The department aims to develop in its students a comprehensive grasp of the principles of physics, together with a productive capacity in research. The courses of study are flexible in subject matter and are conducted by means of lectures, seminars, laboratories, and colloquia. Undergraduate as well as graduate students have opportunities to carry out research in fields of current interest.

Current Semester Courses

View a list of graduate and undergraduate courses, updated each semester.

Current Physics Courses

Introductory Physics Courses

Science concentrators beginning college physics in their junior or senior year, particularly premedical students, should generally take Physics 30 and 40. Some, wishing a deeper course, may want to consider Physics 50 and 60. People with A.P. credit for high school physics should certainly consider this alternative, as well as the possibilities of Physics 70 and/or 160.

Most other students should take courses above the level of Physics 40. This specifically includes those who plan (or wish to retain the option) to concentrate in any physical science, and/or most who for any reason take physics as freshmen or sophomores, particularly if they have studied physics previously. Such people should begin with Physics 50, unless they have completed a year of both physics and calculus, in which case Physics 70 should be seriously considered. Those who limit their college physics to two semesters may conclude with either Physics 60 or Physics 160. Specific recommendations for particular concentrations are available from Concentration Advisors or the contact people mentioned below.

Those who wish the strongest available foundation in physics, including but not limited to those contemplating physics or physics-related concentrations, should follow Physics 50 or 70 with Physics 160 and Physics 470.

Course Number Description
PHYS 0030 This course is a broad quantitative survey of the main classes of physical phenomena, with applications. It includes much that is covered in a sound (A.P.-level) high school course and most of its syllabus corresponds to that of the MCATs. It is intended for premedical students and others beginning physics as juniors or seniors. It is not the best foundation for a physical science concentration and is largely redundant for those who have recently taken high school physics at the A.P. level.
PHYS 0050 This course is the basic beginning course for those building a foundation for a physical science concentration. It is appropriate for most freshmen and sophomores, especially those who have had high school physics, though such background is not required.
PHYS 0070 This course is a faster-paced, more extensive alternative to Physics 5 for those who have completed a year each of physics and calculus. It will cover the material of Physics 5 rapidly and proceed in each subject area to more sophisticated applications and more challenging problems.
PHYS 0060 Following Physics 50 or 70, this course completes the study of classical physics in two semesters, for those wishing to do this.
PHYS 0160 This course is an in-depth introduction to modern physics. It is the second course in the three-semester sequence (concluding with Physics 470) that provides the strongest foundation offered for physical science concentrators. Physics160 is also an available alternative to Physics 60 for students who limit their college physics to two semesters.

Math Courses for Physics Concentrators

Mathematics is an indispensable part of the structure of physics. Since mathematics provides the logical framework where physical laws can be precisely formulated and their predictions quantified, students with highly developed mathematical skills tend to have a greater advantage in a physics course. It is therefore strongly recommended that students begin their mathematical studies at Brown as soon as possible, and at the highest level consistent with their mathematics background.

Most entering students take either MATH 190 or 350 in the fall semester, depending on their background (note that 190 is preferred over 170), followed by MATH 200 or 520 or 540 (the latter two following 350). It is strongly recommended that all sophomores take PHYS 720, “Methods of Mathematical Physics”, which will provide students with the essentials of linear algebra, Fourier analysis and differential equations, in a form most appropriate for advanced Physics courses. Note that PHYS 720 can be taken with no previous knowledge of linear algebra (the subject matter of MATH 520 and 540).

Students earning an Sc.B. in Physics must take one additional Math or Applied Math course beyond those listed above. Courses in ordinary and partial differential equations, Fourier analysis and complex analysis are highly recommended. Probability and statistics, group theory, topology and differential geometry are also good choices.

For clarification or advice on individual cases, please consult the Physics Concentration Advisor or the course instructors.