Aerial view of campus with Williamsport, the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Mountain as a backdrop

Astronomy (ASTR) and Physics (PHYS)

Professors: Fisher, Kulp (Chair)
Associate Professor: Erickson
Instructor: Doersam

  • Majors: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Engineering Physics, Physics
  • Astronomy Concentrations: General Astronomy, Astrobiology, Astrochemistry
  • Courses required for General Astronomy, Physics: 13 (B.A.)
  • Courses required for Astrobiology, Astrochemistry: 14 (B.A.)
  • Courses required for Physics: 17 (B.S.)
  • Courses required for Astrophysics, Engineering Physics: 18 (B.S.)
  • Math prerequisite (not counted in major): Math 127
  • Math requirement (Astronomy): Math 128, Math 129
  • Math requirement (Physics B.A.): Math 128, Math 129, Math 238 (or PHYS 336)
  • Math requirement (Astrophysics, Engineering Physics, Physics B.S.): Math 128, Math 129, Math 231, Math 238
  • Computer Science Requirement (Engineering Physics, Physics B.S.): CPTR 125
  • Non-credit Colloquium: 4 semesters
  • Capstone requirement: ASTR or PHYS 448 (or research experience plus an additional course with departmental approval)
  • Minors: Astronomy, Physics

The department offers four majors, astronomy, astrophysics, engineering physics, and physics. The major in astronomy consists of three possible concentrations, general astronomy, astrobiology, and astrochemistry. 

Astronomy (ASTR)

The B.A. Degree

The major in astronomy requires courses in astronomy, physics, chemistry, and mathematics. A student majoring in astronomy needs to complete the core courses and one concentration. A student may not earn more than one concentration in astronomy. The astronomy concentrations are:

General Astronomy: The General Astronomy concentration consists of courses which cover a wide range of topics in astronomy. The General Astronomy concentration prepares the student for planetarium work and/or museum education and may serve as a basis for earning state certification as a secondary school teacher of general science. Students who wish to pursue graduate study in astronomy are strongly recommended to either double-major with physics or pursue the astrophysics major.

Astrobiology: The Astrobiology Concentration consists of courses which cover a wide range of topics in both astronomy and biology. The Astrobiology Concentration provides the student an alternate route for certification as a secondary school teacher of general science. The student would have more experience with biology than a general astronomy student, which could prove advantageous for attaining secondary school science positions. Students who wish to pursue graduate study in astrobiology are strongly recommended to double-major in Biology with the General Astronomy concentration.

Astrochemistry: The Astrochemistry Concentration consists of courses which cover a wide range of topics in both astronomy and chemistry. The Astrochemistry Concentration provides the student an alternate route for certification as a secondary school teacher of general science. The student would have more experience with chemistry than a general astronomy student, which could prove advantageous for attaining secondary school science positions. Students who wish to pursue graduate study in astrochemistry are strongly recommended to double-major in Chemistry with the General Astronomy concentration.

The Department of Astronomy and Physics does not offer a B.S. degree in astronomy, but we do offer a B.S. Degree in astrophysics. Students interested in a B.S. degree in astronomy should consider pursuing the astrophysics major.

Astronomy Major Requirements

Core Courses: ASTR 111, 448; PHYS 225, 226; two courses in chemistry to be selected from CHEM 110, 111, 330, 331, or 439; and MATH 128, 129. Astronomy majors are also required to register for four semesters of ASTR 349/449 (noncredit colloquia).

General Astronomy Concentration: Complete five additional astronomy courses numbered ASTR 112 or higher, four of which must be ASTR 230 or higher.

Astrobiology Concentration: ASTR 243 and 445; BIO 110, 111, 321, and 436

Note: A student may not double major in Biology and Astronomy with the Astrobiology Concentration, nor may a student major in Astronomy with the Astrobiology Concentration and minor in Biology. However, a student may double major in Biology and Astronomy with the General Astronomy or Astrochemistry Concentrations. The W course requirement may be satisfied in either astronomy or biology.

