Prerequisites PHYS 222 and MATH 132. Alternate years offered 2014-2015

Unit(s): 3

Electrostatics scalar potential electric fields and energy in conductors and dielectrics electric currents magnetic fields and energy leading up to Maxwells equations and from there to electromagnetic radiation. Prerequisites PHYS 222 and MATH 132 Alternate years offered 2016-2017

Unit(s): 3

Classical and modern experiments give the student a basic understanding of experimental methods. Involves several lectures and extensive lab work. Prerequisites PHYS 222 and MATH 132 Alternate years offered 2015-2016

Unit(s): 3

Discussion and presentation of papers by students and faculty on problems of current interest in physics. Prerequisite Senior standing with a major in Physics Applied Physics Physics and Mathematics or permission of the instructor

Unit(s): 3

-or-
An Honors Project is one in which a student researches a subject by examination of relevant literature or by experimentation or both the student reports the results in an accurately documented and well-written paper or appropriate representation of the work. Whenever the study deals with the subject of an established course the student is expected to go well beyond the usual work of the course in research and in assimilation of the results as revealed in the report. Juniors and seniors with a cumulative grade point average of 3.40 or above may register for an Honors Project. One desiring to pursue an Honors Project must submit a written description of his or her proposed work to the chair of the appropriate department and to the Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs by the first day of the semester in which the study is to be conducted. At the conclusion of the Honors Project the supervising professor files with the Registrar a grade for the student and a description of the work accomplished and with the Library Director a copy of the written paper or appropriate representation of the work. It is the students responsibility to provide the materials for the library in compliance with specifications approved by the Council on Education. The Library Director arranges for binding and storage.

Unit(s): 3

Study of differential calculus of a single variable. Applications of the derivative are made to curve sketching max-min problems and linear approximation and IHopitals Rule. Also included are applications of the Intermediate Value Theorem and Mean Value Theorem. Credit may not be received for both MATH 130 and 131. Prerequisites MATH 120 or satisfactory performance on placement test

Unit(s): 3

Study of integral calculus of a single variable. Included are techniques of integration and numerical methods of integration. Applications of the integral are made to computing area volume arc length and selected topics. Prerequisite MATH 131

Unit(s): 3

Continuation of Calculus I and II. Included are Taylor polynomials infinite series and polar coordinates. Also included is an introduction to multivariate calculus and multiple integrals. Prerequisites MATH 132

Unit(s): 3

Introduction to multivariate calculus. Included are calculus of vector-valued functions and motion in space limits continuity and partial derivatives of functions of several variables vector fields Greens Theorem The Divergence Theorem and Stokes Theorem. Prerequisites MATH 210 and 231

Unit(s): 3

And 9 additional credits from PHYS courses numbered 300 or above.

Applied Physics Major

Primarily for students interested in careers in engineering or technology. Students completing dual-degree programs may transfer appropriate engineering courses for physics courses at the discretion of the department and provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Required courses:

During the first term Kinematics Newtons laws of motion conservation laws rotational motion periodic motion and fluid mechanics. During the second term Thermodynamics electricity magnetism optics and modern physics. A combination of lectures and learning by inquiry are employed. Computers are used for data acquisition data analysis and mathematical modeling. Three hours in class one hour in recitation and two hours in lab per week. Prerequisite MATH 130 or 132 or concurrent enrollment in MATH 131 132 respectively.

Unit(s): 4

During the first term Kinematics Newtons laws of motion conservation laws rotational motion periodic motion and fluid mechanics. During the second term Thermodynamics electricity magnetism optics and modern physics. A combination of lectures and learning by inquiry are employed. Computers are used for data acquisition data analysis and mathematical modeling. Three hours in class one hour in recitation and two hours in lab per week. Prerequisite MATH 130 or 132 or concurrent enrollment in MATH 131 132 respectively. PHYS 221is prerequisite to PHYS 222. General Education Natural & Physical Science

Unit(s): 4

A survey of 20th century physics. Topics include relativity wave-particle dualism Schroedinger equation wave functions spectra nuclear physics and elementary particles. Prerequisites PHYS 222 and MATH 132 Alternate years offered 2015-2016

Unit(s): 3

Kinematics and dynamics in one two and three dimensions including oscillating systems central force motion Lagrangian and Hamiltonian dynamics motion of rigid objects and wave motion. Prerequisites PHYS 222 and MATH 132. Alternate years offered 2014-2015

Unit(s): 3

Discussion and presentation of papers by students and faculty on problems of current interest in physics. Prerequisite Senior standing with a major in Physics Applied Physics Physics and Mathematics or permission of the instructor

