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 work in a broad array of technical and non-technical fields.

The program requires 18.5 units of mathematics, 19 units of physics, 2 or 3 units of scientific computation, and 6 units of a capstone, for a minimum of 45.5 units, leaving 12 units of electives.

Units Course Topic Advice
3 Mathematics 55 Discrete Mathematics
1.5 Mathematics 70 Intermediate Linear Algebra
1.5 Mathematics 80 Intermediate Differential Equations
3 Mathematics 131 Mathematics Analysis
3 Mathematics 115 Fourier Series and Boundary Value Problems Note that Math 115 is offered in spring while Math 180 is offered in the fall
3 Mathematics 180 Introduction to Partial Differential Equations
1 Mathematics 198 Math Forum
0.5 Mathematics 199 Math Colloquium
2 Mathematics 157 Intermediate Probability
3 Mathematics 171 Abstract Algebra
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
3 Physics 154 Fields and Waves
3 Physics 156 Classical Field Theory
0.5 Physics 195 Physics Colloquium
0.5 Physics 196 Physics Colloquium
3 Mathematics 164 Scientific Computing Physics 170 is offered in the spring
3 Mathematics 165 Numerical Analysis
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

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.

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). Half the students take Physics 22Physics Laboratory this semester and half take it in the spring. Students interested in taking a bit more physics should consider Astronomy 21Stars, Planets, Life: Astrobiology and Physics 31What’s the Matter? 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)
Physics 22 — Physics Laboratory (1) Physics 22 — Physics Laboratory (1)
Physics 31 — What’s the Matter? (3) Physics 32 — Gravitation (1.5)
PE (1)  
Fall Spring
The bulk of this semester is spent satisfying core requirements in math, physics, and engineering. Most physics students take Engineering 59 [System Engineering]. Core lab courses offered by the Department of Physics include Cooking LabThe Science of Cooking and Camera LabLights, Camera, Action! — the Science of Photography. Mathematics 55 is a requirement for many upper-division mathematics courses. For students entering the College with normal preparation in mathematics and physics, the first courses beyond the Common Core are taken in the spring semester of the sophomore year. Mathematics 70 and Mathematics 80 deepen understanding of fundamental mathematical concepts. Optional physics courses accessible to students at this level include:
Physics 51 — Electromagnetic Theory and Optics (3) PE (1)
Mathematics 60 — Multivariable Calculus II (1.5) Mathematics 70 — Intermediate Linear Algebra (1.5)
Mathematics 65 — Differential Equations and Linear Algebra II (1.5) Mathematics 80 — Intermediate Differential Equations (1.5)
Core Lab (1) Mathematics 115 — Fourier Series and Boundary Value Problems (3)
Engr 59 — Introduction to Systems Engineering (3) Physics 52 — Quantum Physics (3)
PE (1) Physics 54 — Modern Physics Lab (1)
HSA (3) HSA (3)
Mathematics 55 — Discrete Mathematics (3) HSA (3)
  Elective (3)
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 131Mathematics Analysis 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 — Mathematics Analysis (3) Mathematics 171 — Abstract Algebra (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. 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)