Astrochemistry Concentration: ASTR 243 and 445; CHEM 220, 221, 232, and 333

Note: A student may not double major in Chemistry and Astronomy with the Astrochemistry Concentration nor may a student major in Astronomy with an Astrochemistry concentration and minor in Chemistry. However, a student may double major in Chemistry and Astronomy with the General Astronomy or Astrobiology Concentrations. The W course requirement may be satisfied in either astronomy or chemistry.

The following courses are recommended: PHIL 333.

Students interested in teacher certification should refer to the Department of Education listing.

Capstone Requirement

All majors must successfully complete ASTR 448. This requirement may also be satisfied by doing an individual studies or honors project where the results would be presented at a departmental colloquium. A double major in astronomy and physics need only take the course once. The project pursued for ASTR 448 must be relevant to the student’s concentration. Students who have successfully completed a summer REU, RUG, or equivalent research experience may request departmental approval to substitute off-campus experience plus an additional advanced astronomy or physics course not already required by the major in place of ASTR 448.

Writing Courses

The following courses, when scheduled as W courses, count toward the Writing Requirement: ASTR 230 and 340

Minor Requirements

A minor in astronomy consists of a grade of C or better in both ASTR 111 and PHYS 225 plus any three additional courses selected from PHYS 226 or ASTR courses numbered 200 or higher.

000
LABORATORY TEACHING METHODS
Provides practical experience in laboratory teaching. Students in this course are paired with a faculty mentor and help supervise labs; deliver pre-lab lectures; and assist in ordering chemicals, supplies, and equipment and in preparing laboratory experiments. Students complete a project that integrates the physical science education literature, classroom instruction materials, laboratory safety, and proper storage and disposal of materials and equipment used. In the appropriate situation, a student may substitute planetarium show preparation and presentation for laboratory exercises. Cross-listed as PHYS 000. Open to junior physics and astronomy majors pursuing certification in education, with consent of instructor. Non-credit course.

101
PRINCIPLES OF ASTRONOMY
A broad summary of the current view of the universe, from the solar system to distant galaxies. Describes the instruments and techniques used by astronomers, today and in the past, to develop concepts about the nature of the universe and its contents. Credit may not be earned for both ASTR 101 and 111.

102
PRINCIPLES OF GEOLOGY
A broad summary of the physical nature of the Earth, including its internal structure and surface processes. Shows how past events can be reconstructed from preserved evidence to reveal the geologic history of our planet from its origin to the present. Credit may not be earned for both ASTR 102 and 112. Four hours of lecture and one two-hour laboratory per week. Alternate years.

104
FIELD GEOLOGY
A methods course introducing the field techniques needed to study the geology of an area. May or Summer term only.

111
FUNDAMENTALS OF ASTRONOMY
An introduction to the nature of the physical universe including its contents (from our solar system to distant galaxies), its history, and the physical processes occurring in it. The course is quantitative, utilizing algebra, as well as trigonometric, logarithmic, and exponential functions. This course is designed for students considering majoring in one of the natural sciences or mathematics. Credit may not be earned for both ASTR 101 and 111. Four hours of lecture and one three-hour laboratory per week.  Prerequisite: MATH placement of level 4, credit for or concurrent enrollment in MATH 127, or consent of instructor.

112
FUNDAMENTALS OF GEOLOGY
An introduction to the study of the Earth including its composition, structure, history, and the processes occurring on its surface and in its interior. The course includes some elementary geophysics and geochemistry, and uses algebra, along with trigonometric, logarithmic, and exponential functions. This course is designed for students considering majoring in one of the natural sciences, mathematics, or archaeology. Credit may not be earned for both ASTR 102 and 112. Four hours of lecture and one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisite: MATH  placement of level 4, credit for or concurrent enrollment in MATH 127, or consent of instructor.

120
MANNED SPACE FLIGHT
Traces the development of space flight capability from Sputnik (1957) through the early Space Race to achieve a manned landing upon the surface of the Moon, the era of space stations, development of the Space Transportation System (space shuttle), to current U.S. and Russian space efforts. Examination of scientific, engineering, and political motivations. Extensive use of NASA video. May incorporate travel to NASA facilities. Offered only when possible in May Term. May not be used to satisfy General Education requirements.

