Physics Major, B.A.

Department of Physics and Astronomy

http://physics.unc.edu

Phillips Hall, CB# 3255

(919) 962-2078

Christian Iliadis, Chair

Jhon T. Cimmino, Academic Affairs Coordinator, Physics and Astronomy

jhonc@email.unc.edu

Frank Tsui, Director of Undergraduate Studies

ftsui@physics.unc.edu

Lu-Chang Qin, Physics Advisor (students with last names beginning with A–D)

lcqin@email.unc.edu

Dan Reichart, Physics Advisor (students with last names beginning with E–K)

reichart@email.unc.edu

Jennifer Weinberg-Wolf, Physics Advisor (students with last names beginning with L–R)

jweinber@physics.unc.edu

Reyco Henning, Physics Advisor (students with last names beginning with S–Z)

rhenning@unc.edu

The goal of physics and astronomy is a unified description of the properties of matter and energy. The study of matter and energy encompasses a range of phenomena, from the subnuclear to the cosmological. Physics seeks to understand the way the universe “works,” from the very small scale (quarks and neutrinos) to the human scale (materials encountered in daily life) to the very large (the structure of the cosmos). Different approaches and technologies are used in these different regimes.

Department Programs

Majors

Minors

Graduate Programs

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the physics program, students should be able to:  

  • Demonstrate knowledge of major concepts, theoretical reasoning, and empirical findings in physics and/or astronomy — Knowledge Base in Physics
  • Apply knowledge of physics and mathematics to solve problems — Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Effectively conduct research under guidance of faculty member — Research and the Advancement of Physics and Astronomy
  • Gain entry to top graduate programs, employment as physicists in industry, teaching positions in high school physics and astronomy, or apply their skills in other rewarding careers — Preparation for Future Career

Requirements 

In addition to the program requirements listed below, students must

  • attain a final cumulative GPA of at least 2.0
  • complete a minimum of 45 academic credit hours earned from UNC–Chapel Hill courses
  • take at least half of their major course requirements (courses and credit hours) at UNC–Chapel Hill
  • earn a minimum of 18 hours of C or better in the major core requirements (some majors require 21 hours).

For more information, please consult the degree requirements section of the catalog.

Physics Major, B.A. – Standard Option

Core Requirements
PHYS 118Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity4
PHYS 119Introductory Calculus-based Electromagnetism and Quanta4
PHYS 201Basic Mechanics 13
or PHYS 401 Mechanics I
PHYS 211Intermediate Electromagnetism 23
or PHYS 311 Electromagnetism I
PHYS 281LExperimental Techniques in Physics2
PHYS 331Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics4
Nine additional credits chosen from ASTR (numbered above 300) and PHYS (numbered above 200)9
Additional Requirements
CHEM 101
101L
General Descriptive Chemistry I
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory I
4
CHEM 102
102L
General Descriptive Chemistry II
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory II H
4
MATH 231Calculus of Functions of One Variable I4
MATH 232Calculus of Functions of One Variable II4
MATH 233Calculus of Functions of Several Variables H4
MATH 383First Course in Differential Equations H3
Total Hours52
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

1

Spring course

2

Fall course

Astronomy (ASTR) and Physics (PHYS) course descriptions.

Physics Major, B.A. – Astronomy Option

Core Requirements
PHYS 118Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity4
PHYS 119Introductory Calculus-based Electromagnetism and Quanta4
PHYS 201Basic Mechanics 13
or PHYS 401 Mechanics I
PHYS 211Intermediate Electromagnetism 23
or PHYS 311 Electromagnetism I
PHYS 281LExperimental Techniques in Physics2
PHYS 331Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics4
Six additional credits chosen from ASTR (numbered above 300)6
Three additional credits chosen from:3
ASTR (numbered above 300)
Physical Computing 1
Research with Faculty Mentor I
Research with Faculty Mentor II H
Imaging Science: From Cells to Stars
Senior Honor Thesis Research I
Senior Honor Thesis Research II
Additional Requirements
ASTR 101Introduction to Astronomy: The Solar System H3
ASTR 101LIntroduction to Astronomy Laboratory: Our Place in Space1
or ASTR 111L Educational Research in Radio Astronomy
ASTR 202Introduction to Astrophysics 23
MATH 231Calculus of Functions of One Variable I4
MATH 232Calculus of Functions of One Variable II4
MATH 233Calculus of Functions of Several Variables H4
MATH 383First Course in Differential Equations H3
Total Hours51
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

1

 Spring course

2

 Fall course

Astronomy (ASTR) and Physics (PHYS) course descriptions.

