Undergraduate Study

For the undergraduate curriculum in liberal arts and sciences, major in physics, leading to the degree bachelor of science, see Liberal Arts and Sciences, Curriculum.

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. Students may choose physics for their major subject as preparation for diverse areas such as engineering, medicine, law, business administration, etc., or simply as a challenging approach to personal development with an emphasis on rigorous scientific thinking. Other students choose physics as preparation towards a career as a professional physicist or a science educator.

Many opportunities exist for students who terminate their studies with a bachelor's degree, especially in the industrial development and application of existing and emerging technologies. Students who meet the necessary scholastic standards often continue their studies in a graduate college where opportunities exist to explore and to contribute to the most recent developments in the field.

There are major research programs in condensed matter physics, elementary particle physics, nuclear physics, astrophysics and astronomy, and the physics of biology. Often undergraduates work in these research groups to broaden their experience and/or earn money.

The department normally expects each student majoring in physics to complete at least the following courses: Phys 241 (or 221), 242 (or 222), 321, 321L, 322, 322L, 304, 306, 361, 362, 364, 365, and three credits of laboratory work from 310, 311, 311T, 470L or Astro 344L. This is not a rigid requirement, however, and changes in that basic list will be approved by the departmental curriculum committee on recommendation of the student's adviser when these will better serve the individual's needs. In particular, students planning a physics major and also seeking certification for high school teaching may, with the approval of their adviser, follow a significantly different program designed to meet their special needs; these students should consult the department for further information. All students are required, however, to earn at least 5 credits in laboratory work in physics in addition to the laboratory components of Phys 241 and 242. These 5 credits must be in courses numbered 300 or higher or in approved substitutions. All students must also earn at least 20 credits in physics and astronomy courses numbered 304 or higher.

Students majoring in physics who wish an emphasis in astronomy or astrophysics should consider completing a minor in astronomy (see below). Those planning graduate work in physics, astronomy, or astrophysics should add Phys 480, and 481 to the basic course list; one or more of Astro 405, Phys 396, 511, and 526 may also be added, according to interest. Students planning graduate work in these areas are also strongly encouraged to study at least one foreign language. A student must earn an average grade of C (or better) in astronomy and physics courses taken at Iowa State University to receive a B.S. in physics. Further information concerning programs of study, including sample degree programs, is available from the department.

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.

The department offers a minor in astronomy which may be earned by completing 15 credits chosen as follows: Astro 344L; a total of 12 or more credits in Astro courses (may include Astro 120 or Astro 150 but not both), with the remaining 3 credits (if applicable) chosen from among Physics 304, 321, 361, 362, 364, 365, 480, 481, or 496; 12 or more credits at the 300 level or higher.

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.