Physics (2020 - 2022)
The B.A. and B.S. programs for the major provide good preparation for graduate school and develop a range of technical skills relating to building quantitative theoretical models and making precise measurements of physical phenomena. The programs are also designed to satisfy curiosity about the fundamental laws that govern every aspect of the world, from the interactions of subatomic particles to the origin and behavior of the entire universe. They are simultaneously very deep and very broad. Course work includes both theoretical subjects and experimental activity in laboratories. The programs are designed to give students flexibility in years three and four to pursue interdisciplinary activities, spend time abroad, or delve into greater depth in a subject or into original research.
The department is a collegial place where faculty and students get to know one another well. There are regular formal and informal seminars, as well as a thriving Society of Physics Students, and students and faculty often collaborate on original research problems. Many majors participate in original research and coauthor scientific publications. Our students are extremely well prepared for a wide range of activities—not just in scientific research, but also in professional and engineering pursuits, or any area where abstract thinking and quantitative modeling of real systems are necessary and rewarded.
For non-majors, the department offers non-technical courses that introduce some of the concepts and events that are most important to understanding physics and its impact. For science majors outside of physics, there are technical courses on the fundamental laws that underpin the other sciences. The department also provides courses designed to meet the preprofessional goals of prehealth students and students in engineering disciplines. In addition, students who are interested in obtaining significant exposure to the ideas of physics without committing to the major or without obtaining a comprehensive mathematical background can minor in physics or astronomy.
Major in Physics, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
This major program consists of the following eighteen courses (53 to 55 points) completed with a grade of C or better:
- Calculus I (MATH-UA 121)
- Calculus II (MATH-UA 122)
- Physics I (PHYS-UA 91) and Introductory Experimental Physics I (PHYS-UA 71) (5 points together)
- Physics II (PHYS-UA 93) and Introductory Experimental Physics II (PHYS-UA 72) (5 points together)
- Calculus III (MATH-UA 123)
- Physics III (PHYS-UA 95) and Intermediate Experimental Physics I (PHYS-UA 73) (5 points together)
- Dynamics (PHYS-UA 120)
- Intermediate Experimental Physics II (PHYS-UA 74)
- Mathematical Physics (PHYS-UA 106)
Years 3 and 4:
- Advanced Experimental Physics (PHYS-UA 112)
- Quantum Mechanics I (PHYS-UA 123)
- Electricity and Magnetism I (PHYS-UA 131)
- Thermal and Statistical Physics (PHYS-UA 140)
- Two advanced physics electives (3 or 4 points each)
Students planning to do graduate work in physics or related areas are advised to take the following courses in year 3 or 4: Quantum Mechanics II (PHYS-UA 124) and Computational Physics (PHYS-UA 210).
Major in Physics, Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
This optional major program provides breadth in the sciences in addition to physics. The B.S. degree in physics will be granted to students completing the following:
- The required courses for the B.A. major (see above), but with only one advanced physics elective instead of two
- Computational Physics (PHYS-UA 210)
- Two courses in chemistry at or above the level of General Chemistry I, II (CHEM-UA 125, 126), or the one-semester course Accelerated General Chemistry (CHEM-UA 129)
- One course in biology at or above the level of Principles of Biology I (BIOL-UA 11), or in chemistry above the level of General Chemistry II and Laboratory (CHEM-UA 126)
Acceptable Advanced Electives in Physics for the B.A. and B.S. Majors
These courses are offered in either the fall or spring term (not both), and some are not offered every year. Please see course descriptions in this Bulletin for prerequisites and frequency of offering. Additional electives may be available; majors should contact the Department of Physics for information.
