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Physics and Astronomy

Department Requirements

The Physics Major

The major program depends to some extent on the student's goals, which should be discussed with the department. Those who intend to do graduate work in physics or an allied field should plan to do an honors project. Students interested in engineering should investigate the Engineering Programs available through Bowdoin. A major student with an interest in an interdisciplinary area such as geophysics, biophysics, or oceanography will choose appropriate courses in related departments. Secondary school teaching requires a broad base in science courses, as well as the necessary courses for teacher certification. For a career in industrial management, some courses in economics and government should be included.

2012 Handbook for Physics Majors (PDF)PDF

Requirements for the Major in Physics

A student majoring in physics is expected to complete Mathematics 161, 171, Physics 103, 104, 223, 229, one 300-level methods course (Physics 300, 301, or 302), and three additional approved courses above 104 (one of which may be Mathematics 181 or above). At least five physics courses must be taken at Bowdoin.

For honors work, a student is expected to complete Mathematics 181, and Physics 103, 104, 223, 229, 300, 310, 451, and four additional courses, two of which must be at the 300 level, and one of which may be in mathematics above Mathematics 181.

Requirements for the Minor in Physics

The minor consists of at least four Bowdoin physics courses numbered 103 or higher, one of which is Physics 104.

Interdisciplinary Majors

The department participates in interdisciplinary programs in chemical physics and earth and oceanographic science and physics. See the Interdisciplinary Majors Section of the College Catalogue.

Transfer of Credit for Physics Courses

Students planning on taking introductory physics courses elsewhere need to obtain approval for transfer of credit prior to taking the course.  If the student has already enrolled in, or completed, a course elsewhere, College policy states the student must petition the Recording Committee in order to have credit transferred.  In order to transfer credit for physics courses, the course needs to be calculus-based and must have a significant lab component.   For more details, please contact the Physics Department Chair.

Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Credit Information

Individual academic departments at Bowdoin vary widely in how they award credit for students who have taken Advanced Placement (AP)/International Baccalaureate (IB) exams. For full details, please consult the college catalogue.

In general, all AP and IB exam scores must be submitted to Bowdoin before the end of the sophomore year for regularly admitted students or by the end of the first semester for transfer students.  AP/IB credit will not meet a distribution or division requirement, even if the Bowdoin course equivalent does.

In Physics, AP credit will be granted if students earn a score of 4 or above on the “Physics C: Mechanics” exam and successfully complete PHYS104.