Physics and Astronomy Department

Physics Major 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. Explanatory notes are provided after the schedules.

Sample Schedule without Term Abroad

Year Fall Term Winter Term Spring Term
First Year:
  • Physics 100: First-Year Seminar
  • Math 113: AP Calculus
  • First-Year Preceptorial (CC)
  • Physics 120: Matter in Motion
  • Math 115: Calculus III: Differential Vector Calculus and Matrix Theory
  • Common Curriculum Class
  • Physics 121: Principles of Electromagnetics
  • Math 117: Calculus IV: Integral Vector Calculus
  • Common Curriculum Class
Second Year:
  • Physics 123: Heat and Light (WAC)
  • Sophomore Research Seminar (CC)
  • Free Elective
  • Physics 122: Relativity, Quantum, and Applications
  • Math Elective
  • Common Curriculum Class
  • Physics 230: Intermediate Classical Mechanics
  • Science Elective
  • Common Curriculum Class
Third Year:
  • Physics 220: Intermediate Modern Physics
  • Physics 310: Advanced Topics in Physics
  • Common Curriculum Class
  • Physics 270: Intermediate Electromagnetism
  • Math Elective
  • Common Curriculum Class
  • Physics 300: Methods of Modern Experimental Physics (WAC)
  • Science Elective
  • Common Curriculum Class
Fourth Year:
  • Physics 490: Senior Thesis Research (WS)
  • Common Curriculum Class
  • Free Elective
  • Physics 491: Senior Thesis Research
  • Physics 311: Advanced Topics in Physics
  • Free Elective
  • Physics 350: Quantum Mechanics
  • Free Elective
  • Free Elective

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 (CC)
  • Physics 120: Matter in Motion
  • Math 115: Calculus III: Differential Vector Calculus and Matrix Theory
  • Common Curriculum Class
  • Physics 121: Principles of Electromagnetics
  • Math 117: Calculus IV: Integral Vector Calculus
  • Common Curriculum Class
Second Year:
  • Physics 123: Heat and Light (WAC)
  • Sophomore Research Seminar (CC)
  • Common Curriculum Class
  • Physics 122: Relativity, Quantum, and Applications
  • Science Elective
  • Math Elective
  • Physics 230: Intermediate Classical Mechanics
  • Math Elective
  • Common Curriculum Class
Third Year:
  • Term Abroad Class (LCC)
  • Term Abroad Class (LCC)
  • Term Abroad Class
  • Physics 270: Intermediate Electromagnetism
  • Physics 311: Advanced Topics in Physics
  • Common Curriculum Class
  • Physics 300: Methods of Modern Experimental Physics (WAC)
  • Science Elective
  • Common Curriculum Class
Fourth Year:

  • Physics 010: Physics & Astronomy Seminar
  • Physics 490: Senior Thesis Research (WS)
  • Physics 220: Intermediate Modern Physics
  • Physics 310: Advanced Topics in Physics
  • Physics 491: Senior Thesis Research
  • Math Elective
  • Common Curriculum Class
  • Physics 350: Quantum Mechanics
  • Common Curriculum Class
  • Free Elective

Notes: These schedules assume the maximum number of Common Curriculum (CC) courses, with no “double-counting” or transfers to meet requirements, The schedule with the term abroad assumes that classes taken on the term abroad count toward the “Linguistic and Cultural Competency” (LCC) requirement. Often Common Curriculum courses will satisfy more than one requirement (for example, a single course might both fulfill part of the “Linguistic and Cultural Competency” LCC requirement and the "Literature" HUL requirement). Five Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) courses are required; physics courses that fulfill the WAC requirement are indicated.

Note that even under these conservative assumptions, it is possible to complete a strong Physics major with a number of free electives. These electives may easily be combined with Common Curricullum 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 classes are listed as “Science Electives.” Physics majors 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 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, Math 130: Ordinary Differential Equations, and Math 140: Applied Linear Algebra.