Physics Major, B.A. – Biological Physics Option

Core Requirements
PHYS 118Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity4
PHYS 119Introductory Calculus-based Electromagnetism and Quanta4
PHYS 201Basic Mechanics 13
or PHYS 401 Mechanics I
PHYS 211Intermediate Electromagnetism 23
or PHYS 311 Electromagnetism I
PHYS 281LExperimental Techniques in Physics2
PHYS 331Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics4
PHYS 405Biological Physics 23
PHYS 441/BMME 341Thermal Physics 23
or CHEM 481 Physical Chemistry I
PHYS 585Imaging Science: From Cells to Stars (capstone)3
Additional Requirements
BIOL 101Principles of Biology H3
CHEM 101
101L
General Descriptive Chemistry I
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory I
4
CHEM 102
102L
General Descriptive Chemistry II
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory II H
4
MATH 231Calculus of Functions of One Variable I4
MATH 232Calculus of Functions of One Variable II4
MATH 233Calculus of Functions of Several Variables H4
MATH 383First Course in Differential Equations H3
Six additional credits chosen from:6
BIOL (numbered above 200)
Introduction to Organic Chemistry I H
Introduction to Organic Chemistry II H
Introduction to Biological Chemistry H
PHYS (numbered above 200)
Total Hours61
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

1

 Spring course

2

 Fall course

Biology (BIOL) course descriptions.

Physics (PHYS) course descriptions.

Physics Major, B.A. – Energy Option

Core Requirements
PHYS 118Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity4
PHYS 119Introductory Calculus-based Electromagnetism and Quanta4
PHYS 131Energy: Physical Principles and the Quest for Alternatives to Dwindling Oil and Gas 13
PHYS 131LEnergy: Physical Principles and the Quest for Alternatives to Dwindling Oil and Gas1
or PHYS 281L Experimental Techniques in Physics
PHYS 201Basic Mechanics 13
or PHYS 401 Mechanics I
PHYS 211Intermediate Electromagnetism 23
or PHYS 311 Electromagnetism I
PHYS 331Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics4
PHYS 351Electronics I 24
PHYS 581Renewable Electric Power Systems3
or PHYS 582 Decarbonizing Fuels
Additional Requirements
BIOL 101
101L
Principles of Biology
and Introductory Biology Laboratory H
4
BIOL 202Molecular Biology and Genetics H4
or BIOL 271 Plant Biology
CHEM 101
101L
General Descriptive Chemistry I
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory I
4
CHEM 102General Descriptive Chemistry II H3
CHEM 261Introduction to Organic Chemistry I H3
CHEM 481Physical Chemistry I3
MATH 231Calculus of Functions of One Variable I4
MATH 232Calculus of Functions of One Variable II4
MATH 233Calculus of Functions of Several Variables H4
MATH 383First Course in Differential Equations H3
Total Hours65
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

1

 Spring course

2

 Fall course

Physics (PHYS) course descriptions.

Physics Major, B.A. – Quantitative Finance Option

Core Requirements
PHYS 118Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity4
PHYS 119Introductory Calculus-based Electromagnetism and Quanta4
PHYS 201Basic Mechanics 13
or PHYS 401 Mechanics I
PHYS 211Intermediate Electromagnetism 23
or PHYS 311 Electromagnetism I
PHYS 281LExperimental Techniques in Physics2
PHYS 331Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics4
PHYS 441/BMME 341Thermal Physics 23
or CHEM 481 Physical Chemistry I
Six additional credits chosen from BUSI (numbered above 400), MATH (numbered above 200), and PHYS (numbered above 200)6
Additional Requirements
BUSI 408Corporate Finance 33
BUSI 580Investments H3
BUSI 588Introduction to Derivative Securities and Risk Management H1.5
BUSI 589Fixed Income H1.5
BUSI 600Risk Management1.5
BUSI 688Applied Derivatives H1.5
CHEM 101General Descriptive Chemistry I3
CHEM 102General Descriptive Chemistry II H3
MATH 231Calculus of Functions of One Variable I4
MATH 232Calculus of Functions of One Variable II4
MATH 233Calculus of Functions of Several Variables H4
MATH 383First Course in Differential Equations H3
Total Hours62
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

1

Spring course

2

Fall course

3

BUSI 101 and ECON 101 are prerequisites for BUSI 408, but these prerequisites may be waived for students in the Quantitative Finance program.

Business Administration (BUSI) course descriptions.

Mathematics (MATH) course descriptions.

Physics (PHYS) course descriptions.

As part of these course requirements, candidates for the B.A. degree must earn grades of C (not C-) or better in at least 18 credit hours of courses that are listed under Core Requirements.

Sample Plan of Study

Sample plans can be used as a guide to identify the courses required to complete the major and other requirements needed for degree completion within the expected eight semesters. The actual degree plan may differ depending on the course of study selected (second major, minor, etc.). Students should meet with their academic advisor to create a degree plan that is specific and unique to their interests. The sample plans represented in this catalog are intended for first-year students entering UNC–Chapel Hill in the fall term. Some courses may not be offered every term.

