PHYS – Physics course descriptions


Wendy Weber (chair), Chad Garber, Elizabeth Golovatski, Viktor Martisovits, Alexey Pronin


Statement of philosophy

Physics, the most fundamental physical science, is concerned with the basic principles of the universe. It is the foundation on which engineering, technology and the other sciences are based. The physics program at Central College is a four-year program that prepares students for jobs in engineering and other technical areas, teaching, physics graduate school, engineering graduate school and research. It is the major that is the foundation for most of the engineering specialties in Central’s engineering dual-degree programs with The University of Iowa, and Iowa State University. Our mission is to teach physics theory, problem-solving skills, and experimental techniques with an emphasis on science as a method for exploring the world. We prepare our students to be able to reason from the general fundamental principles to specific applications in physics and engineering. A student trained in physics will be able to work in a variety of specialties.


Study abroad opportunities

Students majoring in physics have been able to study abroad with careful planning, especially during the summer.


Major Communication Skills

The communication skills goals of the Analytical and Physical Science department are to prepare our students to be able to read the technical and mathematical literature used in physics and to be able to explain physical concepts in a clear and logical fashion both in writing and speaking. Difficulties that arise in oral communication occur typically in public speaking situations and are best addressed by practice provided in speech classes. Early evaluation of skills is done in PHYS 111. Skill in reading physics texts is evaluated through normal chapter tests and quizzes in which comprehension of test questions and text material is required to pass. Writing skills are evaluated through laboratory reports that require a formal writing style. Speaking skills are evaluated through personal conversations with the students by the physics faculty during normal conversation involving technical matters.

Monitoring and remedial opportunities occur in each physics course in that tests, quizzes, and personal discussions with the students provide us with information that is used to advise students about any changes that must be made to improve their communication skills. Students in many courses are assigned short presentations to give to a class. Enrollment in PHYS 331 for two semesters is required of all physics majors. Each student must be able to communicate orally on a one-to-one basis with the instructor of the class regarding technical problems arising from experiments performed.

All graduating physics majors know how to read technical material, if slowly. Since speed is not a concern, there are no specific reading requirements. PHYS 331 has sufficiently high standards of technical writing that passing both semesters is evidence of a student’s writing skills. The formal requirement needed to meet the communication skill goal in speaking is to pass COMM 160 Communication in Everyday Life or COMM 270 Public Speaking.


Physics Major Requirements (minimum of 57 credits)            

  1. Complete all of the following:
    PHYS 111 General Physics I with Lab (5)
    PHYS 112 General Physics II with Lab (5)
    PHYS 225 Modern Physics I (3)
    PHYS 331 Advanced Labs (4) (2 semesters)
    CHEM 111 General Chemistry with Lab (4)
    MATH 131 Calculus I (4)
    MATH 132 Calculus II (4)
    MATH 231 Multivariable Calculus (3)
    MATH 250 Differential Equations (3)
  2. Complete 19 credits from the following elective courses:
    PHYS 211 Analog Electronics (3)
    PHYS 215 Theoritical and Experimental Methods (2)
    PHYS 216 Waves (2)
    PHYS 322 Optics (3)
    PHYS 325 Modern Physics II (3)
    PHYS 326 Analytical Mechanics (4)
    PHYS 412 Quantum Mechanics (4)
    PHYS 421 Electricity and Magnetism II (3)
    ENGR 212 Dynamics (3)
    ENGR 311 Thermodynamics (3)
    ENGR 321 Electromagnetism (3)
  3. Complete one of the following:
    COMM 160 Communication in Everyday Life (3)
    COMM 270 Public Speaking (4)


Physics Minor Requirements (18 credits)

  1.  Complete all of the following:
    PHYS 111 General Physics I with Lab (5)
    PHYS 112 General Physics II with Lab (5)
    PHYS 225 Modern Physics I (3)
    PHYS 331 Advanced Laboratories (2)
  2. Complete an additional 3 credits of PHYS courses numbered 211 or above