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.

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.


Physics Majors

The department offers four different Physics BS degrees:

  • Professional Option
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics Option
  • Interdisciplinary Option
  • Teaching Option

Learn more about the different options here.

Physics Minors

The department also offers three minors:

  • Physics minor
  • Optics minor
  • Material Science minor

Learn more about the minors.

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.

Capstone Experience

Students in the professional and interdisciplinary options will present the results of their senior project in oral and written forms in the capstone course PHSX 499R.Completion of a minimum of 2 credits of undergraduate research/creative activity (PHSX 490R) is required prior to taking the capstone course PHSX 499R. The capstone experience for those in the Physics Teaching Option is EDU 495R - Student Teaching. Each student will submit a written report from the supervising teacher and a written self-assessment.

Senior Project

A student in the professional and interdisciplinary options will complete a senior project that integrates their physics knowledge and problem solving skills with research/creative activities. The senior project is designed to give a student the opportunity to develop skills that are necessary for work in a professional scientific environment by integrating their physics knowledge and problem solving skills with research/creative activities.  The results of this senior project are generally the basis for the successful completion of the capstone course PHSX 499R.

The senior project will be based on a collaboration of a student with a mentor on a project that is of interest to the student, is either experimental or theoretical in nature, has a defined objective, and is primarily based on the student's own work. Usually senior projects are based on research guided by one of the faculty in the Physics Department as part of student's minimum of 2 credits of undergraduate research/creative activity (PHSX 490R).  Senior projects are typically started before or during Junior year, and involve  two or more semesters (typically 1 credit per semester).  However, there are other options available for these senior projects, including, but are not limited to, research projects done by the student in other departments at Montana State University, research projects done by the student at other institutions, which may occur during a student exchange program or on a summer intern program, and independent research/creative activity done by the student under the guidance of the student's faculty advisor.

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:

      1. A minimum 3.5 grade-point average (GPA) in physics; 3.0 GPA overall.
      2. A minimum of four credits of undergraduate research credit.
      3. An acceptable, bound senior thesis, and an oral defense of the thesis.
      4. 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.