Physics & Astronomy Program: Sample Schedules

The following sample schedules indicate the approximate order of courses to complete a degree in Physics for a student beginning the major in his or her first year. As many Union students elect to spend a term abroad, we present two versions of the schedule, one for a student who is on campus for all four years, and the other for a student taking a term abroad in the Fall of junior year.

Color code:

  • Classes Required for the Major
  • Classes Recommended for Students Interested in Graduate Study
  • General Education Classes
  • Term Abroad Classes
  • Free Electives

Sample Schedule

Year Fall Term Winter Term Spring Term
First Year:
  • Physics 100: First-Year Seminar
  • Math 113: AP Calculus
  • First-Year Preceptorial
  • Physics 120: Matter in Motion
  • Math 115: Calculus III: Differential Vector Calculus and Matrix Theory
  • General Education Class
  • Physics 121: Principles of Electromagnetics
  • Math 117: Calculus IV: Integral Vector Calculus
  • General Education Class
Second Year:
  • Physics 123: Heat, Light and Astronomy
  • Sophomore Seminar
  • General Education Class
  • Physics 122: Relativity, Quantum, and Applications
  • Science Elective
  • General Education Class
  • Physics 220: Intermediate Modern Physics
  • Science Elective
  • General Education Class
Third Year:
  • Physics 230: Intermediate Classical Mechanics
  • Math Elective
  • General Education Class
  • Physics 270: Intermediate Electromagnetism
  • Math Elective
  • General Education Class
  • Physics 300: Methods of Modern Experimental Physics
  • Physics 310: Advanced Topics in Physics
  • General Education Class
Fourth Year:
  • Physics 490: Senior Thesis Research
  • Physics 350: Quantum Mechanics
  • Free Elective
  • Physics 491: Senior Thesis Research
  • Free Elective
  • Free Elective
  • Physics 310: Advanced Topics in Physics
  • Free Elective
  • Free Elective

Notes: This schedule assumes the maximum number of general education courses, with no "double-counting" to meet requirements. Many courses will satisfy more than one general education requirement (for example, a single course might both fulfill part of the "Linguistic and Cultural Competency" requirement, and also form part of the required "Making Connections Across Disciplines" cluster).

Note that even under these conservative assumptions, it is possible to complete a strong Physics major with at least five free electives. These electives may easily be combined with general education courses or other electives to allow a student to complete a second major or a minor.

The first-year schedule assumes that students enter the Physics major with some Advanced Placement credit in math, placing them in Math 113. The Math department has several introductory tracks, depending on the level of preparation students have received in high school. Students who have not taken Advanced Placement tests may be required to take Math 110 and Math 112 instead of Math 113; students with exceptionally strong math backgrounds may skip Math 113, and start with Math 115. All of these variants are easily accommodated within the Physics curriculum.

Two second-year classes are listed as "Science Electives." Physics students are required to take two other science classes numbered 100 or above, at least one of which must be from other science departments. We encourage students to take these classes as early as possible, as they may lead students to pursue double majors or interdisciplinary majors.

Two third-year classes are listed as "Math Electives." We strongly recommend that students who may be interested in graduate study in physics take math courses beyond those required for the major. In particular, students would benefit from taking courses such as Math 127: Numerical Methods, Math 130: Ordinary Differential Equations, Math 138: Methods of Applied Mathematics I, Math 180: Linear Algebra and Matrix Theory.

Sample Schedule With Term Abroad

Year Fall Term Winter Term Spring Term
First Year:
  • Physics 100: First-Year Seminar
  • Math 113: AP Calculus
  • First-Year Preceptorial
  • Physics 120: Matter in Motion
  • Math 115: Calculus III: Differential Vector Calculus and Matrix Theory
  • General Education Class
  • Physics 121: Principles of Electromagnetics
  • Math 117: Calculus IV: Integral Vector Calculus
  • General Education Class
Second Year:
  • Physics 123: Heat, Light and Astronomy
  • Sophomore Seminar
  • General Education Class
  • Physics 122: Relativity, Quantum, and Applications
  • Science Elective
  • General Education Class
  • Physics 220: Intermediate Modern Physics
  • Science Elective
  • General Education Class
Third Year:
  • Term Abroad Class
  • Term Abroad Class
  • Term Abroad Class
  • Physics 270: Intermediate Electromagnetism
  • General Education Class
  • General Education Class
  • Physics 300: Methods of Modern Experimental Physics
  • Physics 310: Advanced Topics in Physics
  • General Education Class
Fourth Year:
  • Physics 230: Intermediate Classical Mechanics
  • Physics 490: Senior Thesis Research
  • Physics 350: Quantum Mechanics
  • Physics 491: Senior Thesis Research
  • Math Elective
  • Free Elective
  • Physics 310: Advanced Topics in Physics
  • Math Elective
  • Free Elective

Notes: This schedule assumes the maximum number of general education courses, with no "double-counting" to meet requirements. Many courses will satisfy more than one general education requirement (for example, a single course might both fulfill part of the "Linguistic and Cultural Competency" requirement, and also form part of the required "Making Connections Across Disciplines" cluster). In addition, classes taken on a term abroad will usually count toward the "Linguistic and Cultural Competency" requirement of the General Education curriculum.

Note that even under these conservative assumptions, it is possible to complete a strong Physics major with at least two free electives. These electives may easily be combined with general education courses or other electives to allow a student to complete a second major or a minor.

The first-year schedule assumes that students enter the Physics major with some Advanced Placement credit in math, placing them in Math 113. The Math department has several introductory tracks, depending on the level of preparation students have received in high school. Students who have not taken Advanced Placement tests may be required to take Math 110 and Math 112 instead of Math 113; students with exceptionally strong math backgrounds may skip Math 113, and start with Math 115. All of these variants are easily accommodated within the Physics curriculum.

Two second-year classes are listed as "Science Electives." Physics students are required to take two other science classes numbered 100 or above, at least one of which must be from other science departments. We encourage students to take these classes as early as possible, as they may lead students to pursue double majors or interdisciplinary majors.

Two fourth-year classes are listed as "Math Electives." We strongly recommend that students who may be interested in graduate study in physics take math courses beyond those required for the major. In particular, students would benefit from courses such as Math 127: Numerical Methods and Math 130: Ordinary Differential Equations, Math 138: Methods of Applied Mathematics I, Math 180: Linear Algebra and Matrix Theory.