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University at Albany Undergraduate Bulletin - 2004-2005

Department of Physics


James W. Corbett Distinguished Service Professor

Walter M. Gibson, Ph.D. (Emeritae)
University of California, Berkeley

Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritae/i

Bruce B. Marsh, Ph.D.
University of Rochester

Professors Emeritae/i

Raymond E. Benenson, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin

Keith F. Ratcliff, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh

Wilfried W. Scholz, Ph.D.
University of Freiburg (Germany)

Alfred D. Levitas, Ph.D.
Syracuse University

Laura M. Roth, Ph.D.
Radcliffe College

Jack H. Smith, Ph.D.
Cornell University

Chih-ree Sun, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles


Mohammad Sajjad Alam, Ph.D.
Indiana University

Hassaram Bakhru, Ph.D.
Calcutta University

Ariel Caticha, Ph.D.
California Institute of Technology

Tara P. Das, Ph.D.
University of Calcutta

Jagadish B. Garg, Ph.D.
University of Paris

Akira Inomata, Ph.D.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Alain E. Kaloyeros, Ph.D.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

John C. Kimball, Ph.D.
University of Chicago

Tung-Sheng Kuan, Ph.D.
Cornell University

William A. Lanford, Ph.D.
University of Rochester

Carolyn MacDonald, Ph.D.
Harvard University

Keith F. Ratcliff, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh

Associate Professor Emeritae/i

Robert P. Lanni, M.A.
University at Albany

Associate Professors

Robert E. Geer, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota

Assistant Professors

Jesse A. Ernst, Ph.D.
University of Rochester

Susanne M. Lee, Ph.D.
Harvard University

Mengbing Huang
University of Western Ontario, Canada

University Adjuncts (estimated): 12
Teaching Assistants (estimated): 25

The objective of the department is to provide students a solid foundation in both classical and modern physics. Students are prepared either to undertake graduate study in physics, to apply physics principles and techniques successfully for advanced work in other disciplines, to enter industry usefully, or to teach in the secondary schools. Along with courses in classical mechanics, electromagnetic theory, atomic and nuclear physics, and thermal physics, students learn modern experimental techniques, principles of quantum mechanics, and applications. Elective courses in other sciences and independent study and research with faculty members in the active research fields of the department are encouraged as part of the practical emphasis. Courses in environmental problems, astronomy and space physics, applications of nuclear physics, physics in the arts, and physical science for humanists bring physics concepts to the nonmajor.


Graduates holding the bachelorís degree in physics find employment as laboratory or theoretical research assistants in physics or engineering, high-level medical technicians, science writers and editors, computer programmers, and secondary school teachers. A bachelorís degree in physics can be an ideal background for advanced study in other sciences, engineering, and the business and medical professions. A graduate degree in physics opens a broad spectrum of opportunities in pure and applied research in academia and industry.

Special Programs or Opportunities

One-to-one student-faculty interaction is possible and is encouraged by the department. Computer use at all levels of instruction is afforded by means of terminals in the Joseph Henry Physics Building. Very modern equipment is available in all laboratories. Opportunities for valuable experience, training, and financial support exist in the form of undergraduate assistantships in the research and teaching laboratories. The Society of Physics Students sponsors popular talks, tours to nearby laboratories, and social events. The society offers tutorial services, computer clinics, and has its own library. It conducts tours of our facilities for students and the general public. It also supplies information on opportunities after the B.S. degree. The department has a chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honor society.

For students interested in engineering, there are available 3-2 programs with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Clarkson University, SUNY at New Paltz, and SUNY at Binghamton. Students in these programs spend their first three years at this campus and the last two at the other. The tuition is at the University at Albany rate for the first three years only. Upon successful completion of the programs, students are awarded a B.S. in Physics from the University at Albany and a B.S. in Engineering from the other institution.

