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Major in Physics
Observing nature. Discovering physics.
Through our hands-on learning approach, you’ll put your studies into motion the moment you arrive on campus. You’ll explore the fundamental laws and principles that govern our universe — from atomic theory to quantum thermodynamics.
Leading faculty members will guide your learning across three distinct tracks: comprehensive, applied, or general physics. You’ll merge your classroom knowledge with lab experiences, and collaborate with professors and peers on research — ranging from renewable energy to molecular lattice systems — as early as your first year.
Why Study Physics at Clark?
- Pursue your undergraduate degree in a department that’s been home to some of the most influential physicists in the world, including Arthur Gordon Webster, founder of the American Physical Society; Albert Michelson, the first American Nobel laureate in science; and Robert Goddard, the father of modern rocketry.
- Use state-of-the-art research facilities, including access to a 50-tesla pulsed magnetic field laboratory — one of the highest magnetic fields available at any university in the United States.
- Complete internships in cutting-edge research labs at Clark, or at other research institutions around the country, which prepare you for careers in diverse fields.
- Take advantage of our 3/2 engineering program, which pairs a B.A. from Clark with a B.S. in engineering from Columbia University.
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The Major Path
The physics major, which requires a minimum of 18 courses to complete, can be customized to meet your interests. We offer three tracks to choose from, depending on your career goals: the comprehensive physics track, applied physics track, and general physics track. In addition to core physics courses, you can take specialized courses in pre-professional physics, biological physics, fluid dynamics, information theory, the technology of renewable energy, electronics, and computational physics, and explore related fields such as environmental studies, management, government, law, medicine, and teaching. You can also pursue the major as part of the 3/2 engineering program with Columbia University. If you’re considering a career teaching physics at the high school level, we encourage you to check out the Noyce Scholarship program.
Our physics program is aimed at helping you develop both an understanding of physical phenomena and your problem-solving and analytical-thinking skills. Throughout the physics major (or minor), you will spend a great deal of time thinking deeply about physics and working in the laboratory to discover how physical systems work. Starting with the introductory physics sequence, all our courses prepare you to apply your knowledge of physics and mathematics to study real-world and unsolved problems. Near the end of your junior year, or earlier, you can choose a topic for your capstone project.
Skills you will learn include:
- Practical problem-solving skills
- Critical and creative thinking skills
- Quantitative and qualitative reasoning
- Computational and mathematical methods used to learn and explain physical concepts
Roy S. Andersen ’43 Award
The Roy S. Andersen ’43 Award was established by Roy S. Andersen and friends in order to increase the interest of high school students in physics and in the related sciences, including mathematics; to increase the reputation of the sciences at Clark University among high school students, teachers and guidance counselors; and to increase the public’s understanding of science.
Albert C. Erickson ’30 Academic Award
The Albert C. Erickson ’30 Academic Award was established by the Tupper Foundation in memory of the late Albert C. Erickson (Ph.D., Physics, 1934), to provide an annual award to a senior at Clark, who has done outstanding work in physics and mathematics, and who shows unusual promise in these fields.
You will be able to use research-grade and advanced laboratory equipment, including a scanning tunneling microscope, an atomic force microscope, a SQUID magnetometer, and an X-ray-computed tomography system. We have well-equipped teaching laboratories dedicated to computer simulations, electronics, optics, atomic and nuclear physics, and materials science. You also will have access to the Carlson Science Library. Our electronics and instrument shops are available for use by faculty and students. Learn more.
During your junior year, you might be accepted into the physics honors program. Joining the program means you’ll work closely with a professor to create a thesis on a topic of your choice. Examples of recent honors theses topics are:
- Topographic and Spectroscopic Analysis of Cuprous Oxide Nanocubes
- Chaotic Biophysical Systems
- Building a Vertical Wind Turbine for the Math-Physics Building Nanogrid
- Analysis of Anisotropic Critical Fields in Superconductors
- Phase Relations in Biological Oscillators
- Designing a 2-Axis Solar Tracker in Order to Maximize Efficiency
The LEEP difference
An education merging knowledge, action, and impact
With Liberal Education and Effective Practice, lessons begin in the classroom but never end there. Your learning includes world and workplace experiences that forge your skills and shape your path.
We’ve Got It Covered
Quantum Physics and Relativity
Explore the experimental basis of atomic and nuclear structure leading to the development of wave mechanics, and use modern research instrumentation to investigate contributions by Einstein, Rutherford, and others.
Fluid Mechanics and Applications
Investigate the nature of fluids—liquids and gases—using analytical and numerical techniques, and through a group project that will have you building a table-top demonstration and creating a video presentation.
Computer Simulation Laboratory
Build competency in object-oriented programming while you explore the diverse applications and methods of computer simulation and apply your knowledge to projects of your choice at your own pace.
Information Theory, Inference, and Networks
Investigate the basic concepts of information theory and its applications to statistical inference and network theory.
Technology of Renewable Energy
Explore renewable energy sources, the hidden energy resources of conservation and efficiency, and the technical issues that go with converting from a fossil-fuel economy to one that is more sustainable.
Explore what the Department of Physics has to offer.