The physics curriculum is designed with considerable flexibility in order to accommodate the variety of interests, plans, and needs of majors. At the same time, it provides a broad and thorough understanding of the fundamental ideas and concepts related to the physical world surrounding us. Using this broad base, which stresses fundamentals, undergraduates may enter graduate work in one of the pure or applied sciences or one of the non-sciences such as education, business administration, law, journalism, or philosophy. They may also choose to go directly into jobs in education, industry, government, or business.
The Department of Physics offers graduate work leading to the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Futhermore, the faculty in all research groups are strongly committed to enriching the undergraduate experience by providing opportunities for undergraduates to fully participate in cutting-edge research projects working alongside faculty and graduate students.
Intended primarily as preparation for graduate work in one of the physical sciences, the professional option provides a sound background in the fundamentals of physics and mathematics.
This option requires a minimum of 16 credits in the declared area and is designed for those who desire a firm background in mathematics and physics coupled with a concentration in another discipline such as chemistry, biology, computer science, engineering, or technical writing. Each student choosing this option will work out a specific program with an advisor and the participating department.
This option is intended primarily as preparation for secondary school teachers. Teaching options require a teaching minor from the list under the Department of Education. However, the only teaching minor that can be completed within 128 credits is Mathematics. Please contact the department advisor for specifics on other options.
Curricula in Physics/Required Courses
Details on the three undergraduate program options offered in physics at MSU can be found in the MSU Undergraduate Catalog as follows:
The links below are flow charts of the three undergraduate program options offered in physics at MSU. The flow charts are an aid in determining which classes to take and when to take them for your chosen option. The flowcharts are a summary of the official program requirements contained in the Undegraduate Catalog. Please consult the MSU course catalog for official program requirements.
- Flowchart Aid - Professional Option, 2014-2016 Catalog
- Flowchart Aid - Interdisciplinary Option, 2014-2016 Catalog
- Flowchart aid - Teaching Option, 2014-2016 Catalog
- Flowchart aid - Professional Option, 2012-2014 Catalog
- Flowchart aid - Interdisciplinary Option, 2012-2014 Catalog
- Flowchart aid - Teaching Option, 2012-2014 Catalog
- Flowchart aid - Professional Option, 2010-2012 Catalog
- Flowchart aid - Interdisciplinary Option, 2010-2012 Catalog
- Flowchart aid - Teaching Option, 2010-2012 Catalog
Undergraduate Research Participation
An integral component of all undergraduate major programs in physics is participation in undergraduate research. Based on student interest, faculty work closely with students in identifying and addressing important problems in particular sub-fields. Although a minimum of 3 credits of undergraduate research is required, many students extend this experience and work in research labs throughout the year, including summers. Students from other majors who demonstrate interest and ability are also welcome to participate in undergraduate research in physics.
Students in the professional and interdisciplinary options will complete senior projects that integrate their physics knowledge and problem solving skills. Students will complete these projects during a minimum of two credits of PHYS 470, PHYS 489, or PHYS 490 and present their results in oral and written forms in PHYS 406 - Capstone Presentations. Guidelines for these senior projects are available from the departmental advisors.
The capstone experience for those in the Physics Teaching Option is EDSD 410 - Student Teaching. Each student will submit a written report from the supervising teacher and a written self-assessment.
The senior project is designed to give a student the opportunity to develop, over two or more semesters, skills that are necessary for work in a professional scientific environment. The student will collaborate with a mentor on a project that: is of interest to the student, is either experimental or theoretical in nature, has a defined objective, is primarily based on the student's own work. (This work normally will be presented in PHYS 406C). It could be an extension of background or historical work completed by the student in PHYS 470 or 489, but must also include 3 credits of PHYS 490; at least 2 credits of 490 must be completed before taking physics 406C (capstone). In PHYS 406C students will be required to complete: i) an APS-style abstract, ii) an APS-style 10-minute oral presentation, iii) a poster session, and iv) a written research report, based on their prior research. Specific examples of current and past senior projects include:
- Laser development for specific applications
- Conducting spectroscopy or surface measurements of materials
- Extending or applying recent theories of quantum information theory
- Theoretical work in astrophysics, gravitation
- Analysis and interpretation of astronomical data
Departmental Honors in Physics
When appropriate, majors should consider the opportunities afforded by the departmental honors program. This program has the following requirements:
- A minimum 3.5 grade-point average (GPA) in physics; 3.0 GPA overall.
- A minimum of four credits of undergraduate research credit.
- An acceptable, bound senior thesis, and an oral defense of the thesis.
- Participation in a physics seminar for one semester in either the junior or senior year.
A detailed description of the program is available from the department.