Meet Your Major

Physics seeks to discover and describe the rules governing natural phenomena at all scales, from the building blocks of space-time to the large-scale structure of the universe.

The department of physics offers a wide range of courses related to this fundamental discipline, ranging from popular general-education courses, such as Introduction to Astronomy, to advanced courses, such as Electromagnetic Theory and Quantum Mechanics. Our major and minor programs are designed to serve the full spectrum of students who wish to undertake serious study in physics.

What You’ll Learn

In the physics program, you will:

  • Gain a firm mathematics foundation by studying calculus, differential equations and linear algebra.
  • Discover how physics breakthroughs have contributed to technological advances in a wide range of fields.
  • Delve into advanced physics theories and principles by taking courses in Quantum Mechanics and Electromagnetic Theory.
  • Have the option of selecting the embedded controller concentration to learn how to design, build and test low-power microprocessors found in an array of devices ranging from mobile phones to automobiles.

Hands-on Learning

You’ll have the opportunity to participate in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program the summer after your junior year. In addition to hands-on research experience, most REUs also offer housing allowances and stipends.

Career Options

The study of physics develops highly valued and widely applicable analytical and quantitative abilities. This foundation can be tailored — in part through appropriately chosen electives from related or complementary fields — to prepare students for a wide array of careers and postgraduate opportunities, including but not limited to:

  • Direct entry into careers with a significant analytical and/or quantitative component.
  • Medical school, law school and M.B.A. and other professional programs.
  • Interdisciplinary graduate programs.
  • Graduate study in physics (B.S. or B.A. plus further physics and math electives strongly recommended)
  • Teaching high-school physics.

What You’ll Take

You may elect either the bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree in physics. The B.A. consists of nine physics courses and five mathematics courses, for a total of 54 credits. The B.S. requires an additional 12 credits of physics electives, for a total of 66 credits.

Bachelor of Arts in Physics Requirements

Mathematics

MTH 1217

Calculus I

MTH 1218

Calculus II

MTH 2219

Calculus III

MTH 2220

Differential Equations

MTH 3335

Linear Algebra

 

Physics

PHY 2211

Physics I

PHY 2212

Physics II

PHY 2241

Introduction to Quantum Physics

PHY 3304

Thermal Physics

PHY 3311

Analytical Mechanics I

PHY 3345

Electromagnetic Theory I

PHY 4412 

Quantum Mechanics I

PHY 4451 

Advanced Laboratory

PHY 4500

Mathematical Physics


Bachelor of Science in Physics Requirements

Mathematics

MTH 1217

Calculus I

MTH 1218

Calculus II

MTH 2219

Calculus III

MTH 2220

Differential Equations

MTH 3335

Linear Algebra

 

Physics

PHY 2211

Physics I

PHY 2212

Physics II

PHY 2241

Introduction to Quantum Physics

PHY 3304

Thermal Physics

PHY 3311

Analytical Mechanics I

PHY 3345

Electromagnetic Theory I

PHY 4412 

Quantum Mechanics I

PHY 4451 

Advanced Laboratory

PHY 4500

Mathematical Physics


Twelve additional credits of physics-related electives chosen from among the following:

  • Additional upper-division physics courses
  • (AST 1101) Introduction to Astronomy
  • Upper-division courses from other departments approved by the physics department

Interdepartmental Contract Majors

The fundamental nature and quantitative aspects of physics make it a natural framework for the construction of a wide range of interdisciplinary “interdepartmental contract majors.” Students interested in this option should discuss the possibilities with a member of the physics department.

Education Certification

The physics B.A. or B.S. with a double major in education provides Merrimack students the opportunity to graduate with initial licensure to teach physics in grades 8-12. Students interested in a teaching career should connect with an adviser from the School of Education and Social Policy as soon as possible.

Embedded Controller Concentration

Embedded controllers are the relatively small, inexpensive, low-power microprocessors found in a vast array of devices ranging from mobile phones to washing machines to automobiles. Students who complete this concentration will have learned how to design, build and test simple embedded controller systems. The necessary programming and circuitry principles and techniques learned along the way are valuable in their own right.

If you elect to enroll in the embedded controller concentration, you will take the required physics B.A. courses as well as the following courses:

CSC 1610

Computer Science I

EEN 1200

Digital Fundamentals

EEN 2250

Assembly for Electrical Engineering*

EEN 2270

Embedded Microprocessors**


*With adviser approval, CSC 3720 Computer Architecture. 

* *EEN 2270 requires knowledge of both analog and digital circuits. The analog circuit requirement is met by PHY 2212. The digital circuit requirement is satisfied by either EEN 1200 (normally required as a prerequisite, but which can be taken as co-requisite with instructor approval) or by permission of the instructor, pending completion of assigned background reading on digital circuits.

Research Experience

While not required for graduation, the physics department strongly recommends that all physics majors participate in a physics-related REU in the summer between their junior and senior year. Most REU programs offer housing allowances, stipends comparable to what many students would earn at a summer job, and, most importantly, provide students the opportunity to participate in and contribute to a real research program. Physics majors, in consultation with their advisers, should begin identifying and applying to REU programs in the fall semester of their junior year.