2022-2023 Undergraduate Course Catalog 
    May 20, 2024  
2022-2023 Undergraduate Course Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Physics, BS

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Directors of Undergraduate Studies

Joseph Paulsen and Matthew Rudolph
201 Physics Building, 315-443-3901


Marina Artuso, Stefan Ballmer, Steven Blusk, Duncan Brown, Simon Catterall, Eric Coughlin, Walter Freeman, Jay Hubisz, John Laiho, M. Lisa Manning, Alan Middleton, Liviu Movileanu, Alison Patteson, Joseph Paulsen, Ivan Pechenezhskiy, Britton Plourde, Jennifer Ross, Matthew Rudolph, Christian Santangelo, Eric A. Schiff, Jennifer Schwarz, Rafael Silva Coutinho, Mirna Mihovilovic Skanata, Tomasz Skwarnicki, Mitchell Soderberg, Paul Souder, 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 physics courses provide a background in problem solving in many areas of physical science using theoretical, computational, and laboratory techniques.

The department offers coursework leading to either a B.A. or a B.S. degree. The B.A. degree program is an excellent liberal arts major that requires fewer credit hours in the major than the B.S. program.  The B.S. degree is the recommended choice for students contemplating employment requiring advanced technical skills, or for those considering graduate work in science, engineering, or medicine. 

Other information about physics can be found at physics.syr.edu

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. A student will be able to explain phenomena occurring from sub-atomic to cosmological distance scales using qualitative physical principles.
  2. A student will be able to apply mathematics and logic to solve problems associated with natural phenomena.
  3. A student will be able to explain the experimental underpinnings of physical laws.
  4. A student will be able to employ basic laboratory and technical skills to solve physics problems as a result of formal laboratory course work and research opportunities with faculty.
  5. A student will be able to utilize modelling software and numerical methods to solve complex problems.

B.S. Degree Requirements

The B.S. degree in physics requires at least 38 credits of physics coursework, including at least 30 credits of upper-division physics courses (numbered 300 or above). The required course work for the B.S. includes:


Students declaring a Physics B.S. after taking PHY211, PHY 221, PHY 212, and PHY 222 can petition for these to substitute for PHY 215, PHY 225, PHY 216, and PHY 226.

Students may petition to have ECS 102 or ECS 104 substitute for the computational course PHY 307. In this case an additional upper-division elective can be taken instead of PHY 307.

Students may petition to have MAT 331 and MAT 414 substitute for PHY 302.

Upper-division PHY electives

The B.S. degree requires at least 5 additional credit hours of upper-division coursework beyond the required core of physics coursework. There are typically several courses offered each year in addition to the possibility of receiving credit for research, theses, or the seminar in physics education. Students considering graduate work in physics are encouraged to take PHY 525 (Electromagnetics II) and PHY 568 (Quantum Mechanics II).

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

B.S with distinction

A B.S. with distinction is awarded to students who complete the 30 upper division credit hour B.S. with a 3.4 grade point average in their physics coursework, and who complete another 6 credit hours of upper-division physics coursework. A B.S. with distinction is noted on a student’s official transcript.

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