Department of Physics


Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus
Bruce B. Marsh Ph.D., University of Rochester

Professors Emeriti
Mohammad Sajjad Alam, Ph.D., Indiana University
Akira Inomata, Ph.D., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
John C. Kimball, Ph.D., University of Chicago        
Laura M. Roth, Ph.D., Radcliffe College
Wilfried W. Scholz, Ph.D., University of Freiburg (Germany)

Ariel Caticha, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology
Kevin Knuth, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Tung-Sheng Kuan, Ph.D., Cornell University 
William A. Lanford, Ph.D., University of Rochester
Carolyn MacDonald, Ph.D., Harvard University

Associate Professors
Keith Earle, Ph.D., Cornell University (Department Chair)
Jesse A. Ernst, Ph.D., University of Rochester
Philip Goyal, Ph.D., Trinity College, Cambridge
Vivek Jain, Ph.D., University of Hawaii 
Alexander Khmaladze, Ph.D., University of South Florida
Cecilia Levy, Ph.D., University of Muenster
Oleg Lunin, Ph.D., Ohio State University
Jonathan Petruccelli, Ph.D., University of Rochester
Matthew Szydagis, Ph.D., University of Chicago

Assistant Professor 
Daniel G. Robins, Ph.D., University of Chicago

Robert Schmitz, Ph.D., University at Albany, SUNY
Eric Woods, Ph.D., Harvard University

Adjuncts (estimated): 10
Teaching Assistants (estimated): 19

The Physics Department provides students a solid foundation in classical and modern physics. Physics majors obtain a theoretical background in classical mechanics, electromagnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and thermal physics. Laboratory classes develop skills in experimental techniques. Students select one of four concentrations for the B.S. in Physics:

General Physics: General physics offers a well-rounded education in physics, covering fundamental principles and theories. The curriculum provides students with a strong background in physics and mathematics, thereby giving them analytical and problem-solving skills crucial for graduate studies in physics and related fields, as well as for scientific and technical careers in engineering, software development, systems analysis, etc.; complementing this degree with a M.S. in Education (Physics) opens teaching opportunities in schools (community colleges).

Computational Physics: In general, physics problems are very difficult to solve exactly, which means that approximate solutions must be found. Computational physics is a discipline which focuses on the numerical solutions of complex physical problems. This requires a knowledge of the underlying mathematical and physical models as well as computational methods that will enable computers to reach precise and accurate solutions in reasonable periods of time. Students will develop skills applicable to much in-demand careers in data science and to graduate studies in fields such as physics, informatics and computer science.

Astronomy and Particle Astrophysics: Humans have made astronomical observations for millennia, and advances in the 20th century expanded the techniques we use. In addition to optical telescopes, we study the Universe using radio waves, infrared and ultraviolet waves, X-rays, gamma rays, neutrinos, cosmic rays, and gravitational waves; all require complex detection techniques, some of which are borrowed from the field of particle physics. This interdisciplinary concentration combines the signature strengths of our faculty members who do research in astronomy and particle astrophysics, and will give students a “leg up” when applying to graduate studies in physics, astronomy or related fields, or applying for jobs related to these activities, e.g., at NASA or their sub-contractors, etc.

Bio-imaging: Bio-imaging is a state-of-the-art field that combines physics (particularly optics) and medical physics and applies it to biological processes. A concentration in bio-imaging is a completely new opportunity that the department is offering, which is not readily available elsewhere; it relies on the strengths of our faculty who are doing research in optics, biophysics and medical imaging techniques. This concentration will: allow students to be more attractive to employers in medical physics related jobs and biotech industry; will be beneficial to those who are considering going to graduate school to specialize in biophysics or medical physics; and may also help pre-med students trying to distinguish themselves from the standard biology path.

Courses in environmental science, space physics and astronomy bring broader physical concepts to the non-major.

Physics graduates work as scientists in research labs, development labs, and medical centers. They become teachers and technical writers or data analysts. They continue their education in physics, other sciences or mathematics, and education or medicine. Opportunities abound, and the variety of typical career choices is surprisingly varied. More information is available at

Physics majors, minors, or intended majors are strongly encouraged to visit the Physics office to be assigned a Physics faculty advisor.

Course Progression Restrictions
Students must complete A PHY 235 with a C or better to register for A PHY 320 or 410, 335Z, 340 or 470, 350 or 480, 440, 450, and 460. Students must complete A PHY 240 with a C or better to register for A PHY 320 or 410, 340 or 470, and 440. Students must complete A PHY 250 with a C or better to register for A PHY 335Z, 350 or 480, 450, and 460.

Degree Requirements for the Major in Physics

B.S.: Combined major and minor sequence consisting of a minimum of 69 - 81 credits, depending on Concentration

Required core courses: (minimum 49 credits)

  • Introductory physics sequence: A PHY 140 or T PHY 141 or A PHY 142; A PHY 150 or T PHY 151 or A PHY 152; and A PHY 240
  • Lab sequence for introductory courses: A PHY 145 or 106, 155 or 109, and 245
  • Higher level physics courses: A PHY 235 or A MAT 314 and 315, 250, 320 or 410, 335Z, 340 or 470, 440, 460
  • Chemistry: A CHM 115 or 120/124 (or T CHM 130/124)
  • Calculus sequence: A MAT 112 and 113 (or the honors courses 118 and 119, or A MAT 101 and 111 and 113) and A MAT 214

Select one concentration:

General: (minimum 20 credits)

  • A PHY 350 or 480, 450
  • A CHM 116 or 121/125 (or T CHM 131/125)
  • Computer: A PHY 277 or I ECE/I CSI 201 
  • Mathematics elective: A MAT 220, 314, 367, or 412
  • An additional physics course numbered 300 or higher and appended with a Y suffix, e.g. 415Y, 426Y, 430Y, etc.

Computational Physics: (minimum 29 credits)

  • Computer: A PHY 277 and I ECE/I CSI 201 
  • A MAT 220
  • A PHY 449Y, 451Y, 477Y
  • Three courses from I CSI 333, 401, 410, 431, 436, A PHY 353 or 453, 415Y, 416, 433, 454, 497, A MAT 367

Astronomy & Particle Astrophysics: (minimum 25 credits)

  • Computer: A PHY 277 or I ECE/I CSI 201 
  • A MAT 220
  • Four courses from A PHY 330, 426Y, 443Y, 452Y, 471Y
  • Two courses from A PHY 100, 103, 112, 409Y, 430Y, 442, 458Y, 497 (only one at 100 level)

Bio-imaging: (minimum 20 credits)

  • Computer: A PHY 277 or I ECE/I CSI 201 
  • A CHM 116 or 121/125 (or T CHM 131/125)
  • Four courses from A PHY 404, 430Y, 446Y, 448Y, 458Y, 466Y


Honors Program

The honors program in physics is designed for outstanding students.
Students should apply for admission to the honors program before November 15 of the junior year.

The minimum requirements for admission are:

  • Completion of A PHY 140 or A PHY 142 or T PHY 141, A PHY 150 or A PHY 152 or T PHY 151, A PHY 240, 250 or their equivalents;
  • An overall grade point average of 3.30;
  • A grade point average of 3.60 in physics courses required for the major;
  • 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.

Students in the honors program are required to complete credits as follows: the 69-81 credits specified for the program in physics with one of four concentrations; 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 student’s last semester.

A Department Honors Committee will recommend an honors degree to the department faculty for its approval.

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 master’s 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.

Some substitution of graduate courses for undergraduate courses is possible upon approval by the advisor.

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. A cumulative grade point average of 3.20 or higher and three supportive letters of recommendation from faculty are required.