230
PLANETARIUM TECHNIQUES
A methods course covering major aspects of planetarium programming, operation, and maintenance. Students are required to prepare and present a planetarium show. Upon successfully completing the course, students are eligible to become planetarium assistants. Three hours of lecture and demonstration and three hours of practical training per week. Prerequisite: a grade of C or better in ASTR 101 or 111. Alternate years.

243
PLANETARY SCIENCE
A comparative survey of the various classes of natural objects that orbit the sun, including the major planets, their satellites, the minor planets, and comets. Topics include meteorological processes in atmospheres, geological processes that shape surface features, internal structures, the role of spacecraft in the exploration of the solar system, and clues to the origin and dynamic evolution of the solar system. Four hours of lecture per week. Prerequisites: a grade of C or better in ASTR 111 or 112, or PHYS 225. Alternate years.

340
THE INVISIBLE UNIVERSE
The astrophysics of celestial objects that emit thermal and non-thermal radiation outside the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Traces the development of observational techniques at radio, infrared, ultraviolet, x-ray, and gamma-ray wavelengths. Includes cosmic microwave background radiation, pulsars, quasars, gamma-ray bursters, magnetars, and active galactic nuclei. Cross-listed as PHYS 340. Four hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory per week. Prerequisites: ASTR 111 and PHYS 226.

344
RELATIVITY AND COSMOLOGY
A detailed presentation of the special theory of relativity and an introduction to the general theory, including its application to black holes and cosmology. Topics include observational and experimental tests of relativity, four-vectors, tensors, space-time curvature, alternative cosmological models, and the origin and future of the universe. Four hours of lecture per week. Cross-listed as PHYS 344. Prerequisites: ASTR 111 and PHYS 225. Alternate years.

445
STELLAR EVOLUTION
The physical principles governing the internal structure and external appearance of stars. Mechanisms of energy generation and transport within stars. The evolution of stars from initial formation to final stages. The creation of chemical elements by nucleosynthesis. Four hours of lecture per week. Prerequisites: ASTR 111 and PHYS 226. Alternate years.

446
STELLAR DYNAMICS AND GALACTIC STRUCTURE
The motion of objects in gravitational fields. Introduction to the n-body problem, the relation between stellar motions and the galactic potential, and the large-scale structure of galaxies in general and of the Milky Way Galaxy in particular. Prerequisites: ASTR 111 and PHYS 225. Four hours of lecture per week. Alternate years.

448
RESEARCH TOPICS
Students participate in a research project under the guidance of a faculty member in the department. In weekly meetings, they share reports from the literature and report on their own work. Topics range from abstract theoretical to selected practical experimental investigations. Cross-listed as PHYS 448. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. May be taken a second time with consent of department.

349, 449
ASTRONOMY AND PHYSICS COLLOQUIA
This non-credit but required course for juniors and seniors majoring in astronomy and physics offers students a chance to meet and hear active scientists in astronomy, physics, and related scientific areas talk about their own research or professional activities. In addition, majors in astronomy and physics must present two lectures, one given during the junior year and one given during the senior year, on the results of a literature survey or their individual research. Four semesters required during the junior and senior years. Cross-listed as PHYS 349 and 449. One hour per week. Pass/Fail except when the student gives a lecture. Non-credit course.

470-479
INTERNSHIP

N80-N89
INDEPENDENT STUDY
Independent studies may be undertaken in most areas of astronomy.

490-491
INDEPENDENT STUDY FOR DEPARTMENTAL HONORS

Astrophysics

Major Requirements

The B.S. degree in astrophysics requires courses in astronomy, physics, chemistry, and mathematics. The required courses are ASTR 111, 340 (cross listed as PHYS 340) 344 (cross listed as PHYS 344), 445, and 446; PHYS 225, 226, 331, 332, 336, 338, 345, 439 (cross listed as CHEM 449), and 448; MATH 128, 129, 231, and 238; and CHEM 110. Astrophysics majors are also required to register for two semesters of ASTR/PHYS 349 and two semesters of ASTR/PHYS 449 (non-credit colloquia).

