Why study physics and astronomy at CMU?
CMU offers a rigorous physics program that promotes thoughtful inquiry and will prepare you for graduate studies or a physics-related career. Consider these key features of this program:
- CMU's new supercomputer runs 30 times faster than computers on any other Michigan university campus
- CMU is among eight universities and six laboratories nationally that are part of a $15 million, five-year project to gain new insights into the physics of atomic nuclei
- Brooks Hall Astronomical Observatory
- Professional development through organizations such as the Society of Physics Students
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, for all occupations through the year 2014:
- Competition for jobs is expected, but graduates with a physics or astronomy degree at any level will find their knowledge of science and mathematics useful for many other occupations.
- Persons with a bachelor's degree in physics or astronomy may qualify for a wide range of positions related to engineering, mathematics, computer science, and environmental science; and, for those with the appropriate background, some nonscience fields, such as finance.
- Those who meet state certification requirements can become high school physics teachers, an occupation in strong demand in many districts.
Graduates of the physics program at CMU will find a variety of career opportunities. Some of these may require additional education.
- College or University Professor
- Environmental Scientist
- High School Science Teacher
- Laboratory Assistant
- Labor Relations Specialist
- Technical Writer
The course listings below are a representation of what this academic program requires. For a full review of this program in detail please see our official online academic bulletin AND consult with an academic advisor. This listing does not include the General Education courses required for all majors and may not include some program specific information, such as admissions, retention, and termination standards.
(Click on the course name or number for a complete course description.)
Physics Major: Astronomy Concentration
This option is available within the physics major for students with a particular interest in astronomy or astrophysics. This program provides the background desired by most astronomy graduate programs.
Total: 50-65 semester hours
University Physics I
Normally the first physics course for majors and minors. Mechanics of single and many-particle systems, conservation laws, statistical concepts, and gravitational interaction. Quantitative Reasoning. Pre/Co- Requisite: MTH 132.
University Physics II
Temperature and thermodynamics, electromagnetic interaction, electrical circuits, electromagnetic radiation, and optics. Not open to those with credit in PHY 131. Prerequisite: PHY 145. Pre/Co-requisite: MTH 133.
University Physics Laboratory I
Laboratory experience for PHY 145. Introduction to experimental techniques and the treatment of experimental data. Satisfies University Program Group II laboratory requirement. Pre/Co-requisite: PHY 145. (University Program Group II-B: Quantitative and Mathematical Sciences)
University Physics Laboratory II
Laboratory experience for PHY 146. Introduction to electrical measurements and instrumentation. Introduction to techniques of optical measurements. Prerequisite: PHY 175. Pre/Co-Requisite: PHY 146.
Introduction to Modern Physics
Historical development of modern physics; introduction to special relativity, atomic structure, and elementary quantum theory. Quantitative Reasoning. Prerequisites: PHY 146 or 131; MTH 132. Recommended: MTH 133.
University Physics Laboratory III
Laboratory experience for PHY 247. Introduction to the techniques of electron and photon physics. Pre/Co-Requisite: PHY 247.
Introduction to Mathematical Physics
Introduction to the mathematical concepts and techniques used in mechanics, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics. Pre/Co-Requisites: PHY 247; MTH 233, 334.
Newtonian mechanics of particles and systems of particles: conservation theorems, gravitation, oscillations, central force motion, Lagrangian and Hamiltonian dynamics, and two-particle collisions. Pre/Co- requisites: PHY 247; MTH 233, 334.
Electricity and Magnetism
Electrostatic fields in vacuum and in dielectrics, magnetic fields associated with constant and variable currents, magnetic materials, Maxwell's equations. Prerequisite: PHY 247; MTH 233, 334.
Introductory Quantum Theory
Introduction to quantum theory, Schrödinger equation, operators, angular momentum, harmonic oscillator, atomic hydrogen, perturbation theory, identical particles, radiation. Some applications will be considered. Prerequisites: PHY 312, 322, 332.
Introduction to equilibrium thermodynamics and elementary statistical mechanics. Prerequisite: PHY 312, PHY 322.
Senior Physics Project
Capstone experience for physics majors. Students enroll during their penultimate semester on campus. May be offered as Writing Intensive. Prerequisites: PHY 312, 322, 332, 578. Prior permission of instructor.
Selected experiments utilizing the techniques of modern experimental physics. Prerequisite: PHY 277.
General Astronomy I
A mathematical treatment of modern astronomy for majors/minors in the sciences. Coordinate systems, astronomical instruments, time, moon and eclipses, earth as a planet, other solar system objects. Prerequisite: PHY 145.
General Astronomy II
A continuation of AST 260. Stellar astronomy, interstellar matter, galactic structure, galaxies, quasars, cosmology. Prerequisite: AST 260.
Astronomical coordinate systems, astronomical instruments, and the techniques of astronomical direct imaging, photometry, and spectroscopy. Prerequisites: AST 260, 261 or graduate standing. Pre/Co-requisite: PHY 322 or graduate standing.
Stellar atmospheres, stellar interiors, interstellar matter and topics of current interest. Prerequisites: AST 261; PHY 332.
Limits, continuity, interpretations of the derivative, differentiation of elementary functions, applications of derivatives, antiderivatives, Riemann sums, definite integrals, fundamental theorem of calculus. This course may be offered in an online or hybrid format. Recommended: MTH 107, 109; or MTH 130. (University Program Group II-B: Quantitative and Mathematical Sciences)
Techniques of integration, applications of definite integrals, improper integrals, elementary differential equations, infinite series, Taylor series, and polar coordinates. Prerequisite: MTH 132.
Vectors and surfaces in R3, vector-valued functions, functions of several variables, partial differentiation and some applications, multiple integrals, vector calculus. Prerequisites: MTH 133. Pre/Co-Requisites: MTH 223 or 232.
Definition and solution of first, second, and higher order differential equations. Prerequisites: MTH 133, MTH 223.