Physics is the study of how the Universe works. From the smallest of sub-atomic particles to the largest clusters of galaxies, physicists try to take apart the pieces of reality and observe how they fit together. When a piece of the puzzle fits into place in your understanding, the world around you looks different. From this understanding, one can see more clearly the dance of nature and the rules that govern it.
Physics students at Guilford come from a variety of backgrounds and have a broad spectrum of interests and career goals. About one third of our physics majors plan for employment in a technical field immediately after graduation. Another third pursue graduate study in physics or astronomy. The remaining third go on to advanced study in another field. The common thread connecting the different goals and focuses of our students and faculty is the physicist’s approach to thinking about, modeling, and understanding the universe. This process relies on clear, analytical, and often abstract thinking but is ultimately grounded in concrete reality as exposed by experiment. These skills are of value in not only science and engineering but also business, law, medicine, and many other endeavors.
To embrace the diverse interests of our student population, the physics curriculum is flexible and personalized. We emphasize research and experimentation throughout our program, allowing students to follow their interests. In introductory courses, students learn to work with equipment, quantify experimental uncertainties, and hone their scientific writing. The experimental physics sequence stresses laboratory techniques, cooperative research, and clear, thoughtful presentation of results. In this sequence of courses, students design experiments, act as principal investigators, write journal articles, and give talks for peer review. In short, they learn how to perform self-directed research. This research experience culminates in a thesis project that must be original and designed by the student. The program thus provides a coherent developmental process that gives students the skills they need to succeed.
The Bachelor of Science degree is offered in Physics.
We offer degrees in the following tracks:
- B.S. in Physics for students pursuing employment in a technical field
- B.S. in Physics for students preparing for graduate study
- B.S. in Physics for students preparing for graduate study in astrophysics
- B.S. in Physics for students preparing for engineering
Note: PHYS 101, 106, 107, 108, 109, and 461 do not apply toward major.
The major requires a minimum of 36 credit hours (nine courses). Course work in mathematics is required to prepare students for courses in physics. Course work in chemistry is also required for the pre-engineering track.
- Two courses from: 4 credits
- PHYS 231Experimental Physics I
- PHYS 232 Experimental Physics II
- PHYS 331 Experimental Physics III
- PHYS 332 Experimental Physics IV
- PHYS 370 Physics Research – 1 – 4 credits
- PHYS 470 Senior Thesis or PHYS 490 Departmental Honors Thesis – 4 credits
- 24 credits of additional Physics courses including – 24 credits
- The technical track requires one 400 level theory course – 4 credits
- The graduate study track requires three 400 level theory courses – 12 credits
- The astrophysics track requires PHYS 210, PHYS 443, and two additional 400 level theory courses – 16 credits
- The pre-engineering track requires one 400 level theory course and at least two of PHYS 202, PHYS 226, and PHYS 324 – 12 credits
Total credit hours required for B.S. degree in Physics – 36 credits
Scholarships and Research Awards
To recognize superior work in physics, the department annually offers the E. Garness Purdom Scholarship to a rising senior physics major. The department also offers three awards to support student research — the Michael Jeglinski Physics Award, the Winslow Womack Research Award, and the Adelberger Research Award. Physics majors are also eligible for the Glaxo-Wellcome Women in Science Scholarship, awarded annually to an outstanding rising junior woman science major, and the E.G. Purdom Memorial Award for Women in Physical Science.