Physics & Astronomy Program: Guide to Non-Major Classes

In addition to the courses satisfying the requirements for a major in Physics or Astronomy, the department offers a wide variety of courses aimed at students majoring in other fields.

Courses for Science and Engineering Majors

We offer a two-course sequence of Physics for Life Sciences:

  • Physics 110: Classical and Modern Physics for the Life Sciences I
  • Physics 111: Classical and Modern Physics for the Life Sciences II

These classes provide an algebra-based introduction to the full range of physics topics from classical mechanics to modern nuclear physics, with an emphasis on their applications in biology and medicine. These classes are generally offered at least twice a year, and include a three-hour lab once a week.

Physics 200: Molecular Biophysics introduces students to the basic components and research techniques of biophysics, one of the most exciting areas in modern physics research. The class is also well suited to interested students majoring in Chemistry or Biochemistry.

Physics 210: The Physics of Modern Medicine: Applications in Imaging, Surgery and Therapy introduces the technologies used in modern medicine and the basic physical principles that underlie them.

ESC 224: Frontiers of Nanotechnology and Nanomaterials is a part of Union's Converging Technologies initiative, introducing students to the latest developments in the science of the very small. The class is an interdisciplinary team-taught class, looking at subjects in nanotechnology from many different perspectives, including physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering.

Courses for Non-Science Majors

Astronomy 50: The Solar System provides an introductory but detailed discussion of the solar system with special emphasis on the application of physics and the measurement of fundamental properties. Includes laboratory.

Astronomy 51: Introduction to Astronomy reviews current knowledge regarding stars, galaxies, and the Universe, including methods of measurement and the applications of physics to astronomy. Includes laboratory.

Astronomy 52: Relativity, Black Holes, and Quasars is a descriptive introduction to Einstein’s theories of Special and General Relativity, with applications to the astrophysical phenomena of black holes and quasars.

Astronomy 58: Astrobiology examines the current state of our scientific knowledge concerning the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe using an interdisciplinary approach rooted in biology and astronomy. Crosslisted with Biololgy 058.

Physics 51: Seeing the Light: Concepts of Vision (also listed as Biology 51) is a team-taught class involving faculty from both Physics and Biology, introducing students to the important concepts involved in vision, from the physics of light to the biology of image processing in the brain. The course is closed to Physics and Biology majors, and does not require any background in science or math.

Physics 53: Physics and Politics (also listed as History 253) is a team-taught course involving faculty from Physics and History, describing the most important scientific developments of the 20th Century, and placing them in their full historical context. Along with an explanation of relativity, quantum mechanics, and nuclear physics, this class examines how politics and ideology influence science and scientists. No background in mathematics or physics is required.

Physics 54: Lasers and Modern Optics gives students an introduction to the special properties of laser light, and its many applications in the modern world. An associated laboratory will allow students to work directly with different types of lasers and laser experiments. The class is closed to Physics majors, and does not require an background in science or mathematics.