Physics Major, B.S.

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.S.–Standard Option

Core Requirements
PHYS 281LExperimental Techniques in Physics2
PHYS 311Electromagnetism I 13
PHYS 321Introduction to Quantum Mechanics 23
PHYS 331Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics4
PHYS 351Electronics I 14
PHYS 358Physical Modeling 14
PHYS 401Mechanics I 23
PHYS 412Electromagnetism II 23
PHYS 441Thermal Physics 13
PHYS 481LAdvanced Laboratory I2
PHYS 521Applications of Quantum Mechanics 13
PHYS 395Research with Faculty Mentor II (optional for UNC–BEST students) H3
or PHYS 692H Senior Honor Thesis Research II
Two additional courses chosen from:6
ASTR (numbered above 300)
Advanced Expository Writing for the Natural Sciences
Mathematical Methods for the Physical Sciences I
Mathematical Methods for the Physical Sciences II
Physical Computing 2
PHYS (numbered above 300)
Additional Requirement
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
PHYS 118Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity4
PHYS 119Introductory Calculus-based Electromagnetism and Quanta4
Remaining General Education requirements and enough free electives to accumulate 123 academic hours49
Total Hours123
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

 Fall course

2

 Spring course

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

Physics Major, B.S.–Astrophysics Option

Core Requirements
ASTR 519Observational Astronomy4
PHYS 281LExperimental Techniques in Physics2
PHYS 311Electromagnetism I 13
PHYS 321Introduction to Quantum Mechanics 23
PHYS 331Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics (with project on an astrophysics topic)4
PHYS 351Electronics I 14
PHYS 358Physical Modeling 14
PHYS 401Mechanics I 23
PHYS 412Electromagnetism II 23
PHYS 441Thermal Physics 13
PHYS 521Applications of Quantum Mechanics 13
PHYS 395Research with Faculty Mentor II (optional for UNC–BEST students) H3
or PHYS 692H Senior Honor Thesis Research II
One additional course chosen from ASTR (numbered above 300)3
One additional course chosen from:3
ASTR (numbered above 300)
Advanced Expository Writing for the Natural Sciences
Mathematical Methods for the Physical Sciences I
Mathematical Methods for the Physical Sciences II
Physical Computing 2
Additional Requirement
ASTR 202Introduction to Astrophysics 13
CHEM 101
101L
General Descriptive Chemistry I
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory I (CHEM 102/CHEM 102L are recommended but not required)
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
PHYS 118Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity4
PHYS 119Introductory Calculus-based Electromagnetism and Quanta4
Remaining General Education requirements and enough free electives to accumulate 123 academic hours48
Total Hours123
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

 Fall course

2

 Spring course

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

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

It is strongly recommended that students planning to major in physics fulfill the Foundations requirement in English composition and rhetoric by enrolling in ENGL 105I.

Most students will find it advantageous to defer some of the General Education requirements to the junior and/or senior year(s).

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

Sample I

For students placed into MATH 231

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
102L
General Descriptive Chemistry II
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory II H
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
Hours 8
Spring Semester
PHYS 281L Experimental Techniques in Physics 2
PHYS 401 Mechanics I 3
PHYS 331 Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics 4
MATH 383 First Course in Differential Equations H 3
Hours 12
Junior Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 311 Electromagnetism I 3
PHYS 351 Electronics I 4
PHYS 358 Physical Modeling 4
One elective course 1 3
Hours 14
Spring Semester
PHYS 321 Introduction to Quantum Mechanics 3
PHYS 412 Electromagnetism II 3
One elective course 1 3
Hours 9
Senior Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 441 Thermal Physics 3
PHYS 481L Advanced Laboratory I 2
PHYS 521 Applications of Quantum Mechanics 3
Hours 8
Spring Semester
PHYS 395 Research with Faculty Mentor II H 3
Hours 3
Total Hours 74
H

