Physics (BS)

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Program Description

Physics is the most basic of the natural sciences. It is concerned with understanding the world on all scales of length, time, and energy. The methods of physics are diverse, but they share a common objective to develop and refine fundamental models that quantitatively explain observations and the results of experiments. The discoveries of physics rank among the most important achievements of human inquiry and have had an enormous impact on human culture and civilization. Members of the department conduct research in the fields of astrophysics, biophysics, cosmology, elementary particle physics, gravitation, hard and soft condensed matter physics, and statistical physics, carrying out experimental work in state-of-the art laboratories in the department and at such national and international facilities as the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and large astronomical observatories.

The educational programs of the department are aimed at providing a range of courses to meet the needs of different student groups. For undergraduate physics majors, there is a rigorous core program, exposure to current frontiers, and opportunities for research. For science majors outside of physics, there are technical courses that emphasize the fundamental physical laws that underpin other sciences; and for other majors, nontechnical courses introduce some of the most important concepts of physics and their impact on the contemporary world.

Departmental Objectives

The BA and BS programs for the major provide good preparation for graduate school and develop a range of technical skills relating to building quantitative theoretical models and making precise measurements of physical phenomena. The programs are also designed to satisfy curiosity about the fundamental laws that govern every aspect of the world, from the interactions of subatomic particles to the origin and behavior of the entire universe. They are simultaneously very deep and very broad. Course work includes both theoretical subjects and experimental activity in laboratories. The programs are designed to give students flexibility in years three and four to pursue interdisciplinary activities, spend time abroad, or delve into greater depth in a subject or into original research.

The department is a collegial place where faculty and students get to know one another well. There are regular formal and informal seminars, as well as a thriving Society of Physics Students, and students and faculty often collaborate on original research problems. Many majors participate in original research and coauthor scientific publications. Our students are extremely well prepared for a wide range of activities—not just in scientific research, but also in professional and engineering pursuits, or any area where abstract thinking and quantitative modeling of real systems are necessary and rewarded.

For non-majors, the department offers non-technical courses that introduce some of the concepts and events that are most important to understanding physics and its impact. For science majors outside of physics, there are technical courses on the fundamental laws that underpin the other sciences. The department also provides courses designed to meet the preprofessional goals of prehealth students and students in engineering disciplines. In addition, students who are interested in obtaining significant exposure to the ideas of physics without committing to the major or without obtaining a comprehensive mathematical background can minor in physics or astronomy.

Physics and Engineering

The College of Arts and Science offers a joint BS/BS program with the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. The program leads to the BS degree in physics from CAS and the BS degree in one of the following areas from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering: civil engineering; computer engineering; electrical engineering; or mechanical engineering. Further information is available from the College Advising Center, 726 Broadway, 7th floor; 212-998-8130.

Policy on School of Engineering courses: This option is open only to students with declared majors in the Department of Physics. They may seek prior permission of the director of undergraduate studies to take advanced electives in the School of Engineering and apply them to the major. This is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. These courses count against each student’s 16-credit allowance in the other divisions of NYU and cannot be applied to the 64-credit UA residency requirement.

Honors Program

Students who have completed at least 64 credits of graded work in the College may be awarded degrees with departmental honors in physics if they complete all requirements of the major as well as the designated honors requirements, and also maintain the requisite grade point average of 3.65 both in the major and overall.

The honors program must minimally be a two-term (for credit) research experience that includes a capstone research project. The capstone project, which typically culminates in a thesis, should reflect sustained original research over two semesters. A committee of three faculty members of the Department of Physics is created for each honors student. The honors thesis must be approved by the committee, who will judge if the research is of sufficient quality. Publication in a recognized research journal of an article reporting research done primarily by the student is prima facie evidence that the research is deserving of honors. Because of inevitable delay in publication, an article submitted for publication may not be published in the time available, and the thesis committee may express its opinion that the thesis is of publishable quality.

All students completing departmental honors must make public presentations of their work, which may be at the CAS Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) held at the end of the academic year, or in a departmental forum (e.g., oral defenses or presentations), or at a recognized physics conference.


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