Physics Department Learning Goals

Georgetown University Department of Physics: Programmatic Learning Goals

The programmatic learning goals for the majors and minors in our department include both general and specific objectives.

1. Overall knowledge and capabilities

  • Knowledge of and ability to use various problem solving strategies
  • Ability to justify and explain specific approaches to solving problems
  • Ability to synthesize knowledge from different areas of physics
  • Ability to work in teams
  • Development of written and oral communication skills
  • Application of knowledge to independent research projects.
  • Tools and encouragement to become life-long learners
  • Understanding of when numerical calculations are indicated and the ability to carry them out.

2. Specific physics knowledge
Develop a solid understanding of physics, both conceptual understanding and the ability to solve problems in the following areas.

  • Introductory mechanics: fundamental principles governing momentum, energy, and angular momentum, with applications to dynamics of systems interacting via gravitational, electric, and contact forces; connections between atomic nature of matter and mechanics of macroscopic systems.
  • Electricity and magnetism: conceptual understanding of electric and magnetic fields, interaction of charges and fields, Maxwell’s equations, electromagnetic radiation, simple electronic circuits.
  • Statistical physics: basic concepts of energy, entropy, temperature and the heat capacity of solids.
  • Modern physics: special relativity, inertial reference frames, time dilation, length contraction, paradoxes, principle of equivalence; basic quantum mechanics, wave-particle duality, Schroedinger’s equation, the hydrogen atom.
  • Mathematical methods: develop understanding of and ability to solve problems in ordinary and partial differential equations, complex variables, linear algebra, vector algebra and calculus, partial differentiation, multiple integrals, Fourier series, integral transforms, calculus of variations, and probability.
  • Experimental physics: error analysis, curve fitting, data analysis, simple electronic circuits, implementation of fundamental experiments such as optical spectroscopy, electron diffraction and interferometry; learn basic experimental methods such as lock-in amplification, analog to digital conversion, image capture, etc.

3. Advanced physics knowledge
In addition, our goal is to give students the opportunities to explore in depth two or more specialty areas at a level sufficient to prepare them for graduate coursework. These areas include biophysics, optics, microelectronics, advanced classical mechanics, advanced statistical mechanics, computational physics, particle physics, cosmology, nanoscience and soft matter physics.

4. Specific goals by degree:
B.S. students: Acquire sufficient knowledge and skills for students to be able to gain admission to and succeed in good quality physics graduate programs (top 100 physics grad schools).
A.B students: Acquire sufficient knowledge and skills for students to be able to gain admission to and succeed in graduate programs in other fields (e.g. medical school) or in jobs in industry and national labs.
Minors: Acquire a basic knowledge of physics sufficient to successfully apply to careers in science related areas, e.g. high tech business, secondary education, etc.