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:
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.
- PHYS 170 and PHYS 171 are for students who are interested in the medical and biological sciences. Knowledge of differential and integral calculus at the level of MATH 112, or equivalent is a prerequisite for PHYS 170 and PHYS 171. MATH 115 should be taken concurrently with PHYS 171.
- PHYS 180 and PHYS 181 are for students with some previous background in physics and mathematics who plan to major in the physical sciences. Calculus at the level of MATH 112 is a prerequisite; MATH 115 and MATH 120, should be taken concurrently.
- PHYS 200 and PHYS 201 are for students with a strong background in mathematics and physics who plan to major in the physical sciences. Calculus at the level of MATH 115 is presumed; MATH 120 and either MATH 225 or MATH 222, are generally taken concurrently.
- PHYS 260 and PHYS 261 are for students who have excellent training in physics and mathematics and a flair for mathematical methods and quantitative analysis. One of the following: MATH 120, ENAS 151, PHYS 301, or MATH 230 and MATH 231 or the equivalent should be taken concurrently.
- PHYS 165L and PHYS 166L do not require a strong high school physics laboratory preparation. Related lecture courses are PHYS 170, PHYS 171 or PHYS 180, PHYS 181. Many students take the lecture courses first, and then take the laboratory sequence in a subsequent year.
- PHYS 205L and PHYS 206L are for students who plan to major in the physical sciences. The related lecture courses are PHYS 180, PHYS 181, or PHYS 200, PHYS 201, or PHYS 260, PHYS 261. Students are advised to start this laboratory sequence in the spring of the first year or the fall of the sophomore year.
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.