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Undergraduate Program

Sundry Advice

Reviewing Math Skills and "Quick Calculus" Over the Summer Prior to College

Prospective physics majors are encouraged to take PHY 141: Mechanics - Honors in the fall, in order to be able to take PHY 143: Waves and Modern Physics - Honors the following semester. PHY 143 presents modern physics at a freshman-level in a class that has small enrollment. Less well-prepared students can wait to take PHY 121: Mechanics in the spring semester, and still not be "behind" upon entering their sophomore year.

All students who have a familiarity with calculus should take PHY 141 in the fall, concurrently with MTH 161 (Calculus I). Those students who are not familiar with calculus, but wish to take PHY 141 in the fall rather than PHY 121 in the spring, should avail themselves of a self study-book such as Quick Calculus, by Daniel Kleppner and Norman Ramsey (Wiley Publishing). Students can also brush up on mathematical skills using a book such as Preparing for General Physics, Math Skill Drills by Arnold D. Pickar (Addison-Wesley).

Electronic Mail and Computer Literacy

All students should sign-up for a computer account at the Computer Center as soon as possible, and provide their email address to the physics undergraduate office. Physics majors can also get an account through the Barnes Computing Center in the department.

All department announcements, including seminars and colloquia, are available via email, and can be found on the physics department’s homepage. Certain courses provide homework assignments via telnet.

Physics students working towards a BS degree are required to be computer literate. In fact, students with computer skills, such as, knowledge of FORTRAN, C, or C++ programming, familiarity with email, word processing and spreadsheet, or experience in electronics and machining, can also qualify for any available research positions within the department.

In addition, knowledge of, or experience with, C or C++ programming helps applicants qualify for the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program that is offered during the summer months at other universities and colleges nationwide, including the University of Rochester.

Help in Physics and Math

Please feel free to use any of the following learning resources.

  • Volunteers from the Society of Physics Students (SPS), located in B&L 104D (, offer assistance to their colleagues.
  • Physics, math and other study groups are organized by the Learning Assistance Center, 124 Lattimore Hall (275-9049). Dr. Vicki Roth directs the center.
  • Private tutoring can be arranged through the Center of Academic Support, 312 Lattimore Hall (275-2354).
  • And, of course, you should consult with your physics Teaching Assistants (TAs) and physics and math faculty during their office hours.

Upper-Level Writing Courses

Students must fulfill the upper-level writing requirement and can do so by taking two upper-level writing courses within the department. In particular, courses that can be used to satisfy this requirement are: AST 203W, AST 232W, AST 391W, AST 393W, "AST 395W", PHY 235W, PHY 258W, PHY 258W, PHY 243W, PHY 244W, PHY 245W, PHY 391W, PHY 393W, and "PHY 395W".

On occasion, the Department of Physics and Astronomy may allow an upper-level writing course from mathematics or another science or engineering department to be used to satisfy the upper-level writing requirement, but only with prior approval of the physics or physics and astronomy advisor.