Planning Your Physics or Biological Physics Major

Whether you are starting your Physics or Biological Physics major as a Freshman or Sophomore, it is always a good idea to plan ahead. Many of our physics courses have prerequisites, so it helps to sit down and figure out what courses you want to (or are required to) take and in what order you will need to take them. Don’t worry — your advisor will help you and nothing will be set in stone, but it is always good to have a plan – even if it changes later.

The documents on this page will help you get started with your planning, and each semester you will review your plan with your advisor.

Requirements for the Physics and Biological Physics Majors

Here are some checklists with all of the requirements for the B.S. and the A.B.

When are the courses offered?

If you are going to plan out your schedule, it helps to know when various physics courses are typically offered and what the co- and pre-requisites are. The table linked below has this info. We cannot promise everything will stay the same in the future, but most of it should.

Physics Department Course Listing

4-year Plans

Now that you know what you have to take and when the courses are typically offered, you can start making a plan. You will review this plan each semester with your advisor. Although your advisor will probably focus on your math and science classes, you can also include your Gen. Ed. requirements in your plan. If you want to start from scratch, here is a blank planning sheet:

Physics Major planning sheet

Most physics and biological physics majors take the same courses for the first two years, so we have created a few pre-filled plans. We have only included the minimum requirements for the major, but most of our students take more physics (and other science) courses, so feel free to add more physics courses! If one of these plans is close, but not exactly right, just make changes. If you want it to look “clean”, you can always copy the courses onto a blank one later.

General Advice

  • Complete your calculus sequence (1350, 1360, 2370) as early as possible. If you’re looking for a math class beyond these, Linear Algebra (MATH-2250) is often a good choice.
  • If you do not have programming experience, we strongly encourage our first year majors to take COSC-1020 (Computer Science I), if you might want to double major or minor in COSC. If you do not, we recommend COSC-1010 (Introduction to Computer Science: Python). Either course will be very useful for your physics labs. Programming is a valuable skill for physics and it will help you get a better job whether you stay in physics or not.
  • Biological physics majors interested in a deeper dive into biology or chemistry are encouraged to explore a minor in either discipline. For example, students who are curious about how the mechanics that underlie biological systems intersect with the chemical processes that underlie the molecules of life might consider a minor in chemistry. Alternatively, students who are interested in how biological physics underpins physiology, genetics and/or ecology could consider a biology minor.
  • You may enroll in Independent Research (PHYS-4998) up to 4 times starting junior year. You will need at least 2 semesters to be considered for Honors in Physics.
  • Upper-level electives are often cross-listed with graduate classes. Undergrads should enroll in the 3XXX or 4XXX listing.
  • Students of all years can get involved in research during the school-year as well as over the summers. This is especially important for those intending to go on to grad school or med school, but it’s a good thing for everyone since it’s fun and you get to know the faculty a lot better.