Academic Overview

The physics program at Harvey Mudd College offers a physics major with both depth and breadth in classical and modern physics, theory and experiment, and foundations and applications. It does so through lecture-discussion courses, laboratories, and joint research. The program serves as a strong foundation for graduate work or employment in physics and other technical fields. The goal of the program is to produce exceptionally able graduates with a strong understanding of, and deep interest in, physics, and with an unusually broad background in science, mathematics, technology, humanities and the social sciences, as provided by the HMC curriculum.

  • The Physics Department underwent a very successful external review in February, 2004. The report of the team of 3 physicists from leading graduate and undergraduate institutions begins: 

“The physics program at Harvey Mudd College is truly excellent and among the very best at undergraduate institutions across the country…”

  • Among non-PhD-granting institutions, none graduate as many physics majors as HMC (apart from military academies). A greater fraction of our graduates earn prestigious NSF graduate fellowships than almost any other school.
  • Besides moving on to excellent graduate programs and permanent jobs, our students win a variety of awards both within the College and at the national level. Some recent highlights include:
  • 19 winners of prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships since 1997
    • 3 winners of the American Physical Society's Apker Award for the outstanding physics student in the country
    • 3 winners of Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowships since 1998
    • 2 winners of Churchill Fellowships to spend a year of graduate study in England
  • Open door policy — professors make themselves very accessible to students in both core and upper division courses.
  • The department emphasizes small-group discussions, and spends half of the contact hours in core lecture courses in discussion sections of roughly 18 students with a professor. Unlike at places with graduate programs, at HMC physics the undergraduates come first! (second, and third!)