Course descriptions


Designed for non-science majors, this course explores how Physics has revolutionized our understanding of the natural world. Revolutions include the unification of the terrestrial and the celestial in Newton’s Mechanics; of electricity, magnetism, and light in Maxwell’s Electromagnetism; of space and time in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity; of particles and waves in Quantum Mechanics.

  • Three hours per week.
  • Prerequisite: High school algebra and trigonometry.
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every second year. [MNS, QL]

In just one generation, space exploration has revolutionized our understanding of the solar system. Planets, moons, asteroids, and comets have been transformed from obscure and remote objects with mythical names to remarkable and detailed real worlds. In this course, we will study the surprising  new solar system that the Space Age continues to reveal.

  • Three hours per week.
  • Prerequisite: High school algebra and trigonometry.
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every second year. [MNS]

The brilliant and sometimes fuzzy objects in the night sky are dynamic, volatile stars and gigantic galaxies. We will study the general properties of stars as well as how they evolve from birth to death. We will also study the shape and composition of galaxies and the ultimate fate of our universe. 

  • Three hours per week.
  • Prerequisite: High school algebra and trigonometry.
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every second year. [MNS]

This course explores the physical principles behind environmental questions impacting our life on Earth (energy, work, power, electricity, temperature, heat) and investigates various conventional and sustainable energy ‘production’ methods. The cleanest energy is that which is never used, thus the physics of energy conservation will be examined. Other physical concepts such as the greenhouse effect, environmental radioactivity, the Sun-Earth system, and the Earth’s magnetic field will be explored. Hands-on activities will be used extensively in labs throughout the semester. We might also participate in the Earth Day event on campus or visit renewable energy facilities.

  • Three hours lecture-laboratory per week.
  • Prerequisite: High school algebra and trigonometry.
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every second year. [MNS, QL]

The first course in the two-semester Physics for the Life Sciences introductory sequence. Topics include mechanics, heat, wave motion, and sound. Algebra and trigonometry are used. Knowledge of calculus is not required. Appropriate for students majoring in several STEM fields, particularly the life sciences. Students who might major or minor in Physics or Chemical Physics, or pursue any area of engineering should take PHYS 111 instead.

  • Students must register for both lecture and lab.
  • Three hours per week plus laboratory.
  • Prerequisite: High school algebra and trigonometry.
  • 1.25 course credit.
  • Every Year. Fall. [MNS, QL]

The second course in the two-semester Physics for the Life Sciences introductory sequence. Topics include optics, electricity and magnetism, and atomic and nuclear physics. Algebra and trigonometry are used. Knowledge of calculus is not required. Appropriate for students majoring in several STEM fields, particularly the life sciences. Students who might major or minor in Physics or Chemical Physics, or pursue any area of engineering should take PHYS 112 instead.

  • Students must register for both lecture and lab.
  • Three hours per week plus laboratory.
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-111 or PHYS-107.
  • 1.25 course credit.
  • Every Year. Spring. [MNS, QL]

The first course in the three-semester Physics for the Physical Sciences introductory sequence. Topics include classical Newtonian mechanics, fluid dynamics, gravitation, periodic motion, and thermodynamics. Necessary for students who might major or minor in Physics or Chemical Physics, or pursue any area of engineering. Appropriate for students majoring in other STEM fields, particularly the physical sciences.

  • Students must register for both lecture and lab.
  • Three hours per week plus laboratory.
  • Prerequisite: MATH-110 (may be taken concurrently), MATH-120 strongly recommended concurrently.
  • 1.25 course credit.
  • Every Year. Fall. [MNS, QL]

The second course in the three-semester introductory Physics for the Physical Sciences sequence. Topics include electric fields, magnetic fields, circuits, waves, and optics. Necessary for students who might major or minor in Physics or Chemical Physics, or pursue any area of engineering. Appropriate for students majoring in other STEM fields, particularly the physical sciences.

  • Students must register for both lecture and lab.
  • Three hours per week plus laboratory.
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-111, and MATH-120 may be taken at least concurrently.
  • 1.25 course credit.
  • Every Year. Spring. [MNS, QL]

The third course in the three-semester Physics for the Physical Sciences introductory sequence. Topics include relativistic dynamics, quantum properties of light, wave-particle duality, and introductory quantum mechanics. The laboratory focuses on fundamental techniques, data analysis, notebook and reporting skills.

  • Students must register for both lecture and lab.
  • Three hours per week plus laboratory.
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-112 (C- or better).
  • 1.25 credit.
  • Every Year. Fall. [MNS, QL, W]

Introduces skills of differential equations, linear algebra, and Fourier analysis essential to the physical sciences and engineering.

  • Three hours per week.
  • Prerequisite: MATH-125 (C- or better), PHYS-112 (may be taken concurrently).
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every year. Spring. [QL]

An introduction to the principles and applications of circuit components, operational amplifiers, digital logic, analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog, and an introduction to LabVIEW.

