Requirements for the B.S. Degree

As of Spring 2012

Required Physics Courses

  1. "Fundamentals of Physics I", Physics 161+161L or equivalent*
  2. "Fundamentals of Physics II", Physics 162+162L or equivalent*
  3. "Optics and Modern Physics", Physics 264L
  4. "Intermediate Mechanics", Physics 361
  5. "Electricity and Magnetism", Physics 362
  6. "Thermal Physics", Physics 363
  7. "Advanced Physics Laboratory and Seminar", Physics 417S
  8. "Quantum Mechanics I", Physics 464
  9. One physics elective numbered 200 or higher.
  10. One physics elective numbered 300 or higher.

 Required Mathematics Courses

  1. "One-variable calculus", Math 122L or its equivalent
  2. "Intermediate Calculus", Math 212
  3. "Linear Algebra and Applications", Math 221
  4. "Elementary Differential Equations", Math 356.

Brief descriptions of these courses can be found in the Duke University Undergraduate Bulletin and on this official course listing.
A note on the math requirements:  for students who have already taken, or started, the Math 216/353 sequence, these courses will be accepted in place of Math 221/356.  However Math 221/356 is the preferred sequence for physics majors.

*141L/142L or 151L/152L are acceptable for satisfying introductory physics requirements for physics majors, for students who have already taken these when starting as a physics major.  However 161+161L and 162+162L are strongly encouraged, as they provide better preparation for subsequent courses.   Calculus-based physics AP credit is also accepted, although in most cases, prospective physics majors are encouraged to take introductory physics at Duke regardless of AP credit.

Students planning to attend a physics graduate program should also:

  • get research experience through a research independent study (Physics 493) or through summer research.
  • take one or more upper-level physics courses beyond the required physics courses. Quantum Mechanics II, Physics 465, the second semester of the upper-level quantum sequence, is especially recommended but other choices could be astrophysics, biophysics, computational physics, particle physics, and nonlinear dynamics.
  • take at least one math course beyond the basic math requirements. If you want to choose a math course that also strengthens your ability to do graduate physics research, some choices could be complex analysis, partial differential equations, abstract algebra, differential geometry, perturbation theory, and numerical analysis.
  • demonstrate substantial mastery of some physics topic by doing enough research to write an honors thesis, see Graduation with Distinction.

Knowing How to Program

All physics majors should know how to write computer programs at the level of an introductory computer science course such as Computer Science 101, and they should learn this skill as soon as possible, preferably by the end of their sophomore year. Knowing how to program greatly increases the opportunities for undergraduate research, theoretical and experimental.