Degree Requirements for the Major in Physics

General Program B.S. A combined major and minor sequence totaling 66 credits: An introductory physics sequence of A Phy 140N or 141, 145, 150N or 151, 155, 240 or 241, 245, and 250; followed by the main core sequence of A Phy 320, 330, 440, 450 460, 335, or 335Z and A Phy 315 or A Mat 315. Requirements in mathematics are A Mat 112 or 118, 113 or 119, 214, 220, and 314; in chemistry A Chm 120N or 130, 121N or 131; in computer science A Csi 201N. With departmental approval, A Phy 105N and 108N may be substituted for A Phy 140N and 150N. Students who do not foresee pursuing a graduate degree in physics may, with departmental approval, take 6 credits at the 300-level or higher instead of A Phy 450 and 460.

Honors Program

The honors program in physics is designed for outstanding students enrolled in the general program.

Students may apply for admission to the honors program by submitting a letter of request to the department chair no later than April 15 of the sophomore year (for admission in the fall) or November 15 of the junior year (for admission in the spring). Junior transfers may apply at the time of their admission to the University. Primary emphasis will be placed on indications of academic ability and maturity sufficient for applicants to pursue with distinction a program involving independent research.

The minimum requirements for admission follow:

  1. Completion of A Phy 140N or 141, 150N or 151, 240 or 241, 250 or their equivalents;

  2. An overall grade point average of 3.30;

  3. A grade point average of 3.60 in physics courses required for the major;

  4. Written recommendations from at least three faculty members, one of whom, preferably, should be from outside the Department of Physics.

Students in the program must maintain both a minimum grade point average of 3.30 overall and of 3.60 in physics courses taken to satisfy major requirements during the junior and senior years. The progress of participants in the honors program will be reviewed at the end of the junior year by the Departmental Honors Committee. Students not meeting the standards above at that time may be precluded from continuing in the program during their senior year.

Students in the honors program are required to complete a minimum of 72 credits as follows: the 66 credits specified for the general program in physics; 3 credits of Honors Seminar in Physics (A Phy 498); and 3 credits of Research and/or Independent Study in Physics (A Phy 497). The independent study must include an honors research project culminating in a written report by the end of the studentís last semester.

After completion of the requirements above, the records of candidates will be reviewed by the Departmental Honors Committee. After consideration of overall academic record, performance and accomplishments in the independent study project(s), the quality of the Honors Seminar, and the evaluations of departmental faculty members who have supervised these activities, a recommendation for or against a degree with honors will be made by the committee to the departmental faculty. The final recommendation will be made by the departmental faculty and transmitted by the chair.

Combined B.S./M.S. Program

The combined B.S./M.S. program in physics provides an opportunity for students of recognized academic ability and educational maturity to fulfill integrated requirements of undergraduate and masterís degree programs at the beginning of the junior year. A carefully designed program can permit a student to earn the B.S. and M.S. degrees within nine semesters.

The combined program requires a minimum of 138 credits, of which at least 30 must be graduate credits. In qualifying for the B.S., students must meet all University and college requirements including the requirements of the undergraduate major described previously, the minimum 60-credit liberal arts and sciences requirement, general education requirements, and residency requirements. In qualifying for the M.S., students must meet all University and college requirements as outlined in the Graduate Bulletin, including completion of a minimum of 30 graduate credits and any other conditions such as a research seminar, thesis, comprehensive examination, professional experience, and residency requirements. Up to 12 graduate credits may be applied simultaneously to both the B.S. and M.S. programs.

A Phy 519 may be substituted for A Phy 335 or 335Z in meeting the B.S. requirements, enabling Phy 519 to be one of the graduate courses applied simultaneously to the undergraduate and graduate programs.

Students are considered as undergraduates until completion of 120 graduation credits and satisfactory completion of all B.S. requirements. Upon meeting B.S. requirements, students are automatically considered as graduate students.

Students may apply to the Graduate Committee for admission to the combined degree program in physics at the beginning of their junior year or after the successful completion of 56 credits, but no later than the accumulation of 100 credits. A cumulative grade point average of 3.20 or higher and three supportive letters of recommendation from faculty are required for consideration.

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