Undergraduate Study in Physics & Astronomy
Physics and astronomy are basic natural sciences that attempt to describe and provide an understanding of our world. They serve as the underpinning of many different disciplines, including the other natural sciences and technological areas of study.
An undergraduate degree in physics can prepare you for a variety of opportunities, especially in the industrial development and application of existing and emerging technologies. You may also choose physics as preparation for professional programs in medicine or law, or for a career as a science educator.
Our department has major research programs in condensed matter physics, elementary particle physics, nuclear physics, astrophysics, and biophysics. Undergraduates often work in these research groups to broaden their experience.
Students who meet the necessary scholastic standards often continue their studies in a graduate program, where opportunities exist to explore and to contribute to the most recent developments in the field.
Regardless of your specific career plans, our undergraduate program will give you laboratory, computing, problem-solving, and communication skills valuable in any career.
Physics+ is our new undergraduate curriculum leading to the BS degree with a major in physics. All of the Physics+ programs include a common core of physics and mathematics courses. The specific path you choose beyond the core physics and math courses will depend on your interests and career goals.
Physics+ Complete Program (PDF) Recommended for students planning on graduate studies in physics.
Physics+ Astronomy & Astrophysics Program (PDF) Recommended for students planning on graduate studies in astrophysics. Students may also want to complete a minor in astronomy.
The following program options are appropriate for students ending their formal study of physics at the undergraduate level. They may also be appropriate as part of a double major in another field.
Minor in physics
The department offers a minor in physics which may be earned by completing 20 credits in physics courses chosen as follows: Phys 241 (or 221), 242 (or 222), and 321; at least one credit of laboratory chosen from 321L, 322L, 311, and 311T; other acceptable courses are 304, 306, 322, 361, 362, 364, 365, 421, 432, 461, 480, 481, and 496.
Minor in astronomy
The department offers a minor in astronomy which may be earned by completing 15 credits chosen as follows: a total of 12-15 credits in Astro courses (must include Astro 344L, and may include one of Astro 120, Astro 150, or Astro 250); the remaining 3 credits (if applicable) can be chosen from among Physics 304, 321, 361, 362, 364, 365, 480, 481, 496, or AER E 351; 12 or more credits must be at the 300 level, and Astro 344L can be used to satisfy requirements for both the physics major and astronomy minor. A typical sequence of courses for the minor is: Astro 120 or 150, Astro 344L, Astro 342, Astro 346, and Astro 405.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) at Iowa State University. For current LAS requirements please see the LAS Curriculum page.
There is an English proficiency requirement. The department requires a grade of C or better in each of Engl 150 and 250 (or 250H), and a C- or better in Engl 302, 305, 309, or 314.
Please see your advisor if you have questions about including physics as part of a double major, or if you are interested in seeking certification for high school teaching.