  • Three hours lecture plus laboratory per week
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-108 (C- or better) or PHYS-112 (C- or better).
  • 1.25 course credit.
  • Every second year. Fall. [MNS, QL]

A project-based introduction to the computational tools, techniques, and methods used to describe and analyze real-world systems in a computer language like Python or in computational software like Mathematica.

  • Six hours of lecture-laboratory per week.
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-201
  • 1.25 course credit.
  • Every second year.

Viscous forces, harmonic motion, rigid bodies, gravitation and small oscillations in Newtonian mechanics, Lagrange and Hamilton formulations, computer simulation and numerical methods.  

  • Three hours per week.
  • Prerequisites: PHYS-201 and PHYS-202 (both with C- or better).
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every year. Fall.

Classical and quantum treatment of problems in thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. Prerequisite: PHYS-201.

  • Three hours per week.
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-201 (C- or better)
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every second year. Spring.

Introduction to classical field theory and Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism.

  • Three hours per week.
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-201 and PHYS-202 and MATH-212 (all with C- or better).
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every second year. Fall.

An introduction to the concepts and techniques of nuclear and elementary particle physics.

  • Three hours per week.
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-201 (C- or better).
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every third year.

A detailed introduction to relativistic gravity, gravity as spacetime curvature, the Einstein field equations, and geodesic motion. Applications include the perihelion precession of Mercury, the deflection of starlight by the sun, black holes, gravity waves, and the Big Bang expansion of the universe.

  • Three hours per week.
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-201 (C- or better).
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every third year.

An introduction to the study of systems described by nonlinear difference or differential equations using both qualitative and numerical techniques. Topics include stability and bifurcations, extreme sensitivity to initial conditions or chaos, strange attractors and fractals.

  • Three hours per week.
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-201 (C- or better).
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every third year.

A quantitative introduction to astronomy and astrophysics. Topics include classical astronomy; stellar structure, stellar atmospheres, and stellar evolution; galactic structure and cosmology. Emphasis will be on quantitative application of physical theory to astronomical phenomena.

  • Three hours per week.
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-201 (C- or better).
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every second or third year.

An introduction to the Physics of solid and liquid matter and the relationship between fundamental atomic interactions and observable macroscopic properties. Topics include crystal structure, lattice vibrations, electronic properties, semiconductors, and mechanical properties.

  • Three hours per week.
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-201 (C- or better).
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every third year.

An introductory course in the basic concepts, principles, and theories of modern optics including lasers. Topics include wave optics, light and matter interactions, basic laser principles, holography, and specific optical systems.

  • Three hours per week.
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-201 (C- or better).
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every third year.

A rigorous introduction to the formalism and interpretation of microworld Physics. Probability amplitudes, interference and superposition, identical particles and spin, 2-state systems, Schrodinger evolution, applications.

  • Three hours per week.
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-201 and PHYS-202 and MATH-212 (all with C- or better).
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every second year. Spring.

Advanced Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Field Theory, and others offered when sufficient student interest is shown.

  • Three hours per week.
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-201 (C- or better).
  • 1.0 course credit.

Prerequisite: The approval of both the supervising faculty member and the chairperson is required prior to registration.

Laboratory investigations in Mechanics, Thermal Physics, Optics, Quantum, Electricity and Magnetism. Techniques of statistics and data analysis, library utilization, computer interfacing and simulation are explored.

  • One seminar hour plus two laboratories per week.
  • Prerequisite: PHYS-201 and one of the following: PHYS-301, PHYS-302, PHYS-304, or PHYS-350 (all with C- or better).
  • 1.0 course credit.
  • Every year. Spring.

A structured, usually off-campus experience, in which a student extends classroom knowledge to a work position within a community, business, or governmental organization. Student interns work and learn under the joint guidance of a host organization supervisor and a College of Wooster mentor. The student must arrange the internship in advance through the appropriate department or program. No more than six internships, and a maximum of four Wooster course credits, will count toward graduation. The form for registering for an internship and the Internship Learning Plan are available in the office of the Registrar. 

  • Prerequisite: The approval of a College of Wooster mentor, department chair, the faculty adviser, and the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning is required.
  • 0.25 to 1.0 course credits.
  • S/NC course.

A structured learning activity in which students use their academic knowledge to engage in an experience that has real-world implications. Incorporates best practices in experiential learning. Typically includes an off-campus component.

  • May be repeated.
  • 0.25 course credit.
  • S/NC course.

The first semester of the Senior Independent Study project, in which each student engages in creative and independent research guided by a faculty mentor and which culminates in a thesis and an oral examination in the second semester. 

  • Prerequisite: PHYS-401 (C- or better).
  • 1.0 course credit
  • Every year. Fall.

The second semester of the Senior Independent Study project, which culminates in the thesis and an oral examination.

  • Prerequisite: PHYS-401 (C- or better).
  • 1.0 course credit
  • Every year. Fall.