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Physics & Astronomy

Requirements

Carthage offers a major and minor in physics, with several different tracks so students can select the courses that best suit their interests and career goals. An understanding of physics is excellent preparation for a diverse array of careers, including engineering, medical physics, meteorology, astronomy and financial modeling.

See a sample schedule for a physics major
See a sample schedule for a physics major in the 3+2 Engineering Program

Current students: You should follow the official College Catalog from the year you entered Carthage and work with your advisors and the department chair to ensure all requirements are met.

The Physics Major

The Physics Major requires 38 credits, which must include:

PHY 1200 Fundamental Physics* (4 credits)
PHY 2200 General Physics I (4 credits)
PHY 2210 General Physics II (4 credits)
PHY 2300 Modern Physics (4 credits)
PHY 4000 Senior Thesis Seminar (1 credit)
PHY 4010 Senior Thesis Research (1 credit)
PHY 4120 Experimental Physics (4 credits)
PHY 4990 Senior Thesis Completion (0 credits)
MTH 1120 Calculus I (4 credits)
MTH 1220 Calculus II (4 credits)
MTH 2020 Differential Equations (4 credits)
MTH 2120 Multivariate Calculus (4 credits)
*With departmental approval, CHM 1020 may be substituted for PHY 1200.

In addition, physics majors are required to take 16 credits of course work at the 3000 level or higher (excludes PHY 4900). With approval of the department chair, up to 8 credits may be selected from an approved list of science courses outside the Physics and Astronomy Department.

The physics major elective courses may be selected to accommodate various interests and career objectives. In consultation with a faculty advisor, students may elect to concentrate in any of several different areas.

Astrophysics Concentration
Students pursuing a concentration in astrophysics have access to instruments at Yerkes and Steward observatories, some of the premier astrophysical research observatories in the world. Carthage operates the Griffin Observatory at the Kemper Center, an important resource for community outreach. The department also owns and maintains a variety of telescopes, CCD cameras, and research equipment, which students may use.

The astrophysics concentration includes:
PHY 3100 Optics (4 credits)
PHY 4100 Astrophysics (4 credits)
PHY 4110 Observational Astrophysics (4 credits)

Students must also take two courses from the following list:
PHY 3200 Mechanics (4 credits)
PHY 3300 Thermodynamics (4 credits)
PHY 4200 Quantum Mechanics (4 credits)
PHY 4300 Electricity and Magnetism (4 credits)

Engineering Track
Students planning to pursue further education in engineering should consult a faculty advisor to select course electives appropriate to their intended engineering specialty.
Learn more about Carthage’s 3+2 Dual Degree Engineering Program

Traditional/Graduate School Track
Students intending to pursue advanced degrees in physics should take electives that cover the core material required for admission to graduate school. These include:
PHY 3200 Mechanics (4 credits)
PHY 3300 Thermodynamics (4 credits)
PHY 4200 Quantum Mechanics (4 credits)
PHY 4300 Electricity and Magnetism (4 credits)

Teaching at a Secondary Level
Students planning to teach physics at a secondary level are recommended to include the following electives in their course work for the physics major:
PHY 3120 Electronics (4 credits)
PHY 3200 Mechanics (4 credits)
PHY 4150 Science of Global Climate Change (4 credits)

The Physics Minor

The Physics Minor consists of 24 credits:

PHY 1200 Fundamental Physics* (4 credits)
PHY 2200 General Physics I (4 credits)
PHY 2210 General Physics II (4 credits)
PHY 2300 Modern Physics (4 credits)
Students must also take two additional courses (8 credits) of 3000 level or higher in the Physics Department.
*With departmental approval, CHM 1020 may be substituted for PHY 1200. 

The Climatology and Meteorology Minor

The Climatology and Meteorology minor is intended for students interested in pursuing graduate studies or careers in fields related to the atmospheric sciences. The courses included in this minor provide a strong foundation in the science of weather and climate phenomena drawn from the disciplines of geoscience and physics.

Students will complete 24 credits, comprising the following list of courses:

GEO 1600 Earth Revealed (4 credits)
GEO 2550 Meteorology (4 credits)
GEO 3700 Climatology (4 credits)
GEO/PHY 4150 Science of Global Climate Change (4 credits)
PHY 2200 General Physics I (4 credits)
PHY 3300 Thermodynamics OR PHY 3200 Mechanics (4 credits)

Honors in the Major

Honors are awarded at the discretion of the Physics and Astronomy Department. Students are eligible for Honors in Physics if they: maintain an overall GPA above 3.5 and a physics GPA above 3.0 at graduation, undertake scholarly physics research (in addition to the Senior Thesis) that is presented in public or published, earn a rating of “excellent” for the Senior Thesis, and receive the formal recommendation of the Physics Department.

For Science Designation: 
Check course descriptions to see if a laboratory is included in order to fulfill a lab science requirement. 

Current students, remember: You should follow the official College Catalog from the year you entered Carthage and work with your advisors and the department chair to ensure all requirements are met.

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2017), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • Scheduled to open in fall 2018, a new residential tower will offer suite-style housing and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about The Tower

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wins, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • 96% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit Career Services.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. 95% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Computer science students watch Prof. Mark Mahoney’s recorded lecturers in their free time, so he can nearby “when they do their real learning,” he says. He has company: Physics professor Brant Carlson’s quantum mechanics video playlist has been viewed more than 170,000 times. 

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • As a freshman in the highly selective Honors Program, learn how to gain expertise in anything from music to forest ecology. After that, tackle a contemporary social, economic, or political problem. If you like, you can live on an Honors-only floor of a Carthage residence hall. 

    • In 2016 and 2017, Carthage was named a top producer of Fulbright Scholars by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our athletic and recreation center, student union, computer labs, audiovisual production suite, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 10 years. Our new science center caps it off.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from archaeology to athletic training, neuroscience to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of our students receive financial aid, a hefty chunk of which is scholarships and grants — including $1.25 million annually from the Presidential Scholarship Competition and numerous Merit Scholarships. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” says biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 30 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from 75% tuition up to full tuition, room, and board. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about the Carthage core.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 120 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Chemistry Club, to Frisbee and Latin Belly Dancing. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • Imagine presenting your original research at an international conference — as an undergraduate. Carthage is dedicated to undergraduate research. Learn more about current opportunities.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 11 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …

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