Bachelor of Science in Physics

Bachelor of Science in Physics

From Theory to Reality

Everything starts with physics — literally. The laws of physics governed the creation of the universe itself. But, the science is about looking forward as much as back. Physicists are leading the way toward many advances that promise to shape society tomorrow, from better solar cells to quantum computers. With a BS in Physics from Clarkson, you can play a role in bringing these technologies to life.

Why Study Physics at Clarkson?

Physicists meld science and mathematics to understand the forces that shape the universe. At Clarkson, you'll learn about mechanics, quantum theory, thermodynamics, wave motion, astrophysics, biological physics and optics — the concepts at the heart of the field.

Our 5:1 student-to-faculty ratio means you'll have the chance to work closely with faculty members, both in class and in the lab. Teamwork is a crucial aspect of the program; in your first year, you can work on a challenging group project in our Physics Team Design Lab. Working in groups of four, you'll work to predict the motion of a toy car or train.

And while our department is small, our researchers think big: you'll have access to resources typically found at much larger universities. You might peer through the 12-inch telescope at our Reynolds Observatory in an astrophysics class. Or, you could use a high-performance computing cluster to solve problems in nanotechnology, biophysics and computational modeling and simulation.

We make sure every Clarkson undergraduate gets that kind of hands-on experience. Before you graduate, you'll complete a Professional Experience consisting of an internship, research project or senior thesis.

What You'll Learn

The core physics undergraduate curriculum is 35 credit hours — leaving room for you to declare a minor or even a second major. Nearly four out of five physics majors, in fact, pursue a double major. Our physics majors take courses such as:

  • Biophysics
  • Electromagnetic Theory
  • Experimental Physics
  • Fundamentals of Modern Physics
  • Intro to Astrophysics
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Optics
  • Physical Models of Living Systems
  • Quantum Physics
  • Solid State Physics
  • Relativity
  • Theoretical Mechanics
  • Thermal Physics

The physics program consists of 35 credit hours in physics, 18 credit hours in mathematics, 8 credit hours in chemistry, 3 credit hours in biology electives, and 18 credit hours in other electives. 19 credit hours are in free electives, which is enough to complete a minor or second major if you so choose.

All courses are 3 credits unless noted.

Clarkson Common Experience

The following courses are required for all students, irrespective of their program of study. These courses are offered during the fall semester, with FY100 First-Year Seminar being required of only first-year students. Both FY100 and UNIV190 are typically taken during the fall semester of the first year at Clarkson.

  • FY100 First-Year Seminar (1 credit)
  • UNIV190 The Clarkson Seminar (3 credits)

Physics Core Requirements

Students are required to complete the following courses:


  • PH121 Physics Freshman Seminar (1 credits)
  • PH131 Physics I (4 credits)
  • PH132 (Physics II (4 credits)
  • PH221 Theoretical Mechanics
  • PH231 Fundamentals of Modern Physics
  • PH232 Modern Physics Laboratory (1 credits)
  • PH325 Thermal Physics 
  • PH327 Experimental Physics I (1-3 credits)
  • PH331 Quantum Physics I
  • PH380 Electromagnetic Theory 
  • PH435 Senior Seminar
  • CM131 General Chemistry I (4 credits)
  • CM132 General Chemistry II (4 credits)

Professional Experience

Students are required to complete one of the following Professional Experiences:

  • PH445 Senior Thesis I
  • or PH478 Directed Research in Experimental Physics
  • or PH479 Directed Research in Theoretical Physics
  • or PH480 Internship/Co-op in Physics

Physics Core Electives

Physics Electives

Students must complete at least 12 credits from the following courses:

  • Physics (PH) electives 200-level and above

Students must complete one of the following courses:

  • PH445 Undergraduate Thesis I (3 credits)
  • PH446 Undergraduate Thesis II (3 credits)
  • PH470-473 Directed Study Experimental (3 credits)
  • PH474-477 Directed Study Theoretical (3 credits)

Biology Elective

Students must complete one of the following courses:

  • Biology (BY) 3-credit elective

Math Courses for Physics

Students must complete the following four courses:

  • MA131 Calculus I 
  • MA132 Calculus II 
  • MA231 Calculus III
  • MA232 Elementary Differential Equations
  • Mathematics

Students must complete one of the following courses:

  • MA331 Fourier Series and Boundary Value Problems
  • MA313 Abstract Linear Algebra
  • MA339 Applied Linear Algebra


Students must complete one of the following courses:

  • STAT381 Probability
  • STAT383 Probability and Statistics

Physics Electives

  • Students must complete 3 credits in information technology electives.
  • Students must complete 3 credits in technology electives.
  • Students must complete 9 credits of concentration electives. All of these must be in one area outside of physics; an area need not be a department. Concentration electives allow students to explore another field of interest outside physics.
  • Students will have at least 15 credit hours available to use toward Knowledge Area and/or University Course electives to satisfy the Clarkson Common Experience requirements.
  • Students will have approximately 19 credit hours available to use toward courses of their choice.