Standard Option

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
Fall SemesterHours
MATH 231 Calculus of Functions of One Variable I 4
CHEM 101
101L
General Descriptive Chemistry I
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory I
4
Hours 8
Spring Semester
MATH 232 Calculus of Functions of One Variable II 4
CHEM 102
102L
General Descriptive Chemistry II
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory II H
4
Hours 8
Sophomore Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 118 Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity 4
MATH 233 Calculus of Functions of Several Variables H 4
Hours 8
Spring Semester
PHYS 119 Introductory Calculus-based Electromagnetism and Quanta 4
MATH 383 First Course in Differential Equations H 3
Hours 7
Junior Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 281L Experimental Techniques in Physics 2
PHYS 211
Intermediate Electromagnetism
or Electromagnetism I
3
Hours 5
Spring Semester
PHYS 201
Basic Mechanics
or Mechanics I
3
PHYS 331 Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics 4
One course (3 hours) chosen from ASTR (numbered above 300) and PHYS (numbered above 200) 3
Hours 10
Senior Year
Fall Semester
One course (3 hours) chosen from ASTR (numbered above 300) and PHYS (numbered above 200) 3
Hours 3
Spring Semester
One course (3 hours) chosen from ASTR (numbered above 300) and PHYS (numbered above 200) 3
Hours 3
Total Hours 52
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Astronomy Option

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
Fall SemesterHours
MATH 231 Calculus of Functions of One Variable I 4
ASTR 101
101L
Introduction to Astronomy: The Solar System
and Introduction to Astronomy Laboratory: Our Place in Space H
4
Hours 8
Spring Semester
PHYS 118 Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity 4
MATH 232 Calculus of Functions of One Variable II 4
Hours 8
Sophomore Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 119 Introductory Calculus-based Electromagnetism and Quanta 4
MATH 233 Calculus of Functions of Several Variables H 4
Hours 8
Spring Semester
PHYS 281L Experimental Techniques in Physics 2
MATH 383 First Course in Differential Equations H 3
Hours 5
Junior Year
Fall Semester
ASTR 202 Introduction to Astrophysics 3
PHYS 211
Intermediate Electromagnetism
or Electromagnetism I
3
Hours 6
Spring Semester
PHYS 201
Basic Mechanics
or Mechanics I
3
PHYS 331 Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics 4
One course chosen from ASTR (numbered above 300) 3
Hours 10
Senior Year
Fall Semester
One course chosen from ASTR (numbered above 300) 3
One additional elective course 1 3
Hours 6
Total Hours 51
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

1

 Three credits chosen from ASTR (numbered above 300) and PHYS 231, PHYS 295, PHYS 395, PHYS 585, PHYS 691H, PHYS 692H.

Biological Physics Option

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
Fall SemesterHours
MATH 231 Calculus of Functions of One Variable I 4
BIOL 101 Principles of Biology H 3
Hours 7
Spring Semester
PHYS 118 Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity 4
MATH 232 Calculus of Functions of One Variable II 4
CHEM 101
101L
General Descriptive Chemistry I
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory I
4
Hours 12
Sophomore Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 119 Introductory Calculus-based Electromagnetism and Quanta 4
MATH 233 Calculus of Functions of Several Variables H 4
CHEM 102
102L
General Descriptive Chemistry II
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory II H
4
Hours 12
Spring Semester
PHYS 281L Experimental Techniques in Physics 2
MATH 383 First Course in Differential Equations H 3
Hours 5
Junior Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 405 Biological Physics 3
Elective course 2 3
Hours 6
Spring Semester
PHYS 201
Basic Mechanics
or Mechanics I
3
PHYS 331 Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics 4
Elective course 2 3
Hours 10
Senior Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 211
Intermediate Electromagnetism
or Electromagnetism I
3
PHYS 441
Thermal Physics
or Physical Chemistry I
3
Hours 6
Spring Semester
PHYS 585 Imaging Science: From Cells to Stars 3
Hours 3
Total Hours 61
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

2

 Courses may be chosen from BIOL (numbered above 200), CHEM 261, CHEM 262, CHEM 430, PHYS (numbered above 200).