Unit(s): 3

-or-
An Honors Project is one in which a student researches a subject by examination of relevant literature or by experimentation or both the student reports the results in an accurately documented and well-written paper or appropriate representation of the work. Whenever the study deals with the subject of an established course the student is expected to go well beyond the usual work of the course in research and in assimilation of the results as revealed in the report. Juniors and seniors with a cumulative grade point average of 3.40 or above may register for an Honors Project. One desiring to pursue an Honors Project must submit a written description of his or her proposed work to the chair of the appropriate department and to the Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs by the first day of the semester in which the study is to be conducted. At the conclusion of the Honors Project the supervising professor files with the Registrar a grade for the student and a description of the work accomplished and with the Library Director a copy of the written paper or appropriate representation of the work. It is the students responsibility to provide the materials for the library in compliance with specifications approved by the Council on Education. The Library Director arranges for binding and storage.

Unit(s): 3

Study of differential calculus of a single variable. Applications of the derivative are made to curve sketching max-min problems and linear approximation and IHopitals Rule. Also included are applications of the Intermediate Value Theorem and Mean Value Theorem. Credit may not be received for both MATH 130 and 131. Prerequisites MATH 120 or satisfactory performance on placement test

Unit(s): 3

Study of integral calculus of a single variable. Included are techniques of integration and numerical methods of integration. Applications of the integral are made to computing area volume arc length and selected topics. Prerequisite MATH 131

Unit(s): 3

Students must select additional courses as outlined in one of the following tracks:

Track 1- Engineering Physics

Cannot be taken as a dual major with a major in physics.

Required courses:

Principles of chemistry including stoichiometry states of matter atomic and molecular structure chemical bonding periodicity energy relationships and equilibria acid-base chemistry electrochemistry kinetics solubility thermodynamics kinetic molecular theory of gases and the systematic study of families of elements. Three hours of lecture and one four-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisite MATH 110 MATH 115 or MATH 118 General Education natural and physical sciences Credit may not be received for both CHEM 125 and 161

Unit(s): 4

Principles of chemistry including stoichiometry states of matter atomic and molecular structure chemical bonding periodicity energy relationships and equilibria acid-base chemistry electrochemistry kinetics solubility thermodynamics kinetic molecular theory of gases and the systematic study of families of elements. Three hours of lecture and one four-hour lab per week. Prerequisites CHEM 161 or permission of the instructor General Education natural and physical sciences Credit may not be received for both CHEM 125 and 161

Unit(s): 4

Kinematics and dynamics in one two and three dimensions including oscillating systems central force motion Lagrangian and Hamiltonian dynamics motion of rigid objects and wave motion. Prerequisite PHYS 311 Alternate years offered 2016-2017

Unit(s): 3

Continuation of Calculus I and II. Included are Taylor polynomials infinite series and polar coordinates. Also included is an introduction to multivariate calculus and multiple integrals. Prerequisites MATH 132

Unit(s): 3

Introduction to multivariate calculus. Included are calculus of vector-valued functions and motion in space limits continuity and partial derivatives of functions of several variables vector fields Greens Theorem The Divergence Theorem and Stokes Theorem. Prerequisites MATH 210 and 231

Unit(s): 3

And four additional PHYS courses numbered 300 or above.

Track 2- Physics and Technology

Cannot be taken as a dual major with a major in computer science or physics.

Required courses:

This course is an introduction to computer programming using Java a contemporary object-oriented language. Topics covered include the Java programming language ad fundamental concepts for algorithm and software design. These include problem-solving methods procedural and data abstraction top-down modular design and proper programming style. Students gain experience using these skills to design code debug and document computer programs. The course contains 3 credit hours of lecture and 2 hours of lab per week.

Unit(s): 4

This course will further develop and expand upon the topics introduced in CSCI 105. Topics will include object-oriented concepts such as inheritance polymorphism and exception handling. Other topics include IO multithreading and graphical user interfaces. The object-oriented programming language Java will be used to illustrate these topics. Problem solving algorithm development program design and testing are emphasized. The course contains 3 credit hours of lecture and 2 hours of lab per week. Prerequisite CSCI 105 Co-requisite MATH 110

Unit(s): 4

Advanced programming techniques will be covered with extensive use of recursion and dynamic data structures. Abstract data types including lists stacks queues trees and hash tables are studied. Algorithms for searching and sorting are explored. The topics in this course provide an essential foundation for the further study of computer science. The object-oriented programming language Java will be used to illustrate these topics. Prerequisite CSCI 200 and MATH 120

Unit(s): 3

Analog electronics including diode and transistor operation mathematical circuit analysis operational amplifier applications. Two hours in class and six hours in lab per week. Prerequisites PHYS 222 and MATH 132 Alternate years offered 2015-2016

Unit(s): 4

Analysis and applications of digital circuits such as flip-flops registers counters and analog-to-digital converters leading to interfacing real-time data collection to computers. Prerequisites PHYS 219 or PHYS 222 Alternate years offered 2016-2017

Unit(s): 3

And three additional courses numbered 300 or above chosen from the Department of Physics and Department of Computer Science (at least one from each department).