Capstone Requirement

All majors must successfully complete ASTR/PHYS 448. This requirement may also be satisfied by completing an individual studies or honors project and presenting the results at a departmental colloquium. Students who have successfully completed a summer NSF-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates, or equivalent research experience may request departmental approval to substitute off-campus experience plus an additional advanced astronomy or physics course not already required by the astrophysics major in place of ASTR/PHYS 448.

Engineering Physics 

Major Requirements

The B.S. degree in engineering physics requires courses in physics, chemistry, computer science and mathematics. The required courses are PHYS 225, 226, 331, 332, 337, 338, 341, 345, 445, and 448; CHEM 110; CHEM 111 or CHEM/PHYS 439; CPTR 125; MATH 128, 129, 231, and 238; and one course from any of the following: PHYS 300 or higher, CPTR 200 or higher, MATH 200 or higher. Engineering physics majors are also required to register for two semesters of ASTR/PHYS 349 and two semesters of ASTR/PHYS 449 (non-credit colloquia).

Physics (PHYS)

The B.A. Degree

The B.A. degree in physics requires courses in physics, chemistry, and mathematics. The required courses are PHYS 225, 226, 331, 332, 338, 345, 445, and 448; CHEM 110; CHEM 111 or CHEM/PHYS 439; MATH 128 and 129; and MATH 238 or PHYS 336. Physics majors are also required to register for two semesters of ASTR/PHYS 349 and two semesters of ASTR/PHYS 449 (non-credit colloquia).

The B.S. Degree

Students interested in pursuing graduate studies or work in a technical position in government or industry should consider pursuing the B.S. degree.

The B.S. degree in physics requires courses in physics, chemistry, computer science, and mathematics. The required courses are PHYS 225, 226, 331, 332, 338, 345, 445, and 448; CHEM 110; CHEM 111 or CHEM/PHYS 439; CPTR 125; MATH 128, 129, 231, and 238; and two additional courses from any of the following: PHYS 300 or higher, ASTR 243 or higher, CPTR 200 or higher, or MATH 200 or higher. Physics majors are also required to register for two semesters of ASTR/PHYS 349 and two semesters of ASTR/PHYS 449 (non-credit colloquia).

Up to two courses chosen from ASTR 243, 445, and 446 may substitute for two physics electives.

Students interested in teacher certification should refer to the Department of Education listing.

Capstone Requirement

All majors must successfully complete PHYS 448. This requirement may also be satisfied by doing an individual studies or honors project and presenting the results at a departmental colloquium. A double major in astronomy and physics need only take the course once. The project pursued in PHYS 448 must be relevant to the student’s concentration. Students who have successfully completed a summer REU, RUG, or equivalent research experience may request departmental approval to substitute that experience plus an additional advanced astronomy or physics course not already required by the major in place of PHYS 448. Note that if the student has already counted two astronomy courses toward a physics major, then the extra course in place of PHYS 448 must be a physics course.

Diversity and Writing Courses

The following courses satisfy the Global Cultural Diversity Requirement: PHYS 108. The following courses, when scheduled as W courses, count toward the Writing Requirement: PHYS 340, 345, 445.

Minor Requirements

A minor in physics requires completion of the following courses with a grade of C or better: PHYS 225, 226, 331, 332, and one additional physics course numbered 300 or higher.

000
LABORATORY TEACHING METHODS
Provides students with practical experience in laboratory teaching. Students in this course are paired with a faculty mentor and help supervise labs; deliver pre-lab lectures; and assist in ordering chemicals, supplies, and equipment and in preparing laboratory experiments. Students complete a project that integrates the physical science education literature, classroom instruction materials, laboratory safety, and proper storage and disposal of materials and equipment used. Cross-listed as ASTR 000. Open to junior physics and astronomy majors pursuing certification in education, with consent of instructor. Non-credit course.

106
ENERGY ALTERNATIVES
A physicist’s definition of work, energy, and power. The various energy sources available for use, such as fossil fuels, nuclear fission and fusion, hydro, solar, wind, and geothermal. The advantages and disadvantages of each energy-conversion method, including availability, efficiency, and environmental effects. Presents areas of energy research and possible future developments. Projections of possible future energy demands. 