Energy Option

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
Fall SemesterHours
MATH 231 Calculus of Functions of One Variable I 4
CHEM 101
101L
General Descriptive Chemistry I
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory I
4
Hours 8
Spring Semester
PHYS 118 Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity 4
MATH 232 Calculus of Functions of One Variable II 4
CHEM 102 General Descriptive Chemistry II H 3
Hours 11
Sophomore Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 119 Introductory Calculus-based Electromagnetism and Quanta 4
MATH 233 Calculus of Functions of Several Variables H 4
BIOL 101
101L
Principles of Biology
and Introductory Biology Laboratory H
4
Hours 12
Spring Semester
PHYS 131 Energy: Physical Principles and the Quest for Alternatives to Dwindling Oil and Gas 3
PHYS 131L
Energy: Physical Principles and the Quest for Alternatives to Dwindling Oil and Gas
or Experimental Techniques in Physics
1
MATH 383 First Course in Differential Equations H 3
CHEM 261 Introduction to Organic Chemistry I H 3
Hours 10
Junior Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 211
Intermediate Electromagnetism
or Electromagnetism I
3
BIOL 202
Molecular Biology and Genetics H
or Plant Biology
4
Hours 7
Spring Semester
PHYS 201
Basic Mechanics
or Mechanics I
3
PHYS 331 Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics 4
CHEM 481 Physical Chemistry I 3
Hours 10
Senior Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 351 Electronics I 4
Hours 4
Spring Semester
PHYS 581
Renewable Electric Power Systems
or Decarbonizing Fuels
3
Hours 3
Total Hours 65
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Quantitative Finance Option

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
Fall SemesterHours
MATH 231 Calculus of Functions of One Variable I 4
CHEM 101 General Descriptive Chemistry I 3
Hours 7
Spring Semester
PHYS 118 Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity 4
MATH 232 Calculus of Functions of One Variable II 4
CHEM 102 General Descriptive Chemistry II H 3
Hours 11
Sophomore Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 119 Introductory Calculus-based Electromagnetism and Quanta 4
MATH 233 Calculus of Functions of Several Variables H 4
Hours 8
Spring Semester
PHYS 281L Experimental Techniques in Physics 2
PHYS 331 Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics 4
MATH 383 First Course in Differential Equations H 3
Hours 9
Junior Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 211
Intermediate Electromagnetism
or Electromagnetism I
3
PHYS 441
Thermal Physics
or Physical Chemistry I
3
BUSI 408 Corporate Finance 3
Hours 9
Spring Semester
PHYS 201
Basic Mechanics
or Mechanics I
3
BUSI 580 Investments H 3
Hours 6
Senior Year
Fall Semester
BUSI 588 Introduction to Derivative Securities and Risk Management H 1.5
BUSI 589 Fixed Income H 1.5
BUSI 688 Applied Derivatives H 1.5
One course chosen from BUSI (numbered above 400), MATH (numbered above 200), and PHYS (numbered above 200) 3
Hours 7.5
Spring Semester
BUSI 600 Risk Management 1.5
One course chosen from BUSI (numbered above 400), MATH (numbered above 200), and PHYS (numbered above 200) 3
Hours 4.5
Total Hours 62
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Special Opportunities in Physics and Astronomy

Honors in Physics and Astronomy

The honors program offers exceptionally well-qualified students an opportunity to perform original research with a faculty member and graduate with honors or highest honors. It requires an overall grade point average of at least 3.3 and a grade point average of at least 3.4 for physics courses at the end of the junior year.

Students who wish to enter the honors program should consult with the departmental coordinator for the program no later than the preregistration period in the spring semester of their junior year.

Departmental Involvement

The Society of Physics Students, open to anyone interested in physics, builds connections between undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and alumni. The society invites visitors to give talks and sponsors a number of events for students each year. Women in Physics at UNC–Chapel Hill, an organization that aims to provide resources, advice, and an encouraging social atmosphere for women in the field of physics, welcomes physics majors and all women interested in physics.

UNC–BEST

The UNC Baccalaureate Education in Science and Teaching (UNC–BEST) Program is a collaboration between the School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences and is designed to allow undergraduate science majors interested in teaching high school science the opportunity to earn their science degree and obtain licensure as a North Carolina high school science teacher in four years. UNC–BEST students meet all the degree requirements for their degree using PHYS 410 as one of their upper-level physics courses.

PHYS 410Teaching and Learning Physics4
EDUC 689Foundations of Special Education (may substitute EDUC 516)3
EDUC 532Introduction to Development and Learning (may substitute EDUC 403)3
EDUC 615Schools and Community Collaboration (may substitute EDUC 533)3
EDUC 593Internship/Student Teaching12
EDUC 601Education Workshops1

For more details on admission requirements, application deadlines, and submitting an online application, visit the School of Education Web site.

Undergraduate Awards

The department gives awards each year to the senior (Shearin Award) and junior (Johnson Award) who demonstrate the greatest achievement. In addition, the department awards the major with the most research achievement the Robert Sheldon Award for Undergraduate Research.

Undergraduate Research

All majors conduct at least one semester of research under the supervision of a faculty member. Many enjoy the experience so much that they continue for several semesters. An approved learning contract is required prior to registering for PHYS 295 and PHYS 395, and students must be registered within the first week of classes.