Track 3- Physical Science

Cannot be taken as a dual major with a major in chemistry or in physics.

Required courses:

Principles of chemistry including stoichiometry states of matter atomic and molecular structure chemical bonding periodicity energy relationships and equilibria acid-base chemistry electrochemistry kinetics solubility thermodynamics kinetic molecular theory of gases and the systematic study of families of elements. Three hours of lecture and one four-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisite MATH 110 MATH 115 or MATH 118 General Education natural and physical sciences Credit may not be received for both CHEM 125 and 161

Unit(s): 4

Principles of chemistry including stoichiometry states of matter atomic and molecular structure chemical bonding periodicity energy relationships and equilibria acid-base chemistry electrochemistry kinetics solubility thermodynamics kinetic molecular theory of gases and the systematic study of families of elements. Three hours of lecture and one four-hour lab per week. Prerequisites CHEM 161 or permission of the instructor General Education natural and physical sciences Credit may not be received for both CHEM 125 and 161

Unit(s): 4

Continuation of Calculus I and II. Included are Taylor polynomials infinite series and polar coordinates. Also included is an introduction to multivariate calculus and multiple integrals. Prerequisites MATH 132

Unit(s): 3

Introduction to multivariate calculus. Included are calculus of vector-valued functions and motion in space limits continuity and partial derivatives of functions of several variables vector fields Greens Theorem The Divergence Theorem and Stokes Theorem. Prerequisites MATH 210 and 231

Unit(s): 3

And 15 additional credit hours in PHYS and CHEM courses numbered 300 or above (at least six from each department).

Physics and Mathematics Major

Primarily for students wishing to gain licensure in teacher education. Cannot be taken as a dual major with the major in mathematics or physics.

Required courses in physics:

During the first term Kinematics Newtons laws of motion conservation laws rotational motion periodic motion and fluid mechanics. During the second term Thermodynamics electricity magnetism optics and modern physics. A combination of lectures and learning by inquiry are employed. Computers are used for data acquisition data analysis and mathematical modeling. Three hours in class one hour in recitation and two hours in lab per week. Prerequisite MATH 130 or 132 or concurrent enrollment in MATH 131 132 respectively.

Unit(s): 4

During the first term Kinematics Newtons laws of motion conservation laws rotational motion periodic motion and fluid mechanics. During the second term Thermodynamics electricity magnetism optics and modern physics. A combination of lectures and learning by inquiry are employed. Computers are used for data acquisition data analysis and mathematical modeling. Three hours in class one hour in recitation and two hours in lab per week. Prerequisite MATH 130 or 132 or concurrent enrollment in MATH 131 132 respectively. PHYS 221is prerequisite to PHYS 222. General Education Natural & Physical Science

Unit(s): 4

Analog electronics including diode and transistor operation mathematical circuit analysis operational amplifier applications. Two hours in class and six hours in lab per week. Prerequisites PHYS 222 and MATH 132 Alternate years offered 2015-2016

Unit(s): 4

-or-
Analysis and applications of digital circuits such as flip-flops registers counters and analog-to-digital converters leading to interfacing real-time data collection to computers. Prerequisites PHYS 219 or PHYS 222 Alternate years offered 2016-2017

Unit(s): 3

A survey of 20th century physics. Topics include relativity wave-particle dualism Schroedinger equation wave functions spectra nuclear physics and elementary particles. Prerequisites PHYS 222 and MATH 132 Alternate years offered 2015-2016

Unit(s): 3

Kinematics and dynamics in one two and three dimensions including oscillating systems central force motion Lagrangian and Hamiltonian dynamics motion of rigid objects and wave motion. Prerequisites PHYS 222 and MATH 132. Alternate years offered 2014-2015

Unit(s): 3

Classical and modern experiments give the student a basic understanding of experimental methods. Involves several lectures and extensive lab work. Prerequisites PHYS 222 and MATH 132 Alternate years offered 2015-2016