108
GREAT IDEAS OF THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE
An introduction to several major concepts of physics which have developed over the past several centuries, relating them to their broad implications. The emphasis is on a descriptive rather than a mathematical discussion of topics which range from early Greek concepts of science to present-day methods and techniques used to describe the physical universe. Many distinctions and similarities between science and other areas of human endeavor are studied to demonstrate the beauty, simplicity, harmony, and grandeur of some of the basic laws which govern the universe. Three hours of lecture and two hours of laboratory per week. Fulfills Global Cultural Diversity Requirement. Alternate years.

225
FUNDAMENTALS OF PHYSICS I
A mathematically rigorous introduction to physics designed for majors in the natural sciences and mathematics. Topics include classical mechanics, thermodynamics, and mechanical waves. Five hours of lecture and recitation and one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisite or corequisite: MATH 128.

226
FUNDAMENTALS OF PHYSICS II
A mathematically rigorous introduction to physics designed for majors in the natural sciences and mathematics. Topics include electromagnetism, optics, and quantum physics. Five hours of lecture and recitation and one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisite: PHYS 225. Prerequisite or corequisite: MATH 129.

331
CLASSICAL MECHANICS
An analytical approach to classical mechanics. Topics include kinematics and dynamics of single particles and systems of particles, gravitation and other central forces, moving reference frames, and Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations of mechanics. Prerequisites: MATH 129 and a grade of C or better in PHYS 225. Alternate years.

332
ELECTROMAGNETISM
A theoretical treatment of classical electromagnetism. Topics include electrostatics, magnetostatics, electric and magnetic potentials, electric and magnetic properties of matter, Maxwell’s equations, the electromagnetic field, and the propagation of electromagnetic radiation. Prerequisites: MATH 129 and a grade of C or better in PHYS 226. Alternate years.

336
MATHEMATICAL METHODS OF PHYSICS
Solution of ordinary linear differential equations using power series and Laplace transforms, nonlinear differential and coupled differential equations, Fourier analysis using both trigonometric and complex exponential functions, complex variables, eigenvalue problems, infinite dimensional vector spaces, partial differential equations, boundary value problem solutions to the wave equation, heat flow equation, and Laplace’s equation. Prerequisite: MATH 129.

337
THERMODYNAMICS AND STATISTICAL MECHANICS
Presents classical thermodynamics, showing that the macroscopic properties of a system can be specified without knowledge of the microscopic properties of the constituents of the system. Also develops statistical mechanics, showing that these same macroscopic properties are determined by the microscopic properties.  Prerequisites: PHYS 226 and MATH 129. Alternate years.

338
MODERN PHYSICS
Thorough investigation of changes in the classical understanding of space and time together with those of energy and matter that led to the time development of relativistic and quantum mechanical theories. Topics include introduction to special relativity, blackbody radiation, the postulation of the photon and quantization, atomic spectra, interactions of matter and energy, Bohr model of the atom, concepts of symmetry, and development and applications of the Schrödinger equation.  Prerequisites: MATH 129 and a grade of C or better in PHYS 226.

339
CONDENSED MATTER PHYSICS
Structural topics include ordinary crystalline structures, liquid crystals, quasi-crystals, and nanostructures. Property-related topics include periodic potentials, band structure, electromagnetic and thermal properties, superconductivity, and aspects of surface physics.  Prerequisites: PHYS 332 and MATH 129 or consent of instructor. Alternate years.

340
THE INVISIBLE UNIVERSE
The astrophysics of celestial objects that emit thermal and non-thermal radiation outside the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Traces the development of observational techniques at radio, infrared, ultraviolet, x-ray, and gamma-ray wavelengths. Includes cosmic microwave background radiation, pulsars, quasars, gamma-ray bursters, magnetars, and active galactic nuclei. Cross-listed as ASTR 340. Four hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory per week. Prerequisites: ASTR 111 and PHYS 226.  Alternate years.

