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Undergraduate Curriculum: Physics Programs and Options Available

In this Section

Structure of the Physics program at Clarkson
In your first semester you will be enrolled in a "freshman seminar" course. This is a one-hour meeting every week where you are introduced to all the members, activities, research projects, and facilities of the department. A faculty member of the Physics Department will be assigned to you as your academic advisor. The advisor will help with your academic needs for the duration of your studies at Clarkson. Starting from selection of courses, to applying for graduate schools or jobs, you can consult your advisor at any time regarding your career plans. The University requires 120 credit hours (about 40 courses) for graduation. Many of these are electives, permitting design of individual concentrations to match your needs and interests. Four options of concentration are offered: Engineering Physics Pure Physics Materials Science Biological Physics (which covers all the academic requirements for Pre-Med). In each case, Physics (or equivalent) courses make up 35 credit hours. For students transferring into the Department of Physics, suitable Engineering and Science courses are accepted as equivalent to required Physics courses. Similar arrangements are made for students double majoring with Physics. The four Physics programs are outlined below. Major emphasis in the Physics curriculum is placed on undergraduate research. All faculty members are actively engaged in research in support of the Physics graduate program (offering M.S. and Ph.D. degrees). Early in their undergraduate careers, students are encouraged to participate in research.

Usually students identify research projects in their areas of concentration and continue to work on the project until graduation (following essentially the pattern of graduate work). On several occasions their research has lead to publication in internationally recognized scientific journals

Physics - The Basic Option
This is our broadest and most flexible option. It is suited both to those who want an intensive and focused Physics program and those who wish to diversely in areas not covered by our other options. Those pursuing the Physics-intensive program will typically be heading for graduate school in Physics or for careers as Science teachers. Other students may want to exploit the flexibility and large number of electives in this program to follow other interests or to develop double majors.


Physics Curriculum Outline

Required Courses Credit hours
First Year Seminar 1
Clarkson Seminar 3
Physics 35
Mathematics 18
Chemistry 8
Biology Elective 3
Communication Elective (C2) 3
Knowledge Area and University Course Electives 15
Concentration Electives 9
Information Technology Elective 3
Technology Elective 3
Free Electives 19
Total 120

Engineering Physics
The Engineering Physics option affords excellent training for careers at the forefront of technology, where basic knowledge of science complements engineering know-how to develop unique devices and systems. This option is also ideal for those unsure of which science or engineering areas they wish to enter. Electives are spread among Physics, Mathematics, and Engineering courses tailored to the individual's special interests and career objectives.

Materials Science
The Materials Science option is designed for students interested in the study of materials with technological applications. Building on a firm foundation in Physics and Mathematics, students concentrate electives in materials-specific areas such as metallic materials, ceramics, polymeric materials, and electronic materials. Electives are drawn from the Departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. Materials Science students benefit from the resources and expertise available through Clarkson's Center for Advanced Materials Processing (CAMP).

Biological Physics (including Pre-Med)
The Biological Physics option offers Physics majors an early focus in their curriculum. To solve outstanding problems of Biology, a synthesis of several disciplines is needed. As a consequence, Biological Physics has become one of the most rapidly growing domains of physical sciences. In addition to basic courses in Physics, students will be offered a solid foundation in Biology, including laboratory experience. Biological Physics is also an area of research in the department. This program will make students more flexible in the continuation of their studies, by providing them with all the academic requirements needed to enter a medical school.

Three-Year Accelerated Degree Program
This program is available to students who arrive at Clarkson University with excellent preparation from high school. The challenging pace of this program will require harder work and special dedication. Students in this program will have the opportunity to complete their degree in a shortened time span, realizing savings in educational costs, and enter the job market a year earlier. Students are expected to earn 108 credits by taking on average six courses per semester. The remaining 12 credits would be drawn from a combination of advanced placement (AP) credits from high school and coursework taken during Summer sessions. The student must sign up to enter in this program.

Student-faculty interactions
Currently there are 9 faculty members in the Physics Department. This promotes an informal, relaxed atmosphere for learning. The class size allows each student to get close attention from the instructor. You can approach any of the professors, not just your academic advisor, for advice. This way, often through informal conversations, you can learn about each professor's research subject. It often happens that you can get involved in this research in a meaningful way and our faculty are always on the lookout for aspects of their research in which undergraduates can contribute. Several of our students have benefited from National Science Foundation funded "Research Experiences for Undergraduates."

Minor in Physics
A minor in Physics is available to students in any degree program. To obtain a minor, a student must complete the following courses:

PH131 Physics I (4 Cr. Hrs.)
PH132 Physics II (4 Cr. Hrs.)
PH221 Theoretical Mechanics (3 Cr. Hrs.)
PH231 Fundamentals of Modern Physics (3 Cr. Hrs.)
PH331 Quantum Physics1 (3 Cr. Hrs.)

Any two 3-credit Physics courses at the 300-400 level (6 Cr. Hrs.). These can include:

PH371 (CM371) Physical Chemistry I
PH372 (CM372) Physical Chemistry II

One of the following basic courses (1 Cr. Hr.):

PH121 Physics Freshman Seminar
PH232 Modern Physics Laboratory
PH435 Physics Seminar
PH470 Directed Study Experimental
PH474 Directed Study Theoretical

Do you get guidance in choosing your post-graduation career?
The Clarkson Career Development Center helps you find prospective employers and arranges for on-campus interviews with them. More importantly, throughout your four years at Clarkson, Physics faculty members can be called on to help you design your future professional career. It is likely that by the end of your junior year at Clarkson (after being exposed to significant amounts of course material and research work) you will develop a taste for a certain type of career. Our professors can help you examine the "real-world situation" of the profession you like. They can guide you in choosing the graduate schools (if you decide on graduate studies) suitable for you and your interests. They can also help you prepare for the GRE (Graduate Record Examination: it is similar to the SAT but it is on the material you learn in college and it applies to your admission to a graduate program). The GRE is offered internationally. Therefore, even if you do not choose to attend a graduate school, your GRE score may serve as an indicator of your academic standing on an international scale. Our Physics Department will provide you with sample GRE tests from the past and information on the various Physics graduate programs in the country.