Physics and Astronomy Overview

Mark O. Battle, Department Chair

Emily C. Briley, Department Coordinator

Professors: Thomas Baumgarte, Madeleine E. Msall, Stephen G. Naculich, Dale A. Syphers

Associate Professor: Mark O. Battle

Senior Lecturer: Karen Topp

Laboratory Instructors: Kenneth Dennison, Gary L. Miers, Elise Weaver

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. For those considering a program in engineering, consult pages 36–37. A major with an interest in an interdisciplinary area such as geophysics, biophysics, or oceanography should 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. Courses that count toward the major or minor must be taken for regular letter grades (not Credit/D/Fail).

Requirements for the Major in Physics

A student majoring in physics is expected to complete at least Mathematics 1600 {161}, 1700 {171}, Physics 1130 {103}, 1140 {104}, 2130 {223}, 2140 {224}, 2150 {229}, one advanced methods course (Physics 3000 {300}, 3010 {301}, or 3020 {302}), and two additional approved courses higher than 1140 {104} (one of which may be Mathematics 1800 {181} or higher, or Computer Science 1101 {101}). At least five physics courses must be taken at Bowdoin.

For honors work, a student is expected to complete Mathematics 1800 {181}, and Physics 1130 {103}, 1140 {104}, 2130 {223}, 2140 {224}, 2150 {229}, 3000 {300}, 4050 {451}, and four additional physics courses, three of which must be at the advanced level (numbered 3000–3999 {300–399}).

Requirements for the Minor in Physics

The minor consists of at least four physics courses (completed at Bowdoin) numbered 1130 {103} or higher, one of which must be Physics 1140 {104}.

Interdisciplinary Majors

The department participates in an interdisciplinary program in chemical physics.  

The department does not participate in a formal interdisciplinary program with the Department of Earth and Oceanographic Science. However, the departments of Physics and Earth and Oceanographic Science have identified major/minor pathways for students majoring in physics with an interest in earth and oceanographic science (physics major/earth and oceanographic science minor) and students majoring in earth and oceanographic science with an interest in physics (earth and oceanographic science major/physics minor).

Students pursuing the physics major/earth and oceanographic science minor with interests in the solid earth discipline would be best served by selecting Earth and Oceanographic Science 1105 {101}, 2005 {200} (same as Environmental Studies 2221 {200}), and two of the following earth and oceanographic science courses: 2125 {241}, 2145 {242}, 2165 {262}, 3115 {315}.

Those with interests in the surface earth discipline should select Earth and Oceanographic Science 1305 {104} (same as Environmental Studies 1104 {104}), 2005 {200} (same as Environmental Studies 2221 {200}), and two from 2315 {277} (same as Environmental Studies 2277 {277}), 2325 {220}, 2345 {270} (same as Environmental Studies 2270 {270}), and 2355 {272}.

Those with interests in the oceanography discipline should choose Earth and Oceanographic Science 1505 {102}, 2005 {200} (same as Environmental Studies 2221 {200}), and two from 2525 {252}, 2530 {287}, 2540, 2585 {282} (same as Environmental Studies 2282 {282}), 2635 {267} (same as Environmental Studies 2267 {267}), and 3515 {351}.


Students must earn a grade of C- or above in any prerequisite physics course.