The Physics Department coordinates the 3-2 engineering option, in which Bowdoin has an arrangement with Columbia University's School of Engineering and Applied Science and with the California Institute of Technology. Qualified students, usually physics majors, may transfer into the third year of an engineering option after completing three years at Bowdoin. This step requires the recommendation by the physics department chair or the department's 3-2 advisor that the student is well-prepared and is expected to succeed in the engineering program. Caltech accepts only academically outstanding students. The electrical engineering programs at Caltech have been closed to 3-2 students due to their increased enrollments in that division.
At the end of five years, after the completion of two full years at the engineering school, a bachelor of arts degree is awarded by Bowdoin and a bachelor of science degree by the engineering school. Students should be aware that admission to these schools is not automatic, and financial aid is not guaranteed. Bowdoin students who have gone to Columbia and Caltech in the 3-2 program have been very pleased with their programs.
Columbia also has a 4-2 plan, allowing students to complete their senior year at Bowdoin before pursuing a bachelor of science or master's degree. Although this is our only formal 4-2 program, many Bowdoin physics majors, after four years at Bowdoin, go on to pursue graduate programs and earn advanced degrees in engineering fields.
Similarly, students may apply as transfer students, usually during the junior year, to any approved school of engineering in the country and set up their own 3-2 programs. Students negotiate their transfer of credits. In fact, a Bowdoin student who has completed the course requirements may apply to any school that offers a 3-2 program, even if Bowdoin does not have an agreement with that school. There is no guarantee of admittance. Recently a physics major was accepted in the Stanford 3-2 program, for example, where he did very well. Others have transferred to Worcester Polytechnical Institute.
The 3-2 engineering program is managed by the Physics Department. Students interested in engineering programs should start planning early and should consult regularly with the 3-2 advisor in the physics department. All students must take Physics 103, 104, 223, 229, and 300 or Mathematics 224; Chemistry 109; Mathematics 161, 171, and 181; and Computer Science 101. This adds up to a very vigorous grounding in the sciences, but students also are expected to have at least ten semester courses outside of mathematics and science, one of which should be in economics. The 3-2 advisor in the Physics Department is Professor Dale Syphers.