- Electronics for Scientists (PHYS-UA 110)
- Advanced Mathematical Physics (PHYS-UA 115)
- Quantum Mechanics II (PHYS-UA 124)
- Electricity and Magnetism II (PHYS-UA 132)
- Optics (PHYS-UA 133)
- Condensed Matter Physics (PHYS-UA 135)
- Readings in Particle Physics (PHYS-UA 136)
- Quantum Information and Computing (PHS-UA 138)
- Astrophysics (PHYS-UA 150)
- Physics of Biology (PHYS-UA 160)
- General Relativity (PHYS-UA 170)
- Introduction to Fluid Dynamics (PHYS-UA 180)
- Philosophy of Physics (PHYS-UA 190)
- Computational Physics (PHYS-UA 210)
- Special Topics in Physics (PHYS-UA 800)
Notes on the Major
Advanced Placement (AP) credit: In the summer before their freshman year, students considering a major in physics may consult with the department about possibly counting credit for AP Physics C: Mechanics and/or AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism toward the major and placing out of Physics I (PHYS-UA 91) and/or Physics II (PHYS-UA 93), respectively. Students are usually advised, however, to take Physics I and II at NYU as a foundation for doing well in the major curriculum. If majors are granted permission to place out of PHYS-UA 91 and 93, they must still complete the laboratory classes that are taken with those lectures (Introductory Experimental Physics I and II, PHYS-UA 71 and 72). They are also required to take (with departmental advisement) one or two additional advanced PHYS-UA electives (beyond the basic major requirement of two advanced electives in this department). Finally, physics majors who are prehealth must be sure to present a year of physics with labs to meet admissions requirements of health professional schools; they cannot rely on their Physics AP C exams to meet the requirements of these schools. No other AP credit in physics (or from similar international exams) can be applied to the requirements of the physics major.
Although Physics I and Physics II have a number of topics that are nominally included in the AP Physics C curriculum, they are all treated in greater depth and with more rigor in our courses, which use differential and integral calculus. In addition, Physics I and Physics II cover several topics that are not included in a high school AP course. These include approximately two weeks on Einstein’s theory of special relativity in Physics I, and AC circuits, phasors, electromagnetic radiation, Maxwell’s equations, and Poynting’s theorem in Physics II. Students with credit for either or both of the AP Physics C exams will not find Physics I and II to be redundant.
Mathematics requirement: Potential physics majors should begin their calculus sequence in the fall semester of their freshman year. Students are advised to take advanced mathematics courses—such as Linear Algebra (MATH-UA 140)—as they proceed in the major.
Double major with physics: The major offers flexibility to complete the requirements for a second major in the College. Students should consult the director of undergraduate studies in their freshman year to outline a program that is best tailored to their needs.
Program in Physics and Engineering
The College of Arts and Science offers a joint B.S./B.S. program with the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. The program leads to the B.S. degree in physics from CAS and the B.S. degree in one of the following areas from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering: civil engineering; computer engineering; electrical engineering; or mechanical engineering. Further information is available from the College Advising Center, 726 Broadway, 7th Floor; 212-998-8130.
Policy on School of Engineering courses: This option is open only to students with declared majors in the Department of Physics. They may seek prior permission of the director of undergraduate studies to take advanced electives in the School of Engineering and apply them to the major. This is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. These courses count against each student’s 16-point allowance in the other divisions of NYU and cannot be applied to the 64 point UA residency requirement.
Minor in Physics
Consists of four courses from the following list, or three of the following and one of the courses listed under the minor in astronomy (all completed with a grade of C or better):
- General Physics I (PHYS-UA 11)
- General Physics II (PHYS-UA 12)
- Introduction to Cosmology (PHYS-UA 15)
- 20th-Century Concepts of Space, Time, and Matter (PHYS-UA 20)
- Any course at or above Physics I (PHYS-UA 91), except for pure laboratory courses
Minor in Astronomy
Provides a comprehensive introduction to astronomy, including modern concepts, historical ideas, and observational experience. Consists of four courses. The Universe: Its Nature and History (PHYS-UA 7) is required, as are the following three courses (or two of the following courses and one of the courses listed under the minor in physics), all completed with a grade of C or better:
- Observational Astronomy (PHYS-UA 13)
- Introduction to Cosmology (PHYS-UA 15)
- Astrophysics (PHYS-UA 150)
Students who have completed at least 64 points of graded work in the College may be awarded degrees with departmental honors in physics if they complete all requirements of the major as well as the designated honors requirements, and also maintain the requisite grade point average of 3.65 both in the major and overall.
The honors program must minimally be a two-term (for credit) research experience that includes a capstone research project. The capstone project, which typically culminates in a thesis, should reflect sustained original research over two semesters. A committee of three faculty members of the Department of Physics is created for each honors student. The honors thesis must be approved by the committee, who will judge if the research is of sufficient quality. Publication in a recognized research journal of an article reporting research done primarily by the student is prima facie evidence that the research is deserving of honors. Because of inevitable delay in publication, an article submitted for publication may not be published in the time available, and the thesis committee may express its opinion that the thesis is of publishable quality.
All students completing departmental honors must make public presentations of their work, which may be at the CAS Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) held at the end of the academic year, or in a departmental forum (e.g., oral defenses or presentations), or at a recognized physics conference.