# Physics Learning Outcomes

The Learning Outcomes for the Physics program are based on a spiral curriculum in which topics are repeatedly presented at increasingly deeper levels of rigor and complexity. These learning outcomes are embedded in the courses, assessments, and extracurricular opportunities throughout the Physics program. To remain in good standing in the Physics program, students are expected to meet three benchmarks over the course of their program: (1) maintaining a 2.0 GPA or higher in their courses; (2) successfully demonstrating the ability to perform the rigorous data analysis in support of sophisticated laboratory experiments; and (3) successfully completing the Junior and Senior Physics seminars, in which they perform independent research and present their results at the Academic Symposium.

Physics majors are expected to acquire competence in mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, mathematical physics, and introductory quantum theory. Through these fields, students are to develop understanding and skills in physical reasoning, data analysis and interpretation, and problem solving at various levels and in various contexts. To achieve these goals, graduates of the program:

- Communicate effectively broader physical reasoning approaches and more specific problem solving steps.
- Participate in laboratory based inquiry at beginner and advanced levels.
- Undertake an exploration of at least one advanced topic of their own choosing. This will require them to carefully read about, analyze, and synthesize physical knowledge and draw on ideas and make connections with previous coursework.

**Learning Outcomes **

**Category 1: Introductory Physics Courses **– During the first two years of the Physics program, students take introductory courses that present the foundations of classical and quantum physics as well as mathematical physics.

**Topic 1: College Physics I & II **– The foundations of classical physics are presented to first-year physics students, which introduce Newtonian mechanics, thermodynamics, basic electromagnetic theory and electrical circuits, and wave & ray optics. These two courses, which extensively make use of differential and integral calculus, are each accompanied by three-hour experimental laboratory exercises, during which students learn techniques of data analysis.

**Topic 2: Modern Physics **– During the fall semester of the second year, students take an introductory course in relativistic and quantum physics, focusing on the developments of modern physics during the first half of the 20th century.

**Topic 3: Mathematical Physics **– In preparation for the upper-division physics courses, students take a course on mathematical physics during the spring semester of their second year, for the purpose of (1) solidifying their foundations in vector calculus; (2) presenting the foundations of linear algebra and its applications in finite and infinite dimensional spaces; and (3) introducing the methods of complex analysis.

**Category 2: Advanced Physics Courses **– During the last two years of the Physics program, students take a series of advanced courses in classical and quantum physics that strengthen the foundations acquired in the introductory physics courses. In order to maximize the number of students taking these courses, physics juniors and seniors are combined into a single class.

**Topic 4: Classical Physics **– The classical topics presented in the introductory physics courses are now presented into separate courses in classical mechanics, advanced electromagnetic theory, classical statistical mechanics and thermal physics. These advanced courses require solid foundations in applied mathematics and allow students to deepen and broaden their physics understanding.

**Topic 5: Quantum Physics **– The topics presented in modern physics are now presented into a sophisticated treatment of the foundations of quantum mechanics, as well its applications in quantum statistical mechanics.

**Category 3: Elective and Independent Research **– In this third category of physics courses, students are expected to demonstrate intellectual independence and the ability to synthesize physical knowledge.

**Topic 6: Experimental Physics **– Students perform sophisticated laboratory experiments (either in classical or quantum physics) under teacher supervision and carry out the required data analysis, generalizing the analytical skills they have acquired during their introductory physics courses.

**Topic 7: Elective Physics **– Students choose one course among a list of physics elective courses (computational physics, astrophysics, or biophysics), which extends their physics knowledge in directions that satisfy their individual curiosity.

**Topic 8: Junior & Senior Physics Seminars **– In these two-credit physics seminars (taken during the fall and spring semesters of each respective year), students are free to choose a research topic that fulfills their individual interests in physics. Under the supervision of their physics advisor, the students are expected to demonstrate intellectual independence in investigating a specific research problem, which may involve theoretical, computational, and/or experimental analysis. At the end of each seminar, students are expected to present the results of their independent research at the Academic Symposium, which is held on campus at the end of the spring semester. The Junior Physics seminar can sometimes allow a student to be successful in obtaining a paid summer research internship at a research university or a national laboratory, funded either by the National Science Foundation or the US Department of Energy.