Program Highlights

Because of the myriad options that students with physics degrees have after graduation, you will choose a program of courses that will best serve your post-graduation plans. If you plan on advanced work in physics, engineering, or astrophysics, your coursework would be heavier on physics and mathematics. On the other hand, if you want to pursue a career in another field, but still want all the advantages of a strong background in physics, you would take a core group of physics courses as well as certain upper-level courses in other areas.

Areas of concentration

Each student will have a choice of how to complete their major. In consultation with their advisor, they will choose at least 9 additional hours at the 300 level or higher which best fit the student’s career goals. Concentration options include:

  1. Graduate school in physics
  2. Pre-medicine
  3. Business and consulting

Plans of Study

Departmental Course Offerings

Courses change each semester, so this list should not be considered a commitment to these individual topics. However, this does represent a list of many of our current and popular courses. The list is provided so that you can begin to imagine your academic career at Millikin in this major.

The Planets Basic sky phenomena, cultural aspects of astronomy and history of astronomy to Newton, the solar system. Emphasis given to principles underlying diversity of astronomical objects, as well as the processes by which astronomical knowledge has been gained. A general education course. Three lectures per week. (PY100)
Stars and Galaxies Astronomical optics; gravity; the structure, composition and evolution of stars; galaxies and cosmology. Emphasis given to principles underlying structure and behavior of stars and galaxies, as well as processes by which astronomical knowledge has been gained. A general education course. Three lectures per week. (PY101)
Modern Physics A study of the revolutions in physics since the late 19th century. Topics include special relativity, radioactivity, atomic and nuclear physics, and introductions to quantum mechanics and particle physics. The laboratory includes an introduction to Mathematica, Latex, journal articles, and seminar presentations. Three lectures and one laboratory period per week. Prerequisite: PY 152. (PY253)
Astrophysics Calculus-based intermediate level course in astronomy and astrophysics. Topics include celestial mechanics, electromagnetic radiation and matter, distances and magnitudes, binary systems, Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, stellar evolution, and the large-scale structure of the universe. Includes observing project. Prerequisite: PY 253 and MA 240. (PY300)
Physical Chemistry I The first course in physical chemistry. Topics include the laws of thermodynamics, elementary statistical thermodynamics, equilibrium, surface chemistry and physical chemistry of macromolecules. CH 351 and 353 are companion laboratory courses. Cross-listed with CH 303. Prerequisite: MA 240 and PY 253. (PY303)
Physical Chemistry II Continuation of CH 303. Emphasis on quantum mechanics as applied to theories of chemical bonding and spectroscopy. Chemical kinetics also is covered. Three lectures per week. Cross-listed with CH 304. CH 351 and 353 are companion laboratory courses. Prerequisite: CH 303. (PY304)
Classical Mechanics An intermediate-level survey of classical Newtonian mechanics. Conservative forces, damped and forced oscillations, momentum and energy theorem, central force problem, orbits, two-body collisions, special coordinate systems, and scattering and coupled oscillations. Vector analysis, axial rotating rigid bodies, gravitation, moments of inertia, rotating coordinate systems, continuous media, and Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics. Prerequisite: PY 152. Corequisite: MA 340 or consent of instructor. (PY352)
Experimental Physics II A more advanced laboratory course where students will only do 2 or 3 experiments, going into much more detail, and focusing on experimental design, data analysis, and written and oral presentation of results.  The course will include an introduction to National Instruments? LabView.  Prerequisite: PY 262 or consent of the instructor. (PY362)
Mathematical Physics Applications of mathematics to various areas of physics. Topics may include vector calculus, matrices, differential equations, Fourier series, and coordinate transformations. Prerequisites: PY 253 and MA 250, or consent of Department Chair. (PY401)
Electromagnetism I The first half of a two-semester sequence covering the basis of classic electromagnetic theory as well as special relativity.  Topics include vector analysis, electrostatics and energy, boundary value problems, dielectric media, electric currents, magnetism, and concludes with Maxwell's Equations. Prerequisite: PY 152 and MA 305 or PY 325, or consent of the instructor. (PY403)
Electromagnetism II The second half of a two-semester sequence covering the basis of classic electromagnetic theory as well as special relativity. Topics include applications of Maxwell's equations, such properties of electromagnetic waves in vacuo and in matter, vector and scalar potentials, Lorentz transformations, and other topics in special relativity. Prerequisite: PY 403. (PY404)
Quantum Mechanics As an introduction to the methods of quantum mechanics, this course will cover Schrodinger's wave equation, wave mechanics, the hydrogen atom, spin and quantum dynamics. Prerequisite: PY 253 and MA 305 or PY 325, or consent of instructor. (PY406)
Senior Research An advanced research project performed under the supervision of a faculty member.  Research should include a literature search, written report, and oral presentation.  Research may be either theoretical or experimental.  PY 482 (offered in the spring) is required for all physics majors.  Those planning to do a senior honors thesis or who intend to perform more extensive research should take both 481 and 482. Prerequisite: consent of instructor and Department Chair. (PY482)

Physics and Astronomy Careers

Millikin graduates continue their studies with graduate work in physics or other areas such as engineering, computer science, applied physics, medicine, radiation medicine, biophysics, law, meteorology, oceanography, geophysics, environmental sciences, management, or the teaching of physics and/or physical science at the junior and senior high school levels.

Other occupations for physics majors include, but are not limited to the following:

  • astronomer
  • scientist
  • technician
  • acoustical engineer
  • meteorologist
  • aerospace engineer
  • navigation equipment specialist
  • optical design specialist
  • astrophysicist
  • particle physicist
  • medical physicist
  • nuclear physicist
  • development
  • professor
  • planetarium exhibit planner/guide
  • computer programmer
  • science writer
  • national observatories
  • government laboratories
  • applied research
  • department of defense and commerce
  • equipment manufacturers
  • scientific instrument companies

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