Math-Physics Joint Major

The Math-Physics Joint Major program was created to appeal to students whose interests embrace both mathematics and physics in roughly equal measure. This program of study prepares students for further study in either discipline, or for work in a broad array of technical and non-technical fields.

The program requires 18.5 units of mathematics, 22 units of physics, 2 or 3 units of scientific computation, and 6 units of a capstone, for a minimum of 48.5 units, leaving 9 units of electives.

Units Course Topic Advice
3 Mathematics 55 Discrete Mathematics
3 Mathematics 82 Differential Equations
3 Mathematics 131 Mathematical Analysis I
3 Mathematics 115 Fourier Series and Boundary Value Problems Note that Math 115 is offered in the spring while Math 180 is offered in the fall
or
3 Mathematics 180 Introduction to Partial Differential Equations
2 Mathematics 157 Intermediate Probability
3 Mathematics 171 Abstract Algebra I
1 Mathematics 198 Math Forum
0.5 Mathematics 199 Math Colloquium
UnitsCourseTopicsAdvice
3 Physics 51 Electromagnetic Theory and Optics
3 Physics 52 Quantum Physics
1 Physics 54 Modern Physics Lab
3 Physics 111 Theoretical Mechanics
3 Physics 116 Quantum Mechanics
3 Physics 117 Statistical Mechanics
2 Physics 134 Optics Laboratory
3 Physics 151 Electromagnetic Fields Note that Physics 154 and Physics 156 are typically offered in alternate years
or
3 Physics 154 Fields and Waves
or
3 Physics 156 Classical Field Theory
0.5 Physics 195 Physics Colloquium
0.5 Physics 196 Physics Colloquium
UnitsCourseTopicsAdvice
3 Mathematics 164 Scientific Computing Physics 170 is offered in the spring
or
3 Mathematics 165 Numerical Analysis
or
2 Physics 170 Computational Methods in Physics
6 Capstone Thesis or Clinic Students completing a thesis follow the practices and guidelines of the thesis advisor’s department

The following courses may be of particular interest to Joint Mathematics-Physics majors

UnitsCourseTopicsAdvice
3 Mathematics 136 Complex Variables and Integral Transforms Students who take Math 180 instead of Math 115 are encouraged to take Math 136
3 Mathematics 142 Differential Geometry
3 Mathematics 181 Dynamical Systems
2 Physics 161 Topics in Quantum Theory
The schedule listed below shows the required courses and when they are customarily taken by students who take Physics 23 in their first semester at the College. Those who begin with Physics 51 may wish to take some courses earlier than listed here; those taking a semester abroad may end up postponing some courses by a year. This schedule is simply a guide to the possible ways to complete the physics major. Be sure to discuss your options and choices with your advisor.
Legend

core a required course in the Common Core
requirement a technical requirement for all physics majors
elective an optional course
HSA a course partially fulfilling requirements of the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Arts program
Fall Spring
All students take Physics 23Special Relativity (1.5) in either the first half or the second half of the semester (opposite Writ 1). Most students take Physics 24Mechanics and Wave Motion. Students with very strong backgrounds in mechanics may place into Physics 24AMechanics and Wave Motion, which spends less time presenting material and focuses more on challenging application problems. Physics 32Gravitation is often offered in the second half of the semester and is open to all first-year students interested in exploring the theory of gravity and its applications. Note that this course does not qualify as an upper-division half-course.
Physics 23 — Special Relativity (1.5) Physics 24 — Mechanics and Wave Motion (3) or Physics 24A — Mechanics and Wave Motion (3)
PE (1) Physics 32 — Gravitation (1.5)
Fall Spring
Mathematics 55 is a requirement for many upper-division mathematics courses, so it is helpful to take it early. In 2022 two versions of an optional 3-unit course on climate and society will be offered: CORE 179A and CORE 179B. The following year, it will likely be a required part of the new core. Optional physics courses accessible to students at this level include:
Physics 51 — Electromagnetic Theory and Optics (3) Mathematics 115 — Fourier Series and Boundary Value Problems (3)
Mathematics 82 — Differential Equations (3) Physics 52 — Quantum Physics (3)
Engr 79 — Introduction to Systems Engineering (3) Physics 54 — Modern Physics Lab (1)
HSA (3) HSA (3)
Physics 50 — Physics Laboratory (1) HSA (3)
Mathematics 55 — Discrete Mathematics (3) Elective (3)
PE (1) PE (1)
Fall Spring
Upper division theoretical physics courses, including Physics 111Theoretical Mechanics, are generally more demanding than prior courses and rely on mathematically more sophisticated approaches to solving physical problems. Mathematics 131Mathematical Analysis I develops the rigorous foundation of calculus. Plan your course load carefully to get the most out of this semester.
Possible additional physics courses this semester include
This is perhaps the best semester for studying abroad, if you are so inclined. Both Physics 116 and Physics 134 can be taken in the senior year without cramping your schedule. See your advisor for more information on preparing for foreign study. For those remaining on the HMC campus, this is a good semester to consider taking an upper-division half-course. Possibilities include In general, Physics 154Fields and Waves and Physics 156Classical Field Theory are offered in alternate years. Check availability with the department chair. Also consider taking a unit or two of research this term. Drop by professors’ offices to find out what opportunities are available.
Mathematics 131 — Mathematical Analysis I (3) Mathematics 171 — Abstract Algebra I (3)
Mathematics 198 — Math Forum (1) Mathematics 199 — Math Colloquium (0.5)
Physics 111 — Theoretical Mechanics (3) Physics 116 — Quantum Mechanics (3)
Physics 195 — Physics Colloquium (0.5) Physics 134 — Optics Laboratory (2)
HSA (3) Physics 170 — Computational Methods in Physics (2)
HSA (3) HSA (3)
Elective (3) HSA (3)
Fall Spring
Research or clinic work is a major focus of this semester. It is important to budget sufficient time to get the most out of these experiences. Students applying to graduate schools should allow time for researching schools, completing applications, and preparing for the graduate records exam [GRE], offered in October and November. This work is equivalent to roughly 3–4 units. NB: Covid-19 has led ETS to cancel the fall subject tests in 2021. Possible half courses Research is a focus of this semester. For those heading to graduate school, have your frequent flyer number handy and budget time for trips to visit schools. This is also the time to take Physics 154Fields and Waves or Physics 156Classical Field Theory, which you will find especially useful preparation for graduate work in many fields. For those looking for jobs, plan on spending time identifying companies, preparing your resume, and interviewing. [You’re most welcome to take Physics 154 or Physics 156, too!]
Possible half-courses this term:
Clinic or Thesis (3) Clinic or Thesis (3)
Mathematics 157 — Intermediate Probability (2) Physics Elective (3)
Physics 117 — Statistical Mechanics (3) HSA (3)
Physics 195 — Physics Colloquium (0.5) HSA (3)
HSA (3) Elective (3)
HSA (3)