Academic Programs

Physics Program

The physics curriculum introduces students to concepts and methods that are fundamental throughout the sciences. It provides opportunities for first-hand experimental and theoretical investigations, together with the study of those basic principles that have led to profound scientific, philosophical, and technological developments.

Astronomy Program

The astronomy curriculum centers on studying the phenomena of the extraterrestrial Universe and on understanding them in terms of the fundamental principles of physics.


Majors

Physics

While many of our majors go on to graduate study, we have structured our programs to be sufficiently flexible that they also accommodate students wishing to study abroad, or to combine physics with other fields of study, including medicine and interdisciplinary programs in astrophysics, biophysics, chemical physics, computing, and engineering. These different options can be accommodated by selecting either the traditional or interdisciplinary major, which have somewhat different requirements.

Traditional Physics Major

Traditional Physics Major Requirements

  1. Physics 105 (or 101 or 115), 106 (or 102), 213, 214, 211, and 301 (or Bryn Mawr equivalents). The last two are normally taken concurrently with 213 and 214.
  2. Either Math 121 or Math 216 and Math 215 (linear algebra).
  3. Six upper-level courses in physics at Haverford or Bryn Mawr. One of these must be advanced physics laboratory (326 or Bryn Mawr 331 or 305). All majors must take three of the four core theoretical courses: 302, 303, 308 and 309

    Students considering graduate study in physics are advised to take at least four of the core lecture courses (302, 303, 309 and 309) as well as advanced physics lab (326 or Bryn Mawr 331 or 305).

    Two of the six upper-level courses may be replaced by upper-level courses in a related department, with advanced approval from the major advisor. (The student will be asked to prepare a brief written statement explaining the relationship between the proposed courses and the physics major.) One of the six upper-level physics courses may be a 400-level research course. Either 459 or 460 may also be counted among the six upper-level courses.
  4. The department requires one course outside the department at a level consistent with the student's background in either astronomy, biology, computer science, chemistry, or engineering (at Penn or Swarthmore). (This requirement is waived for double majors.)
  5. Physics 399, including a paper and colloquium based on independent work, and attendance at senior colloquia and distinguished lectures hosted by the department.

We strongly recommend that students take Mathematics 215: Linear Algebra before the end of sophomore year.

Interdisciplinary Physics Major

Students with multiple academic interests who are not likely to undertake physics graduate study are invited to consider the Interdisciplinary Physics Major, whose slightly abbreviated set of requirements can be completed in three years. This track, which can also facilitate a concentration, an engineering option, or a minor in another department, can be discussed with any member of the Department.

The interdisciplinary major differs from the traditional physics major by offering more flexible course choices and by coordinating the physics courses with the student’s work in another field. In the version requiring the fewest physics courses, this major requires 8.5 instead of 10 physics courses, while both majors require 2 math courses, and 3 courses in a related field.

Interdisciplinary Physics Major Requirements

  1. Either Physics 105 & 106, or Physics 101 & 102 or Physics 115 & 106.
  2. Physics 213 & 214 & 211 (our sophomore lecture course sequence and one sophomore-level laboratory course).
  3. Either Math 121 or Math 216 and Math 215 (linear algebra).
  4. Three 300-level physics lecture courses, of which two are drawn from this list of core courses: 302, 303, 308, 309
  5. An upper-level laboratory course in the natural or applied sciences, such as Physics 301, or 326, Bryn Mawr Physics 305 or 331, Biology 300a or b, or Chemistry 301 or 302 . (Alternately, the student can request the substitution of an advanced laboratory course in another area of science or applied science.)
  6. Two other courses at the 200-level or higher in a related field that are part of a coherent program to be proposed by the student and approved by the major advisor.
  7. Senior Seminar (Physics 399) and the associated senior talk and thesis.

We strongly recommend that students take Mathematics 215: Linear Algebra before the end of sophomore year.

Astronomy

The astronomy program offers two majors: astronomy and astrophysics. Both majors provide substantial training in quantitative reasoning and independent thinking through work in and out of the classroom.

Astronomy Major

The astronomy major is appropriate for students that desire an in-depth education in astronomy that can be applied to a wide-range of career trajectories, but who do not necessarily intend to pursue graduate study in astronomy.

Astronomy Major Requirements

  1. Physics 105 (or 101 or 115), Physics 106 (or 102), Physics 213, Physics 214.
  2. Two mathematics courses; Mathematics 121 and all 200 level or higher mathematics courses can be used to satisfy this requirement.
  3. Astronomy 205, Astronomy 206, four 300-level astronomy courses, one of which may be replaced by an upper-level physics course.
  4. Astronomy 404, which may be replaced by approved independent research either at Haverford or elsewhere.
  5. Written comprehensive examinations.

Bryn Mawr equivalents may be substituted for the non-astronomy courses. Astronomy/Physics 152 is recommended but not required.

Astrophysics Major

The astrophysics major is appropriate for students who wish to pursue the study of astronomy with additional attention to the physical principles that underlie astrophysical phenomena. The depth of the physics training required for a degree in astrophysics will prepare students who wish to pursue a career in astronomy or astrophysics, or to enter graduate study in astronomy or astrophysics.

Astrophysics Major Requirements

  1. Physics 105 (or 115 or 101), Physics 106 (or 102), Physics 213, Physics 214, Physics 211 (usually taken concurrently with Physics 213).
  2. Two mathematics courses. Mathematics 121 and all 200 level or higher mathematics courses can be used to satisfy this requirement.
  3. Astronomy 205, Astronomy 206, and any two 300 level astronomy courses.
  4. Physics 302, Physics 303, and Physics 309.
  5. The Senior Seminar, Physics 399, including a talk and senior thesis on research conducted by the student. This research can be undertaken in a 400-level research course with any member of the Physics or Astronomy departments or by doing extracurricular research at Haverford or elsewhere, e.g., an approved summer research internship at another institution. The thesis is to be written under the supervision of both the research advisor and a Haverford advisor if the research advisor is not a Haverford faculty member.