Experience, on campus and off, is a vital part of your physics education at Clarkson. Many of our students participate in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. REUs provide an opportunity to participate in National Science Foundation-funded research at universities across the U.S.

Some recent internships and REUs include:

  • Advanced fuel cells REU (McNair Program, Clarkson University)
  • Astrophysics REU (Clarkson University)
  • Biological physics REU (Clarkson University)
  • Computational biophysics REU (Lehigh University)
  • Engineering (C&S Companies)
  • Engineering (SP Manufacturing)
  • Experimental particle physics REU (Duke University/CERN)
  • Nuclear physics REU (Duke University)
  • Quantum optics REU (Friedrich-Alexander Universität)
  • Software quality engineering (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics)

By the end of your second year, you'll identify a research project in your area of interest and work on that until you graduate. Clarkson undergrads often publish their research in major journals and participate in regional and national conferences. In fact, Clarkson students have won three Goldwater Awards and two NSF Fellowships in the last six years.

You'll complete your research alongside a faculty member. Our faculty's research interests include:

  • Astrophysics
  • Biological physics
  • Computational physics
  • Nanomaterials
  • Optics
  • Photovoltaic devices
  • Physics education
  • Surface and interface physics

You may also earn the chance to spend a semester at a National Laboratory. In the past, physics majors have worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, CERN and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Learn more about physics research at Clarkson.

With over 200 student-run clubs and organizations to choose from, you can dive even deeper into your academic interests — or just unwind. Join the Physics Club, find a club sport or intramural or participate in community service.

See all clubs and organizations.

If you're majoring in another field but are interested in physics and wish this to be recognized on your transcript, the physics minor program is an excellent option. This 24-credit course of study develops your background in physics considerably beyond the level of first-year physics courses.

A minimum 2.0 average must be maintained in the courses taken for a physics minor, and none can be designated pass/no entry. The minor should be initiated by the beginning of the junior year to allow time to complete the necessary coursework.

All courses are 3 credits unless noted.

Physics Minor Core I

Students are required to complete the following courses:

PH131 Physics I (4 credits) 
PH132 Physics II (4 credits) 
PH231 Fundamentals of Modern Physics 
PH221 Theoretical Mechanics I 
or PH230 Physics III 
PH331 Quantum Physics I

Physics Minor Core II

Students must complete the following:

1 Credit Course

Students must complete one of the following courses:

PH121 Physics Freshman Seminar (1 credit) 
PH232 Modern Physics Laboratory (1 credit) 
PH435 Physics Senior Seminar (1 credit) 
PH470 Directed Study Experimental (1 credit) 
PH474 Directed Study Theoretical (1 credit)
300-400 Level Physics Courses

Students must complete any two 300-400 level courses, such as:

PH371/CM371 Physical Chemistry I
PH372/CM372 Physical Chemistry II


Math and physics go hand in hand. Become even more adept at understanding the formulas and models that help us describe the physical world with a minor in mathematics.

Learn more about the mathematics minor.

Software Engineering

Learn the fundamentals of computer science while getting an introduction to programming. As a physicist, software engineering makes you a double threat: you'll be able to write the code behind some of the physics experiments you design.

Learn more about the software engineering minor.


Chances are, you'll find plenty of opportunities to put your skills to work analyzing data and solving problems with this minor. Statisticians work in government, healthcare, business and many other fields.

Learn more about the statistics minor.

"The Team Design Lab challenged my way of thinking and my ability to take what I was learning in lectures and apply it to something I could use to make predictions. It broadened how I think about problems and has had a positive impact on my other classes."

Mikaela Morris '23, BS in Physics, BS in Mechanical Engineering

Learn More about Mikaela Morris

Career Possibilities

You can go straight from college to a career in business, industry or government. Our graduates qualify for jobs in areas such as:

  • Design
  • Development science
  • Engineering
  • Research
  • Quality control
  • Teaching and academia

Recent Employers

In recent years, graduates of our physics program have worked for companies including:

  • Applied Materials
  • Eastman Kodak
  • Epic
  • General Dynamics
  • General Electric
  • Hewlett-Packard
  • IBM
  • Intel Corp.
  • KM Cheney Concrete
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Pratt & Whitney, a Raytheon Technologies Company (RTX)
  • Texas Instruments
  • U.S. Air Force
  • U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Graduate Schools

Our alumni go on to some of the leading graduate programs in physics in the country, including:

  • Cornell University
  • Stanford University
  • University of Illinois
  • Duke University
  • Boston University
  • University of Rochester
  • Georgia Tech
  • Rice University
  • Carnegie-Mellon University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Contact Us

Physics Department
Phone: 315-268-4365

Talk to us about where a physics degree from Clarkson can take you.

2023 Undergrad University Placement Rate

Take the Next Step

Blend science and math while solving practical problems with a BS in Physics from Clarkson. Contact us today to find out more.