Physics forms a foundation for all other sciences. Four introductory physics sequences and two introductory laboratory sequences are open to first-year students, as well as several physics courses on diverse topics for non–science majors. Placement in some courses depends on the student’s preparation or on concurrent enrollment in an appropriate mathematics course.

Introductory Courses with No Calculus Requirement

These courses are designed for non–science students with little or no background in physics. None have a college-level mathematics requirement. Each course may count toward the distributional requirements in science and/or quantitative reasoning. Expected offerings for 2017–2018 include:

Course List

PHYS 100, Energy Technology and Society

PHYS 112, Practical Electronics

PHYS 120, Quantum Physics and Beyond

Calculus-Based Physics Lecture Courses

The four introductory physics course sequences listed below are calculus-based. Students should have the appropriate background in mathematics to take these courses. Sir Isaac Newton developed calculus while trying to describe the world around him; it is the natural language of physics. Students enrolled in one of the calculus-based introductory courses will be invited to a series of Chairman’s Teas, which provide an opportunity to discuss topics on the frontiers of physics with faculty and peers. Completion of an introductory sequence also prepares students for a series of 340-level electives, which cover special topics of interest to both majors and nonmajors.

For reference, please see the Guide to Selecting the Best Physics Course for You.

Laboratory Courses

PHYS 170, PHYS 180, PHYS 200, and PHYS 260 are taught at the same time so that students are easily able to change levels if necessary.

The following table summarizes some important information about the lecture and laboratory courses described above.

  Meets Medical School Requirement Acceptable for Physics Major Math Taken Concurrently
PHYS 050 - PHYS 120 no no none
PHYS 170, PHYS 171 yes yes MATH 115
PHYS 180, PHYS 181 yes yes MATH 115, MATH 120
PHYS 200, PHYS 201 yes yes MATH 120, and MATH 225 or MATH 222
PHYS 260, PHYS 261 yes yes One of MATH 120, ENAS 151, MATH 230 or MATH 231, or PHYS 301
PHYS 165L, PHYS 166L yes yes -
PHYS 205L, PHYS 206L yes yes -

Questions about placement should be addressed to the director of undergraduate studies (DUS) at a meeting in the fall for all first-year students interested in the Physics major. Details will be listed in the Calendar for the Opening Days. Further information about undergraduate physics at Yale can be found on the departmental website.