2018-2019 Undergraduate Course Catalog 
    Jul 19, 2024  
2018-2019 Undergraduate Course Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Physics, BS

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Director of Undergraduate Studies

Matthew LaHaye
201 Physics Building


Marina Artuso, Stefan Ballmer, Steven Blusk, Mark Bowick, Duncan Brown, Simon Catterall, Walter Freeman, Jay Hubisz, Matthew LaHaye, John Laiho, M. Lisa Manning, M. Cristina Marchetti, Alan Middleton, Liviu Movileanu, Alison Patteson, Joseph Paulsen,  Britton Plourde, Carl Rosenzweig, Matthew Rudolph, Peter Saulson, Eric A. Schiff, Jennifer Schwarz, Tomasz Skwarnicki, Mitchell Soderberg, Paul Souder, Sheldon Stone, Gianfranco Vidali, Scott Watson, Denver Whittington

Physicists idealize the behavior of matter and energy in terms of mathematical representations called the “fundamental laws of nature” and seek to explain the properties of nuclei, atoms, molecules, and systems of these particles (gases, liquids, crystals, etc.). Undergraduate courses provide a background in classical physics, quantum mechanics, and laboratory techniques.

The department offers coursework leading to either a B.A. or a B.S. degree. The major leading to the B.S. degree is modeled on the recommendations of the American Physical Society for students intending to pursue graduate work in physics. Students submit a petition to receive a B.S. in physics and should consult the director of undergraduate studies concerning required courses. For information about certification to teach physics at the secondary school level, see “Education/Arts and Sciences (dual program)” in this section of the catalog.

Other information about physics can be found on the Internet at physics.syr.edu.

Student Learning Outcomes

1. Employ qualitative physical principles to describe phenomena occurring from sub-atomic to cosmological distance scales.  For Biological and Medical Physics option, added emphasis on biological and chemical phenomena

2. Establish, reinforce, and master languages of mathematics and logic as they apply to problem solving associated with natural phenomena.  For Biological and Medical Physics option, added emphasis on biological and chemical phenomena

3. Gain laboratory and technology skills:  understand experimental underpinnings of physics.  For Biological and Medical Physics option, added emphasis on laboratories in biology and chemistry

4. Gain research experience by extensive participation in a research group in a university, government, or industrial setting

5. Develop skills in applying computational techniques to problem solving

B.S. Degree Requirements

The B.S. degree is intended to provide a deep understanding of physical principles and the ability to solve challenging technical problems. Many students who complete the B.S. pursue graduate work in physics or other scientific or engineering disciplines or medical school, while others directly go on to use these skills in a variety of technically-oriented careers.

The B.S. degree in physics requires at least 39 credits of physics coursework, including at least 30 credits of upper-division courses (numbered 300 or above). The required course work for the B.S. includes:

3 credits in Computing:

5-8 elective PHY credits:

  • Additional elective courses chosen in consultation with your advisor. (PHY 307  may be used toward elective credits.)

While not required for the B.S, students interested in pursuing graduate study in physics are strongly encouraged to pursue additional course work in consultation with their academic advisor.

Students are also encouraged to take an introductory lecture and lab course from another scientific discipline, including chemistry, biology, or earth science.

For sample syllabi, see the departmental web page: http://physics.syr.edu/undergraduate/undergrad-courses.html

Option in Biological and Medical Physics

Sophisticated biophysical technologies are increasingly employed in medicine and other health professions; examples include ultrasound, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, fiberoptic endoscopy, and laser surgery. Moreover, the rapidly advancing knowledge in the biomedical fields depends on biophysical concepts and methods, notably electrophysiology, pharmacological kinetics, and biomolecular structure determination. Accordingly, there is need for health care professionals and life scientists with ample training in the physical as well as biological sciences.

The following interdisciplinary option under the B.S. in physics is designed for students who are adept at the mathematical problem solving and conceptual aspects of physics, and who are interested in careers in biology, biological physics, medical physics, or medicine. Students with demonstrated proficiency in both physical and biological sciences will have special advantages not only for admission to and performance in graduate and professional schools, but also for their subsequent careers. More specifically, such training would be particularly relevant for the following fields of medicine: cardiology, neurology, ophthalmology, and radiology.

The following course sequence and variations meet the general prerequisites for medical school admission established by the Association of American Medical Colleges and also apply for careers in most of the other health professions. Courses followed by an asterisk are specifically required for admission to most medical schools.


Honors Program students should register for research in a biophysics laboratory, under the auspices of BIO 460 [3], CHE 450 [3], or PHY 490 [3]. For students intending to apply to M.D./Ph.D. programs, such experience in a biophysics research laboratory is strongly recommended.

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