Major Requirements


The physics major—Eleven courses and a senior exercise are required for the major. Students must earn grades of C- or better in all of these courses. It is strongly recommended that students intending to pursue graduate study take at least eight courses in physics at the 300+ level and at least one year of 300+ level mathematics courses. The Writing Intensive Part II requirement is fulfilled by PHYS 320.

  • Three foundational courses in physics. It is strongly recommended that students begin this sequence in the fall semester of their first year.
    • PHYS 141L. Physics I: Mechanics
    • PHYS 231L. Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism and Waves
    • PHYS 232L. Physics III: Optics and Modern Physics
  • Two upper-level courses in mathematical and experimental methods. Students should take PHYS 300 as early as possible, preferably in the spring semester of their sophomore year.
    • PHYS 300. Mathematical Methods of Physics
    • PHYS 320. Modern Physical Measurements
  • Two core courses. Students may take the third as the upper-level elective course.
    • PHYS 301. Classical Mechanics
    • PHYS 302. Electrodynamics
    • PHYS 313. Quantum Mechanics
  • One upper-level physics elective; either the remaining core course or a course chosen from the list below.
    • PHYS 304. Statistical and Thermal Physics
    • PHYS 315. Contemporary Optics
    • PHYS 317. Relativity and Fundamental Particles
    • PHYS 325. Condensed Matter Physics
  • Senior integrating experience

    • PHYS 405. Senior Exercise
  • Three courses in cognate departments.
    • MATH 231. Calculus III, Multivariable Calculus (prerequisite: MATH 132 or 142)
    • MATH 234. Differential Equations (prerequisite: MATH 132 or 142)
    • CHEM 111L. Introductory Chemistry I

The courses PHYS 490 and PHYS 399 provide qualified students with the opportunity to carry out laboratory research or independent study under the direct supervision of an individual faculty member.

The interdisciplinary computing major in physics—See the “Interdisciplinary Computing Major” section of the Bulletin. Students contemplating the interdisciplinary computing major in physics should contact the chair of the Physics Department, who will direct them to appropriate faculty members for guidance and assistance in setting up a plan of study.

Study Away—Physics majors with an interest in studying abroad should plan well in advance of the semester they will be away. This is particularly important since most upper-level physics courses at Trinity are offered biennially. Students wishing to use courses taken abroad in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the physics major must obtain the prior approval of the department chair.

Honors—Students seeking honors in physics must complete at least one additional physics course beyond the minimum required for the physics major. This course may be a semester of independent research (PHYS 399 or 490). Honors candidates must attain an average of at least a B+ in all physics courses. Honors are awarded to qualified students by a vote of the faculty.

Advanced Placement—Students who have earned an Advanced Placement exam grade in physics of 4 or 5 may receive course credit. See the “Advanced Placement” section of the Bulletin for details. Exceptionally well-prepared students who are exempt from PHYS 141 and from both MATH 131 and MATH132/142 may petition the chair of the department to take PHYS 232L prior to PHYS 231L.