341
ELECTRONICS
DC and AC circuit analysis, semiconductor physics, active devices such as PN junctions, transistors, operational amplifiers, and integrated circuits. Basics of digital electronics and vacuum tube technologies. Three lectures and three hours of laboratory per week. Prerequisites: PHYS 225 and MATH 128.  Alternate years.

344
RELATIVITY AND COSMOLOGY
A detailed presentation of the special theory of relativity and an introduction to the general theory. Topics include observational and experimental tests of relativity, four vectors, tensors, space-time curvature, alternative cosmological models, and the origin and future of the universe. Cross-listed as ASTR 344. Four hours of lecture per week. Prerequisites: ASTR 111 and PHYS 225. Alternate years.

345
INTERMEDIATE EXPERIMENTAL PHYSICS
An introduction to laboratory techniques beyond those covered in introductory physics. Students receive instruction in laboratory techniques, data analysis, written and oral presentation of data, and the use of computers for collecting and analyzing data. Experiments focus on the fields of classical mechanics, electromagnetism, and thermodynamics. Two hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory per week. Prerequisite: PHYS 226. Alternate years.

435
NONLINEAR AND COMPLEX SYSTEMS
Students learn how to develop and analyze nonlinear mathematical models of complex systems from the physical, biological, and social sciences. Topics include equation-based and agent-based modeling, bifurcation theory, limit cycles, chaos, fractals, and time series analysis. Prerequisites: PHYS 225 and MATH 129 or consent of instructor. Alternate years.

439
INTRODUCTION TO QUANTUM MECHANICS
Introduction to the basic concepts and principles of quantum theory. Uses the Schrödinger wave equation approach to present solutions to the free particle, the simple harmonic oscillator, the hydrogen atom, and other central force problems. Topics also include operator formalism, eigenstates, eigenvalues, the uncertainty principles, stationary states, representation of wave functions by eigenstate expansions, and the Heisenberg matrix approach. Cross-listed as CHEM 439. Four hours of lecture. Prerequisites: MATH 231 and either PHYS 226 or CHEM 331.  Alternate years.

445
ADVANCED EXPERIMENTAL PHYSICS
A course on laboratory techniques focusing on experiments from nonlinear dynamics, modern physics, condensed matter physics, and nuclear physics. Students learn advanced laboratory and data analysis techniques, with a special focus on the development of experiments and written and oral communication of results. Two hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory per week. Prerequisite: PHYS 345. Alternate years.

447
NUCLEAR AND PARTICLE PHYSICS
Considers properties of nuclei, nuclear models, radioactivity, nuclear reactions (including fission and fusion), and properties of elementary particles. Includes the interactions of nuclear particles with matter and the detection of nuclear particles. Reveals how observed phenomena lead to theories on the nature of fundamental interactions, how these forces act at the smallest measurable distances, and what is expected to occur at even smaller distances.  Prerequisites: PHYS 226, MATH 129, and either PHYS 338 or CHEM 110. Alternate years.

448
RESEARCH TOPICS
Students participate in a research project under the guidance of a faculty member in the department. In weekly meetings, they share reports from the literature and report on their own work. Topics range from abstract theoretical to selected practical experimental investigations. Cross-listed as ASTR 448. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. May be taken a second time with consent of department.

349 & 449 ASTRONOMY AND PHYSICS COLLOQUIA This non-credit but required course for juniors and seniors majoring in astronomy and physics offers students a chance to meet and hear active scientists in astronomy, physics, and related scientific areas talk about their own research or professional activities. In addition, majors in astronomy and physics must present two lectures, one given during the junior year and one given during the senior year, on the results of a literature survey or their individual research. Four semesters required during the junior and senior years. Cross-listed as ASTR 349 and 449. One hour per week. Pass/Fail except when the student gives a lecture. Non-credit course.

470-479
INTERNSHIP
Interns in physics work off campus under the supervision of professional physicists employed by local industries or hospitals.

N80-N89
INDEPENDENT STUDY
Independent studies may be undertaken in most areas of physics.

490-491
INDEPENDENT STUDY FOR DEPARTMENTAL HONORS