Bryn Mawr equivalents may be substituted for the non-astronomy courses. Astronomy/Physics 152 and Physics 308 are recommended but not required.


Minors

Physics Minor

Physics Minor Requirements

  1. Physics 105 (or 101 or 115) and 106 (or 102); 213, 214, 211 and 301 labs (or Bryn Mawr equivalents).
  2. Either Math 121 or Math 216 and Math 215 (linear algebra).
  3. One of the four “core” 300 level lecture courses in physics at Haverford or Bryn Mawr: 302 (Advanced Quantum Mechanics), 303 (Statistical Physics), 308 (Advanced Classical Mechanics) or 309 (Advanced Electromagnetism & Modern Optics).
  4. Participation for two semesters in the public lectures and seminars hosted by the department.

Astronomy Minor

Astronomy Minor Requirements

  1. Physics 105 (or 101 or 115); Physics 106 (or 102).
  2. Astronomy 205; Astronomy 206; one 300 level astronomy course.

Astronomy/Physics 152 is recommended but not required.

Environmental Studies Interdisciplinary Minor

The Environmental Studies Interdisciplinary Minor aims to cultivate in students the capacity to identify and confront key environmental issues through a blend of multiple disciplines, encompassing historical, cultural, economic, political, scientific and ethical modes of inquiry.


Concentrations

Biophysics Concentration

The concentration in biophysics recognizes current and undoubtedly enduring trends in interdisciplinary science by establishing in the curriculum a formal program of classroom and laboratory training at the interface between the physical and biological sciences.

Computer Science Concentration
For Physics Majors

The physics computer science concentration focuses on the hardware aspects of computer science and their basis in physics and electronics, as well as the use of the computer as a tool for physicists.

Education Concentration

In the past year, our Education Program has added a number of options. The most significant change is the addition of a 5th year certification option, which enables graduates of both Bryn Mawr and Haverford to obtain a secondary teacher certification with us at an affordable rate after they graduate.

Scientific Computing Concentration
For Physics or Astronomy majors

The concentration in scientific computing gives students an opportunity to develop a basic facility with the tools and concepts involved in applying computation to a scientific problem, and to explore the specific computational aspects of their own major disciplines.


Degree Partnership Programs

4+1 Engineering Program With The University Of Pennsylvania

Study for four years at Haverford, then one year at Penn, and receive a Bachelor's of Science from Haverford and a Master's in Engineering from Penn. Haverford is the first liberal arts college in the world to enter into such an agreement with an Ivy League engineering program.

Haverford College and the University of Pennsylvania have formed a partnership that enables qualified Haverford undergraduates to gain early and expedited admission into a Master’s degree offered by Penn Engineering.


Pre-Professional Studies

Pre-Health

Students from Haverford who enter medical schools have graduated with a great variety of majors — Philosophy, Spanish, English and several others of which the most common are, as might be expected, Biology and Chemistry.

Pre-Law

Law school can be an incredible, significant and defining experience that will take you to the next stage of your intended career. The Pre-Law office can help you make this decision and answer the important question: Why do you want to attend law school?


Senior Year Experience

To pull together the many elements which make up the senior year in our physics major, the department requires students to participate in a seminar, Physics 399. At the approximately biweekly meetings, students and faculty gather around a table to discuss topics running the gamut from scientific ethics to how to give a scientific talk or write a scientific research paper.

The most important part of the senior seminar remains the senior paper and the senior presentations. The senior presentations are in the form of a scientific talk, poster, or both. These presentations are conducted for an audience of their peers and faculty, and are pitched so that fellow physics and astronomy majors can understand. At the end of each presentation, a lively discussion often ensues, with both faculty and students asking many questions, and the student speaker making a valiant attempt to answer them.

Our majors find the Senior These to be one of the most challenging experiences at Haverford, but also the most satisfying. With guidance from their faculty mentors, students write a paper, typically 25-50 pages long including figures and references, aimed at a general audience of physicists. Frequently, this leads to a publication in a peer-reviewed journal.


Honors

Physics Requirements for Honors

The award of Honors in Physics is based upon the quality of performance in course work and the senior colloquium and paper. High Honors carries the additional requirement of demonstrated originality in senior research.

Astronomy and Astrophysics Requirements for Honors

All astronomy and astrophysics majors are regarded as candidates for Honors. For both majors, the award of Honors will be made in part on the basis of superior work in the departmental courses and in certain related courses. For astronomy majors, the award of Honors will additionally be based on performance on the comprehensive examinations, with consideration given for independent research. For astrophysics majors, the award of Honors will additionally be based on the senior thesis and talk.


Learning Goals

Physics Learning Goals

Physics majors should achieve a high level of competency in many facets of physics before graduating, including experimental physics laboratory skills, physical problem-solving, and mathematical (and computing) expertise, as well as considerable physics content knowledge.

Astronomy Learning Goals

The astronomy curriculum centers on studying the phenomena of the extraterrestrial Universe and on understanding them in terms of the fundamental principles of physics.


Intro/Non-Major Advice

These courses show the breadth of application of physics and astronomy, and are intended for students planning to major in the humanities or social sciences. They are offered without scientific prerequisite, and use mathematics as needed, but not at an advanced level.

Astronomy
Physics