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. Most upper-level courses are offered on an every-other-year basis. The Writing Intensive Part II requirement is fulfilled by PHYS 320 and by PHYS 316.

  • Three foundational courses in physics. It is strongly recommended that students begin this sequence in the fall semester of their first year.
    • PHYS 141. 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 of the following three 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 316. Experimental Laser 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

NOTE: Exceptionally well-prepared students who are exempt from PHYS 141 and from both MATH 131 and MATH 132/142 may contact the chair of the department and request to take PHYS 232L prior to PHYS 231L so that they may start physics in the fall semester. See the “Advanced Placement” section below.


Laboratory research: 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 away 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 away 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 at graduation 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.

Sigma Pi Sigma is the national physics honor society. To be eligible for membership, students must have completed at least four courses which count towards the Physics major, have earned an overall GPA of not less than 3.5 with at least an A- average in physics courses taken at Trinity, and have participated in some additional way in physics activities. Membership is awarded to qualified students by a vote of the faculty, and is not restricted to physics majors.

AP credit: Students who have earned a sufficiently high advanced placement exam grade in physics may receive up to two course credits. See the Advanced Placement section of the Bulletin (p.\pageref{APFY}) for details.

NOTE: Students who wish to obtain advanced standing in physics but lack advanced placement credit may contact the chairperson of the Department of Physics and request to take a qualifying exam. Students who perform satisfactorily on this exam may, at the discretion of the department, receive placement in PHYS 231 or PHYS 232 (but no course credit).