Physics, Bachelor of Science

Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science

College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences

This degree takes students from the core of the atom to the hearts of galaxies, all in an effort to understand how the universe works. This Physics-rich program also grounds the student in advanced math and calculus.

  • 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 diversity, liberal studies, 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.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • 62 - 64 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.

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

Students may be able to use some courses to meet more than one requirement. Contact your advisor for details.

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

Purpose Statement
Physics seeks to explain everything from the structure, evolution, and formation of the universe to the nature of matter and energy. At its heart, physics aims to provide fundamental and predictive explanations to observed phenomena, establishing relationships between measurable quantities, and developing mathematical model(s) to interpret, leverage, and understand these phenomena. The major emphasizes foundational skills for the understanding key physical phenomena including matter, motion, energy, electricity and magnetism, quantum theory, and gravity. Through a mastery of physics, students will develop advanced mathematical, computational, and experimental skills. Major work is completed through classroom and laboratory experiences. The critical thinking, scientific analysis, and communication skills attained through the completion of a physics degree will prepare graduates for entry to graduate and professional schools, industry careers, and research laboratory work.

Student Learning Outcomes

The BS in Physics program is designed to prepare students for a career in a technical field or for graduate studies in physics.

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 Mechanics
  • Thermodynamics
  • Statistical Mechanics
  • Physics of condensed matter
  • Electronic and optical properties of materials
  • Mechanical and thermal properties of materials.
  • Electronics
  • Atomic and nuclear physics
  • Experimental Science
  • Materials Science

Laboratory Skills
  • Understand how to take data with increasingly sophisticated equipment in introductory, intermediate, and advanced physics laboratories.
  • Understand how to identify and quantify experimental errors, perform statistical error analysis, and quantify measurement confidence.
  • Be able to design and create experiments to measure physical phenomena.
  • Be able to synthesize an appropriate conclusion from an experiment.

Computational Skills
  • 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, linear algebra, asymptotic and series expansions, normal mode analysis, conservation laws, and symmetries to solve physics 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.
  • Become proficient in a simulation software, e.g., Zemax or MATLAB.
  • Be able to use simulation software to understand complex phenomena.

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 of the problem.
  • Articulate a pathway toward solving the problem.
  • Successfully follow the path and solve the problem.
  • Utilize symmetries, conserved quantities or approximation methods to confirm the validity of a physical result, understand limiting behavior, and characterize results analytically.
  • Identify and understand the physics/astrophysics literature as it relates to specific problems.

Communication Skills
  • Clearly communicate and defend their work in verbal, written, and visual formats to scientific and non-scientific audiences.
  • Learn scientific writing best practices, including:
    • Structure and format a scientific article.
    • Properly cite and acknowledge prior work.
    • Create effective figures.
    • Present experimental data
  • Use scientific word processing software such as LaTeX.

Major Requirements
  • This major requires 62 - 64 units.

    Take the following 62 - 64 units:

    • *PHY 171 and PHY 172 are recommended in consultation with your advisor.

  • Students enrolled in this plan may not enroll in or pursue the following due to the number of overlapping units:

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 of the academic areas, using these courses to pursue your specific interests and goals. You may also use prerequisites or transfer credits as electives if they weren't used to meet major, minor, or liberal studies requirements.

    We encourage you to consult with your advisor to select the courses that will be most advantageous to you.

Additional Information
  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.