A Computational Physics Emphasis
Our major includes a strong background in applied mathematics. Together, these courses will give our students a more thorough quantitative foundation than is generally found in physics majors. These courses emphasize mathematical modeling, which is particularly useful to the physicist seeking to quantitatively explain the natural universe. In particular our students take a course in numerical methods in their sophomore year, in which they learn the techniques that we use to solve large and complicated problems within computer systems. This is then followed up by PHYS 343 (Computational Physics), in which we apply these methods throughout the physics world to problems such as the wave equation, Laplace's equation, Schrödinger's equation, Monte Carlo simulations, and chaotic dynamics. Computational physics is one of the most useful and dynamic fields of physics today, and so this mathematical focus distinguishes the Carroll College physics major and prepares our students for many important career paths.
Experimental and Theoretical Courses Balance
The upper division courses in our major give our students a strong background in both branches of physics, experimental and theoretical physics. The five courses PHYS 341 (Mechanics), PHYS 342 (Thermal Physics), PHYS 343 (Computational Physics), PHYS 344 (Electromagnetism), PHYS 346 (Quantum Mechanics), lead our students through a careful and thorough exploration of the major theoretical fields of contemporary physics. Our students gain a solid foundation in these subjects, allowing them to go on to success in employment or graduate school.
At the same time our curriculum includes a strong laboratory component. In fact, the very first physics course freshmen will encounter (PHYS 155 - Robotics & Experimental Physics) is entirely laboratory-based. Additionally, there are laboratory components associated with the courses PHYS 160 (Einstein's Physics), PHYS 205-206 (Engineering Physics I-II), PHYS/ENGR 305 (Electronics & Circuit Analysis I), and PHYS 323 (Optics). In the Advanced Physics Lab (PHYS 352), we will perform several of the classic foundational physics experiments: determination of the speed of light, Millikan's oil-drop experiment, the Franck-Hertz experiment. Additionally, this advanced lab course will focus on the important skills of computer-controlled data acquisition, using LabView, the same software now found in most research labs.