Physics and Astronomy Majors

The Departmental offers a single major that provides a thorough grounding in the core areas of physics. It is suitable either as a preparation for careers in science and engineering, or as a spring-board for applying technical knowledge in such fields as business, medicine, law, public policy and education. All physics majors are required to complete a set of core physics courses, nine hours of optional physics and/or astronomy courses, and the general education requirements for the College of Arts & Science (AXLE). Suggested courses and schedules for different 'tracks' within the Physics major are listed below in detail.Though not formally required for the major, students majoring in physics will also need to take calculus (Math 155a and 155b), multivariable calculus (Math 175), differential equations (Math 194 or 204) and linear algebra (Math 198 or 208) as co- or pre-requisites for selected physics courses. Physics majors are also strongly advised to take an introductory course in computer science (CS 101) and to strongly consider additional, computationally oriented courses (e.g., Phys 223C, Phys 257, Astr 253, Astr 254), and other courses that count toward the Scientific Computing minor.

Students planning to major in physics will be assigned an advisor from the faculty. Students are encouraged to seek advice and be mentored by any faculty member. The official advisors listed here are particularly knowledgeable on curricular matters and support systems at Vanderbilt University. They are also the ones who have the authority to sign official paperwork.

  • Core Courses - Required courses for all Physics and Astronomy majors as well as a list of recommended math courses.
  • Professional Physics Track - This track prepares students to undertake graduate work in physics and other technical fields. The complete program must begin in the freshman year; however, under exceptional circumstances a student who decides in the sophomore year to undertake graduate work in physics can complete sufficient work to succeed.
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics Track - This track prepares students to undertake graduate work in astronomy, astrophysics or related earth and planetary sciences.
  • Medical Physics Track - This track prepares students for medical school and for graduate study and careers in the health sciences. Because of the additional requirements for pre-medical students in the biological and chemical sciences, this major is best started in the sophomore year.
  • General Physics Track - This track prepares students for applying technical knowledge in such fields as business, law, public policy and education. It is designed to be completed in three years, thus meeting the needs of a student who discovers in the freshman year that physics is an attractive major option.
  • Honors Program - Students majoring in physics may apply for admission to an Honors Program which involves a senior thesis of high merit. Directed and Independent Study - All majors are encouraged to participate in research projects under the direction of faculty and research staff. Students can undertake Directed Study, which allows a student to work together with faculty on their research projects, or Independent Study, which involves research projects conceived and undertaken by individual students.
  • Scientific Computing minor.

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