Physics Department

Q: What courses should be taken during the first year?
Physics majors and engineering students need to get started with their physics courses right away. The course sequence in these fields of study is like a ladder, with the completion of each level of study required before you move on the next rung. Taking introductory physics courses starting in the first semester/first year is strongly recommended. However it is possible to finish the physics major starting in the sophomore year as well. Delay in beginning the Introductory Physics course can create problems later on.
Enroll in Physics 120 in the fall of your first year, and schedule Physics 121 for the spring, if you are taking the calculus sequence this year. Otherwise, you can take this introductory sequence in your sophomore year and still complete the essential physics major courses by the end of your senior year. Click here to check Physics course availability and here to check Mathematics course availability.
Important note: 3/2 Engineering students only have three years to complete a major at Clark before transferring to an Engineering school after their junior year. They must take Introductory Physics and calculus their first semester.
We suggest that you begin taking your required Perspectives and other PLS courses right away. This will provide you with the maximum flexibility in your junior and senior years, when you may wish to pursue more specialized or individualized courses in physics and related fields.
Q: What courses should first year students steer clear of?
Students should normally take Introductory Physics either 110,111 or 120,121 before taking any 200 level courses. Please see the instructor if you feel that you have the background to take an upper level course without talking Introductory Physics.
Q: If key introductory courses are filled, are there recommended alternatives?
We will always make room in our introductory courses. If 120 fills up there is always the option to take 110.
Q: If I am interested in the 3/2 Engineering Program, whom should I talk to?
You should contact Professor Charles Agosta, who is the advisor for that program. He should be contacted prior to registering for your first semester.
Q: What is a broad introductory physics sequence?
The Department offers two introductory physics sequences: Physics 110-111 is a general introduction covering the major areas of physics in sufficient depth for the needs of pre-medical students (and those planning careers in other health professions), biology majors, and others who are interested in the subject but do not expect to use physical principles in a rigorously quantitative fashion in later studies or in their careers. The mathematics used in the sequence includes algebra and trigonometry.
Physics 120-121 covers much the same material, but uses the full power of the calculus to develop a deeper quantitative sense of the interplay of theory and experiment in the physicist’s understanding of nature. Calculus is a co-requisite, and may be taken at the same time as Physics 120-121. This sequence is designed for potential physics majors, chemistry majors, mathematics majors, and 3/2 engineering program candidates, and is also the right course for others who have the math background and the desire to get the most thorough treatment of physics as a part of their university education.
Because physics is based in the real world, both of these introductory sequences have laboratory sections as essential elements.
Q: What would be a physics course or course in related areas that you recommend non-physics-majors to take for interest and/or Science Perspective?
The Physics Department offers several courses for Science Perspective credit, including both of the introductory sequences described above. Other available courses offering SP credit are Astronomy 001 and 002, stand-alone courses that both offer an introduction to the main ideas of astronomy as they have come to us from researchers over the centuries and from current-day observations. Astronomy 001 deals a bit more with the universe at all scales, including cosmological questions and the distribution of galaxies throughout the universe; Astronomy 002 deals in somewhat more detail with our closer neighbors, the other planets of our solar system. Both course provides a well-rounded introduction to the most important aspects of astronomy, and each course has an essential observational component.
The Department offers Discovering Physics, Physics 020, and a course in The Nature of Light, Physics 030, for non-physics-majors who would like to gain some understanding of a few interesting areas of physics in depth, with especial attention to how we have come to know about them. Discovering Physics is entirely lab based, building up the students’ understanding from their own hands-on experiments. The Nature of Light takes a historical-conceptual approach, looking at how the ideas developed through the work of physicists over the years, and also provides direct experience with the phenomena under discussion.
In collaboration with the Environmental Sciences program, we also offer Energy and the Environment, Physics 140, in alternate years. This course, as with our other courses open to non-majors, assumes no background of university-level physics, but aims at a more-detailed understanding of the physical underpinnings of one of the most crucial elements of our relationship with our environment, namely the resources, exploitation, values, and side-effects of the use of energy in our technological society.
Several of our advanced courses also carry SP credit, including Oscillations, Waves, and Optics, Physics 130, Quantum Physics Laboratory, Physics 131, and Computer Simulation Laboratory, Physics 127. These courses require a good basic physics background and permission of the instructor is recommended.
The Physics Department offers a course in electronics that is appropriate for students majoring in other sciences, and a variety of advanced physics courses that may be of interest to individual students. The members of the Department would welcome students who wish to discuss any of our courses to see whether they might be suitable for their individual needs and interests.
Q: What if my assigned advisor is in another department?
Professor Christopher Landee is the undergraduate physics major advisor. Feel free to contact him or any other member of the Physics Department for details on our program if your assigned advisor is in another department – we will work with you and your advisor to help you set up a program that will be best for you. Once you declare your major as physics, our physics major advisor will work directly with you to help you tailor our program to your own particular interests.
Q: Where should students or faculty go for more information?
Students and faculty can contact Charles Agosta, Department Chair or Sujata Davis for any other questions.