Unit(s): 3

Discussion and presentation of papers by students and faculty on problems of current interest in physics. Prerequisite Senior standing with a major in Physics Applied Physics Physics and Mathematics or permission of the instructor

Unit(s): 3

-or-
An Honors Project is one in which a student researches a subject by examination of relevant literature or by experimentation or both the student reports the results in an accurately documented and well-written paper or appropriate representation of the work. Whenever the study deals with the subject of an established course the student is expected to go well beyond the usual work of the course in research and in assimilation of the results as revealed in the report. Juniors and seniors with a cumulative grade point average of 3.40 or above may register for an Honors Project. One desiring to pursue an Honors Project must submit a written description of his or her proposed work to the chair of the appropriate department and to the Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs by the first day of the semester in which the study is to be conducted. At the conclusion of the Honors Project the supervising professor files with the Registrar a grade for the student and a description of the work accomplished and with the Library Director a copy of the written paper or appropriate representation of the work. It is the students responsibility to provide the materials for the library in compliance with specifications approved by the Council on Education. The Library Director arranges for binding and storage.

Unit(s): 3

Required courses in mathematics:

Study of differential calculus of a single variable. Applications of the derivative are made to curve sketching max-min problems and linear approximation and IHopitals Rule. Also included are applications of the Intermediate Value Theorem and Mean Value Theorem. Credit may not be received for both MATH 130 and 131. Prerequisites MATH 120 or satisfactory performance on placement test

Unit(s): 3

Study of integral calculus of a single variable. Included are techniques of integration and numerical methods of integration. Applications of the integral are made to computing area volume arc length and selected topics. Prerequisite MATH 131

Unit(s): 3

Continuation of Calculus I and II. Included are Taylor polynomials infinite series and polar coordinates. Also included is an introduction to multivariate calculus and multiple integrals. Prerequisites MATH 132

Unit(s): 3

Introduction to multivariate calculus. Included are calculus of vector-valued functions and motion in space limits continuity and partial derivatives of functions of several variables vector fields Greens Theorem The Divergence Theorem and Stokes Theorem. Prerequisites MATH 210 and 231

Unit(s): 3

The first part of the course is devoted to naive set theory and includes the algebra of sets relations functions and orders. The second part is devoted to logic including truth tables and first-order predicate calculus. Prerequisites MATH 132 and 200

Unit(s): 3

Fundamental concepts of geometry including projective and non-Euclidean geometries with emphasis on the axiomatic method. Prerequisites MATH 132 210 and 300 or permission of the instructor Alternate years offered 2016-2017

Unit(s): 3

Survey of the history of mathematics from ancient civilizations to the modern mathematics of the 19th-century. Prerequisites MATH 132 Alternate years offered 2016-2017

Unit(s): 3

And three additional credit hours in MATH courses numbered 300 or above.

Physics Minor

Required courses:

Study of differential calculus of a single variable. Applications of the derivative are made to curve sketching max-min problems and linear approximation and IHopitals Rule. Also included are applications of the Intermediate Value Theorem and Mean Value Theorem. Credit may not be received for both MATH 130 and 131. Prerequisites MATH 120 or satisfactory performance on placement test

Unit(s): 3

Study of integral calculus of a single variable. Included are techniques of integration and numerical methods of integration. Applications of the integral are made to computing area volume arc length and selected topics. Prerequisite MATH 131

Unit(s): 3

During the first term Kinematics Newtons laws of motion conservation laws rotational motion periodic motion and fluid mechanics. During the second term Thermodynamics electricity magnetism optics and modern physics. A combination of lectures and learning by inquiry are employed. Computers are used for data acquisition data analysis and mathematical modeling. Three hours in class one hour in recitation and two hours in lab per week. Prerequisite MATH 130 or 132 or concurrent enrollment in MATH 131 132 respectively.

Unit(s): 4

During the first term Kinematics Newtons laws of motion conservation laws rotational motion periodic motion and fluid mechanics. During the second term Thermodynamics electricity magnetism optics and modern physics. A combination of lectures and learning by inquiry are employed. Computers are used for data acquisition data analysis and mathematical modeling. Three hours in class one hour in recitation and two hours in lab per week. Prerequisite MATH 130 or 132 or concurrent enrollment in MATH 131 132 respectively. PHYS 221is prerequisite to PHYS 222. General Education Natural & Physical Science

Unit(s): 4

A survey of 20th century physics. Topics include relativity wave-particle dualism Schroedinger equation wave functions spectra nuclear physics and elementary particles. Prerequisites PHYS 222 and MATH 132 Alternate years offered 2015-2016

Unit(s): 3

And three additional PHYS courses numbered 300 or above.