Todd Pedlar (department head)

The student majoring in physics will gain a solid background in our current understanding of the physical universe. Students will learn and experience first hand how that understanding evolves through the interplay between theory and experiment. The department maintains several instructional laboratory spaces, a planetarium, an astronomical observing facility for use with classes, and faculty/student collaborative research spaces. Research facilities include computers for theoretical research and analysis of experimental data, modern experimental labs, and an astronomical observatory. Students are encouraged to participate in collaborative research with members of the physics faculty.

Required for a physics major: The major consists of PHYS/ENGR 150, PHYS 201, 202, and 203, PHYS/ENGR/MATH 250, PHYS/ENGR 311, and 312; and three additional four-credit PHYS or ENGR courses numbered above 300. Two of these three additional courses must be chosen from PHYS 361, 364 and PHYS 411. PHYS 151 and PHYS 152 may be used to satisfy the requirement of PHYS 201 and 202. In addition, coursework equivalent to MATH 351 is required. The capstone experience for Physics majors is a required Senior Project, which consists of a 1 credit PHYS 490 and 2 credit PHYS 491. Eligible students may apply to replace PHYS 490/491 with a year-long Senior Honors Project, PHYS 493.

Further supporting courses in mathematics, computer science, and other sciences are desirable. Each student’s course of study is designed to meet the needs and special interests of the student, and interdisciplinary study is encouraged in order to obtain a broad base for the major. Emphases in applied physics, astrophysics, biophysics, energy resources and environmental sciences, geophysics, data science, history of science, teacher preparation, and technical writing are indicative of the many broad areas that may be developed for the student. Students interested in teaching should see the education department for secondary minor requirements.

Required for a physics minor: Twenty credits in Physics courses numbered 150 or above. Four credits must come from Physics courses numbered at 300 or above. 

Required for a second teaching area: See the Education department for specific requirements. The second teaching area license is offered only in the state of Iowa.

Advanced Placement Credit: Students with exceptional preparation in physics (a thorough calculus-based introductory physics course including weekly laboratory work) may begin in PHYS 202 or PHYS 203 after consultation with a member of the physics faculty. Students earning a grade of B- or above in this higher numbered course will receive credit for PHYS 201 and (when appropriate) PHYS 202. 

Because of the substantial overlap of the requirements for the Physics Major and for the major in Engineering Science, a student cannot both major or minor in Physics and major in Engineering Science.