BA in Physics

The undergraduate Physics major at Boston University gives students a foundation of knowledge and problem-solving ability on which they can build a variety of careers. The Physics Department prides itself on the quality of its teaching while also maintaining a vigorous research program. The diverse faculty ensures majors an opportunity for close interaction with their instructors and mentors. Students are encouraged to participate in ongoing research projects; many students get involved as early as their sophomore year. Qualified students can enroll as seniors in independent projects leading to a degree with honors (CAS PY 401/402).

Students majoring in physics have two curricular options: the Interdisciplinary Option, which gives students the flexibility to combine physics with another focus area in an interdisciplinary program, and the Graduate Option, which is intended to prepare students for the study of physics or a closely related subject in graduate school.

Interdisciplinary Option

This option provides students with a strong physics preparation, but also provides them the flexibility to pursue an interdisciplinary academic program combining physics with training in a related science or engineering program. It is well suited for students planning to pursue graduate studies in a discipline other than physics or to enter a career in a related field upon graduation. Students pursuing the Interdisciplinary Option must consult with their physics advisor and file a formal plan of study with the department. Full details can be found on the department website.

Unless otherwise indicated, all courses are 4 credit hours.

Prerequisites

  • CAS MA 123 and 124, or 127
  • CAS PY 251, 252, 351, 355 (or PY 211, 212, 313, 355)

Both mathematics and physics should normally be started in the freshman year.

Principal Courses

  • CAS PY 405, 408, and 451.
  • Two additional physics courses at the 300 level or above (but not including CAS PY 313, 351, 352, 355, 401, 402, 482, 491, 492, or 581) are also required.
  • In addition, three courses from a participating science or engineering department are required. If the participating department is in CAS, at least one of these courses must be at the 300 level or higher, and the other two must be at the 200 level or higher. If these are mathematics (MA) courses, they must be different from the required courses mentioned below. If the participating department is in the College of Engineering (ENG), all three courses must be at the junior level or above. CAS PY 581 may be used to satisfy the requirement of a 300-level course from a participating department in CAS or a course from a participating department in ENG.
  • A grade of C or higher must be attained in all principal courses.

Required Related Courses

  • CAS MA 225 and one other mathematics course at the 200 level or higher chosen in consultation with the student’s physics advisor

A grade of C or higher must be attained in both of these required related courses.

Recommended

  • CAS PY 352, 371, 406, 421, 410, 452, 482

Graduate Option

This option provides students with a comprehensive and rigorous education in classical and modern physics. It is well suited for students intending to pursue graduate study in physics or a closely related field, or those planning to enter a technical physics-related career upon graduation.

Unless otherwise indicated, all courses are 4 credit hours.

Prerequisites

  • CAS MA 123 and 124, or 127
  • CAS PY 251, 252, 351, 355 (or PY 211, 212, 313, 355)

Both mathematics and physics should normally be started in the freshman year.

Principal Courses

  • CAS PY 405, 406, 408, 410, 451, 452, and 581
  • An additional physics course is also required. This may be any physics course at the 300 level or higher with the exceptions of CAS PY 313, 351, 352, 401, 402, 482, 491, and 492.

A grade of C or higher must be attained in all principal courses.

Required Related Courses

  • CAS MA 225 and one other mathematics course at the 200 level or higher chosen in consultation with the student’s physics advisor.

A grade of C or higher must be attained in both of these required related courses.

Recommended

  • CAS PY 352, 401, 402, 421, 482, 543, and 551.

Students planning to pursue a graduate program in physics or a closely related discipline are strongly encouraged to enhance their mathematics education with some or all of the following: CAS MA 242, 411, 412, and 561. Entering freshman physics students who have some calculus background normally complete their requirements for the major in the following sequence:

Freshman Year

  • CAS PY 251 and 252 (PY 211 is a permissible alternative to PY 251, and PY 212 is a permissible alternative to PY 252.)
  • CAS MA 123 and 124 or—with prior credit for MA 123—MA 124, 225 (Well-prepared students may substitute MA 127 or 129 for MA 123 and 124.)

Four course selections remain open for CAS requirements and electives.

Sophomore Year

  • CAS PY 351 (offered fall only). PY 313 is a permissible alternative
  • CAS PY 352 (optional; offered spring only)
  • CAS PY 355 (offered spring only)
  • CAS MA 225 or MA elective (offered fall only)
  • CAS MA elective (either semester, or during junior or senior year)

Four or five course selections remain open for CAS requirements and electives.

Junior Year

  • CAS PY 405, 406
  • CAS PY 408 (offered fall only)
  • CAS PY 451 (offered spring only)
  • CAS MA elective (either semester, or during sophomore or senior year)

Three or four course selections remain open for CAS requirements and electives.

Senior Year

  • CAS PY 410 (offered spring only)
  • CAS PY 452 (offered fall only)
  • CAS PY 581 (offered fall only)
  • CAS PY elective (either semester)
  • CAS MA elective (either semester, or during sophomore or junior year)

Four or five course selections remain open for CAS requirements and electives.

Guidelines for transfer students or students deciding to become physics majors after the first semester can be found on the department website.

Well-prepared students may be able to take advanced undergraduate courses earlier than the above schedules indicate. They should consult with their advisors and with the course instructors in pursuing this possibility. Students wishing a slower pace may postpone some of the 400-level classes to their senior year. Again, consultation with a student’s physics advisor is required.

Upper-level students are strongly encouraged to become involved with a research group and gain exposure to ongoing projects; for more details please refer to Research by Undergraduates on the department website.

Joint Programs with Other Departments