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

Sample II

For students placed into MATH 232

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
Fall SemesterHours
PHYS 118 Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity 4
MATH 232 Calculus of Functions of One Variable II 4
Hours 8
Spring Semester
PHYS 119 Introductory Calculus-based Electromagnetism and Quanta 4
MATH 233 Calculus of Functions of Several Variables H 4
CHEM 101
101L
General Descriptive Chemistry I
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory I
4
Hours 12
Sophomore Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 281L Experimental Techniques in Physics 2
MATH 383 First Course in Differential Equations H 3
CHEM 102
102L
General Descriptive Chemistry II
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory II H
4
Hours 9
Spring Semester
PHYS 401 Mechanics I 3
PHYS 331 Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics 4
One elective course 1 3
Hours 10
Junior Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 311 Electromagnetism I 3
PHYS 351 Electronics I 4
PHYS 358 Physical Modeling 4
Hours 11
Spring Semester
PHYS 412 Electromagnetism II 3
PHYS 321 Introduction to Quantum Mechanics 3
One elective course 1 3
Hours 9
Senior Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 441 Thermal Physics 3
PHYS 481L Advanced Laboratory I 2
PHYS 521 Applications of Quantum Mechanics 3
Hours 8
Spring Semester
PHYS 395 Research with Faculty Mentor II H 3
Hours 3
Total Hours 70
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

 Courses may be chosen from ASTR (numbered above 300), ENGL 303, MATH 528, MATH 529, PHYS 231, PHYS (numbered above 300).

Astrophysics Option

Sample I

For students placed into MATH 231

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
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
ASTR 202 Introduction to Astrophysics 3
Hours 11
Spring Semester
PHYS 281L Experimental Techniques in Physics 2
PHYS 331 Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics (Astrophysics project) 4
PHYS 401 Mechanics I 3
MATH 383 First Course in Differential Equations H 3
Hours 12
Junior Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 311 Electromagnetism I 3
PHYS 351 Electronics I 4
PHYS 358 Physical Modeling 4
ASTR 519 Observational Astronomy 4
Hours 15
Spring Semester
PHYS 321 Introduction to Quantum Mechanics 3
PHYS 412 Electromagnetism II 3
One additional course chosen from ASTR (numbered above 300) 3
Hours 9
Senior Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 441 Thermal Physics 3
PHYS 521 Applications of Quantum Mechanics 3
One elective course 1 3
Hours 9
Spring Semester
PHYS 395 Research with Faculty Mentor II H 3
Hours 3
Total Hours 75
H

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

Sample II

For students placed into MATH 232

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
Fall SemesterHours
PHYS 118 Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity 4
MATH 232 Calculus of Functions of One Variable II 4
Hours 8
Spring Semester
PHYS 119 Introductory Calculus-based Electromagnetism and Quanta 4
MATH 233 Calculus of Functions of Several Variables H 4
CHEM 101
101L
General Descriptive Chemistry I
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory I
4
Hours 12
Sophomore Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 281L Experimental Techniques in Physics 2
MATH 383 First Course in Differential Equations H 3
ASTR 202 Introduction to Astrophysics 3
Hours 8
Spring Semester
PHYS 401 Mechanics I 3
PHYS 331 Introduction to Numerical Techniques in Physics 4
One additional course chosen from ASTR (numbered above 300) 3
Hours 10
Junior Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 311 Electromagnetism I 3
PHYS 351 Electronics I 4
PHYS 358 Physical Modeling 4
ASTR 519 Observational Astronomy 4
Hours 15
Spring Semester
PHYS 412 Electromagnetism II 3
PHYS 321 Introduction to Quantum Mechanics 3
One elective course 2  
Hours 6
Senior Year
Fall Semester
PHYS 441 Thermal Physics 3
PHYS 521 Applications of Quantum Mechanics 3
One elective course 1 3
Hours 9
Spring Semester
PHYS 395 Research with Faculty Mentor II H 3
Hours 3
Total Hours 71
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

 Course may be chosen from ASTR (numbered above 300), ENGL 303, MATH 528, MATH 529, PHYS 231.

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.