Requirements

Physics Major

The major requires nine courses.

Required Courses
Mathematics through 1700, or placement above 17001
PHYS 1130Introductory Physics I (or placement above 1130)1
PHYS 1140Introductory Physics II1
PHYS 2130Electric Fields and Circuits1
PHYS 2140Quantum Physics and Relativity1
PHYS 2150Statistical Physics1
Select one of the following advanced methods courses:1
PHYS 3000
Methods of Theoretical Physics
PHYS 3010
Methods of Experimental Physics
PHYS 3020
Methods of Computational Physics
Select two additional approved courses higher than 1140. a2

In addition to the requirements listed above, students pursuing honors are expected to take MATH 1800 Multivariate Calculus, PHYS 3000 Methods of Theoretical Physics, and PHYS 4050 Physics Honor Project.  At least three courses taken for the major with honors must be at the advanced level, 3000–3999.

Physics Minor

The minor consists of at least four physics courses (completed at Bowdoin) numbered 1130 or higher, one of which must be PHYS 1140 Introductory Physics II.

Interdisciplinary Majors

The department participates in interdisciplinary programs in chemical physics and physics and education. See the Interdisciplinary Majors.

Additional Information and Department Policies

  • Students must earn a grade of C- or above in any prerequisite physics course. Up to two courses with a grade of D are allowed to be counted toward the major if they are not prerequisites.
  • Majors must complete at least five physics courses at Bowdoin.
  • Courses that count toward the major or minor must be taken for regular letter grades (not Credit/D/Fail).
  • Students interested in applying coursework taken at another college or university to the major or minor should consult the department.
  • Independent studies, including honors projects, may count toward the major or minor.
  • Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate (AP/IB):
    • Students who receive a minimum score of four on the Physics 1 AP exam are exempt from taking PHYS 1130 Introductory Physics I, and do not need to take an additional course to replace it. No AP credit is awarded for the Physics 2 AP exam.
    • Students who receive a minimum score of four on the Physics C: Mechanics AP exam or a minimum score of six on the Physics without Optics IB exam are eligible to receive one credit toward the major, are exempt from taking PHYS 1130 Introductory Physics I, and are placed in PHYS 1140 Introductory Physics II. To earn the credit, a minimum grade of C- (not taken Credit/D/Fail) must be received in PHYS 1140 Introductory Physics II by the end of their junior year or no credit is awarded. Students who receive a minimum score of six on the Physics with Optics IB exam are eligible to receive one credit toward the major and have the option of being placed in either PHYS 1140 Introductory Physics II or PHYS 2130 Electric Fields and Circuits. To receive the credit, the student must earn a minimum grade of C- (not taken Credit/D/Fail) in the course in which they choose to be placed, and it must be completed by the end of their junior year.
    • Minors meeting either of the criteria above are exempt from taking PHYS 1130 Introductory Physics I, but must take at least four Bowdoin physics courses.
    • No credit is awarded for the Physics 2 or Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism AP exams.
    • In order to receive credit for AP/IB work, students must have their scores officially reported to the Office of the Registrar by the end of their sophomore year at Bowdoin.
  • 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 considering a program in engineering should consult the Special Areas of Study.
  • 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. Students who know they want to do this should consider the physics and education interdisciplinary major.
  • For a career in industrial management, some courses in economics and government should be included.

Interdisciplinary Majors

The Department of Physics and Astronomy participates in an interdisciplinary major, Chemical Physics, with the Department of Chemistry as well as an interdisciplinary major, Physics and Education, with the Department of Education. See the Interdisciplinary Majors section for more information. In addition, students are able to declare a coordinate major between Physics and either Education or Environmental Studies as well. The department does not explicitly 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 interested in majoring in physics with an earth and oceanographic science application (physics major/earth and oceanographic science minor) and students interested in majoring in earth and oceanographic science with a physics application (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:

EOS 1105Investigating Earth1
EOS 2005/ENVS 2221Biogeochemistry: An Analysis of Global Change1
Select two of the following:2
EOS 2125
Field Studies in Structural Geology
EOS 2145
The Plate Tectonics Revolution
EOS 2155
Geomechanics and Numerical Modeling
EOS 2165
Mountains to Trenches: Petrology and Process
EOS 3115
Research in Mineral Science

 Those with interests in the surface earth discipline should select:

EOS 1305/ENVS 1104Environmental Geology and Hydrology1
EOS 2005/ENVS 2221Biogeochemistry: An Analysis of Global Change1
EOS 2325Environmental Chemistry1
EOS 2345/ENVS 2270Geomorphology: Form and Process at the Earth's Surface1

 Those with interests in the oceanography discipline should choose:

EOS 1505Oceanography1
EOS 2005/ENVS 2221Biogeochemistry: An Analysis of Global Change1
Select two of the following:
EOS 2525
Marine Biogeochemistry
EOS 2530
Poles Apart: Exploration of Earth’s High Latitudes
EOS 2540
Equatorial Oceanography
EOS 2550
Satellite Remote Sensing of the Ocean
EOS 2585/ENVS 2282
Ocean and Climate
EOS 3515
Research in Oceanography: Topics in Paleoceanography

Physics and 3-2 Engineering

Students planning to pursue one of the 3-2 engineering options and graduating with a physics degree must take:

PHYS 1140Introductory Physics II1
PHYS 2130Electric Fields and Circuits1
PHYS 2150Statistical Physics1
PHYS 3000Methods of Theoretical Physics1
or MATH 2208 Ordinary Differential Equations
CHEM 1102Introductory Chemistry II1
or CHEM 1109 General Chemistry
MATH 1800 or higher
CSCI 1101Introduction to Computer Science1

Other courses are expected by the partnering engineering institution and students should contact the advisor in Bowdoin's Department of Physics and Astronomy for more information.


This is an excerpt from the official Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook. View the Catalogue