College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences2017-2018

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Physics and Astronomy, Bachelor of Science

This degree provides opportunities for focused study and opens doors toward a more complex understanding of the universe. This major certainly offers a wider scope than any other major, from the Big Bang to the Way Things Work, to the very center of the atom.

Careers

What Can I Do with a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Astronomy?

Have you ever thought about the very big things-like the universe? Or the very small, like the inside of an atom? If you ponder the big questions, and look for patterns in nature's behavior, then maybe you're an astrophysicist in the making. You can find out at Northern Arizona University.

Here, you will be steeped in the sciences of physics and astronomy. Physics uses mathematics to describe why and how things work, and astronomy uses the laws of physics to reveal the nature of celestial objects. You will be encouraged to think independently, to join faculty research projects, and will benefit from the university's array of high-tech instruments and proximity to world-class Lowell Observatory. If you want to search for planets outside the solar system or learn how a laser actually works, you'll receive the guidance you need in NAU's merged major in Physics and Astronomy.

Career opportunities that might be pursued:
  • Research assistant
  • Telescope operator
  • Industrial researcher
  • Scientific programmer
  • Defense industry team member

With further education, one of these paths is possible:
  • Planetary scientist
  • Researcher
  • University professor
  • Optical engineer


University Requirements

  • To receive a bachelor's degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete at least 120 units of credit that minimally includes a major, the liberal studies requirements, and university requirements as listed below.

    • All of Northern Arizona University's liberal studies, diversity, junior-level writing, and capstone requirements.
    • All requirements for your specific academic plan(s).
    • At least 30 units of upper-division courses, which may include transfer work.
    • At least 30 units of coursework taken through Northern Arizona University, of which at least 18 must be upper-division courses (300-level or above). This requirement is not met by credit-by-exam, retro-credits, transfer coursework, etc.
    • A cumulative grade point average of at least 2.0 on all work attempted at Northern Arizona University.
    The full policy can be viewed here.

     

Overview

In addition to University Requirements:

  • At least 57 units of major requirements

  • Up to 9 units of major prefix courses may be used to satisfy Liberal Studies requirements; these same courses may also be used to satisfy major requirements

  • For this major the liberal studies prefixes are PHY and AST

  • Elective courses, if needed, to reach an overall total of at least 120 units

Please note that you may be able to use some courses to meet more than one requirement. Contact your advisor for details.

Minimum Units for Completion 120
Mathematics Required MAT 239
Research Optional
University Honors Program Optional
AZ Transfer Students complete AGEC-S Recommended

Student Learning Outcomes

The B.S. in Physics and Astronomy program is designed to prepare students for a career in a technical field or for graduate studies in physics, astronomy, or planetary sciences. 
 
Physics Content
Students will have an understanding of the laws of physics in the areas of:

  • classical mechanics
  • electricity and magnetism
  • special relativity
  • waves
  • optics
  • atomic physics
  • nuclear physics
  • quantum physics
  • thermodynamics
  • statistical mechanics
 
Astronomy Content
Students will be able to apply the laws of physics in order to understand the:
  • origin and evolution of the Solar System and other planetary systems
  • origin and evolution of stars
  • origin and evolution of galaxies
  • evolution of the Universe, i.e. cosmology
 
Laboratory Skills
Students will:
  • understand how to take good data with increasingly sophisticated equipment in introductory, intermediate, and advanced physics laboratories
  • be able to take good data with research grade telescope and a CCD imaging system
  • know how to identify random and systematic errors, and propagate errors
  • be able to synthesize an appropriate conclusion from a physics experiment or an astronomical observation
 
Computational Skills
Students will:
  • be able to apply mathematical tools such as elementary probability theory, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, differential and integral calculus, vector calculus, ordinary differential equations, partial differential equations, and linear algebra to solve physics and astronomy problems
  • become proficient in a computing language such as MATLAB
  • be able to write code in a computing language in order to explain or predict the behavior of a complex physical system
  • be able to reduce and analyze data from a research grade telescope and a CCD imaging system using professional astronomical software such as IRAF
 
Problem Solving Skills
Students will develop problem-solving capacities. In particular, a student will be able to:
  • ascertain the known and unknown aspects of a problem
  • describe the fundamental physical principles in the problem
  • articulate a pathway toward solving the problem
  • successfully follow the path and solve the problem
 
Communication Skills
Students will be able to:
  • clearly communicate and defend their work in verbal, written, and visual formats to scientific and non-scientific audiences

Details

Major Requirements
General Electives
  • Additional coursework is required, if, after you have met the previously described requirements, you have not yet completed a total of 120 units of credit. 

    You may take these remaining courses from any academic areas, using these courses to pursue your specific interests and goals. We encourage you to consult with your advisor to select the courses that will be most advantageous to you. (Please note that you may also use prerequisites or transfer credits as electives if they weren't used to meet major, minor, or liberal studies requirements.)

Additional Information
  • Please note that you may not count more than one grade of "D" in a physics or astronomy course toward the major requirements for this degree.

  • MAT 136, MAT 137, MAT 238, MAT 239 are not required for this degree, but are prerequisites for other courses. (You may be able to count these prerequisites toward your liberal studies or general elective credit.)
  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also take. For prerequisite information click on the course or see your advisor.

Campus Availability



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