Jun 12, 2024  
2024-2025 Catalog 
2024-2025 Catalog


Professors: Belloni, Boye, Gfroerer (Chair) 
Associate Professor: Yukich
Assistant Professors:  A. Kuchera, M. Kuchera, Thompson
Visiting Assistant Professor: Levy

Mathematics Requirement

Either Physics 250 or both Mathematics 150 and 160 will satisfy the mathematics requirement for the Physics major and Astrophysics minor.  The math requirement should be satisfied by the end of the sophomore year if possible.  If MAT 150 and 160 are used to satisfy the mathematics requirement, the two courses together will count as a single course for double majors.

Computational Physics

The computational physics requirement may be satisfied in one of two ways: (1) PHY 240 or (2) MAT/CSC 315 and an introductory computing course (CSC 121, BIO/CSC 209, DIG/CSC 120, or equivalent).  The computational physics requirement should be satisfied by the end of the junior year if possible.  If option (2) is used to satisfy the computational physics requirement, the two courses together will count as a single course for double majors.

Major Requirements (B.S. Degree)

Physics 120, 125 or 130 is a prerequisite to a major in physics. Only with specific permission of the department chair can Physics 118 satisfy this prerequisite.

The major consists of the following courses and requirements: one course chosen from 220, 225, 230, or 235; plus 305, 315, 330, 335, 350, and 360; the mathematics requirement; the computational physics requirement; and one course chosen from courses numbered 400 to 460.

Major Requirements (Engineering Dual Degree (3-2) Track)

Students seeking to complete the dual degree engineering (3-2) track with a physics major are required to take the following courses in order to receive a B.S. degree in Physics from Davidson: Physics 230 or 235, 305, 315, 335; the mathematics requirement; the computational physics requirement; and two courses chosen from 330, 350, 360, and 400.

Minor in Applied Physics Requirements

The Applied Physics Minor is designed to empower students to use physics for the benefit of their community. The minor starts with the study of basic physical principles and how they are applied in disciplines such as environmental design, music, and the visual arts. The minor continues with an introduction to experimental and computational approaches to real-world problem-solving, including programming and the use of electronics and instrumentation. Together, the minor comprises 4 courses and one requirement:

Depending on student interest, helpful supplements to the required curriculum may include additional coursework in physics or computer science and/or an independent study or research project in engineering or medical physics.

Minor in Astrophysics Requirements

An astrophysics minor includes analyzing the properties and interactions of cosmological objects. The minor requires six courses:

PHY 200 is recommended, but not required

Honors Requirements

In addition to completing the requirements for a major in physics, a candidate for honors in physics must submit a written thesis covering an independent research project. Such a project may be based upon work completed in Physics 495, 496, or in an undergraduate research program on or away from campus that is approved by the department. Applications for honors in physics should be made in writing to the chair of the department no later than the end of the junior year.  The department does not award high honors.

The awarding of honors in physics is based on:

  1. An overall average of at least 3.2, with an average of at least 3.5 in physics courses taken at Davidson.
  2. An acceptable score on the Graduate Record Examination in Physics or the Physics Area Test administered by the Department.
  3. An oral presentation of the research in a departmental seminar.
  4. The favorable vote of the physics faculty concerning the qualities of the candidate, the course of study, the written thesis, and the oral defense.

Applied Mathematics Interdisciplinary Minor

Students who are interested in applied mathematics are encouraged to consider the Applied Mathematics Interdisciplinary Minor. The minor offers a track for students interested primarily in the natural sciences and another track for students interested primarily in the social sciences. The minor is described in detail in this catalog under interdisciplinary minors.

Computer Science

Students interested in combining their study of Physics with course work in Computer Science should note that PHY 240 - Computational Physics (= PHY 260)   serves as an introductory programming course in the Computer Science curriculum, and opens avenues for further study in that field.  See the catalog section on Computer Science  for more information.  In addition, the courses PHY 315  and PHY 397  provide opportunities for students with interest in the intersections between Physics and Computer Science.

Rationale for Course Numbering

The 100-level courses in Physics are open to all students. Courses numbered between 100 and 116 are topical in nature and are primarily for non-science majors, and courses numbered 125 and 130 are entry-level introductory courses for both majors and non-majors.  

The 200-level courses are second-level introductory courses open to all students who have taken PHY 120 or 125 or 130 or, in the case of PHY 201, who have taken MAT 113 or 140. PHY/ENV 214 follows the Environmental Studies numbering rationale and is open to all students.

The 300-level courses are intermediate-level courses designed for physics majors and other students who have the suitable prerequisites. PHY 305, 315, and 330 are open to students who have taken PHY 225 or 230 or 235. PHY 350 and 360 are open to students who have taken previous 300-level courses. PHY 335 is the capstone experimental course, to be taken in the senior year. 

The 400-level courses are advanced courses available only to physics majors or other students with the proper prerequisites. Independent study and independent research courses numbered 390-399 and 490-499 are available to qualified students with permission of the instructor.