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Physics and Physics Education

Career and Academic Paths | Academic Advising | Major Programs | Physics Minor | Astronomy Minor Program | Honors Program | Combined B.S./M.S. Program | Student Organizations | Special Opportunities |

Faculty

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Chair

L. Michael Hayden

Associate Chair

Robert C. Reno

Professors

Raymond M. Hoff
Todd Pittman
Morton H. Rubin
Yanhua Shih
L. Larrabee Strow

Associate Professors

Ian M. George
Theodosia Gougousi
Ivan Kramer
J. Vanderlei Martins
Laszlo Takacs
T. Jane Turner
Terrance Worchesky
En-Shinn Wu

Assistant Professors

Markos Georganopoulos

Lecturers

Eric C. Anderson
Lili Cui

Research Professor

Arlin Krueger

Research Associate Professors

David S. Davis
Kevin J. McCann
William S. Olson
Erricos C. Pavlis
Omar Torres

Research Assistant Professors

Prasun Kundu
Amita V. Mehta
Lazaros Oreopoulos

Professor Emeriti

Harvey S. Melfi
Robert L. Rasera

Adjunct Professors

Chris Barnet
Volker Beckman
Belay Demoz
Alexis Finoguenov
Bryan Jacobs
Mike Krainak
Thorston Marcus
Joe Sedlak
Joel Sinsky
Harry Winsor

Courses in this program are listed under PHYS.

Physics students are trained to see and to understand nature in an especially profound way. They learn how to dissect a problem into its essential components, to understand the interrelation of the parts, and to apply mathematical and computational techniques to produce a solution. This kind of training is obviously advantageous in many professions besides physics, so physics graduates are found in professions as diverse as patent law, medicine and finance.

UMBC's Department of Physics offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and a new Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics Education. Either track can be taken as a terminal degree.

The Bachelor of Science degree qualifies a student for immediate professional employment or can be used as a basis for entrance into graduate school. The Bachelor of Arts degree is specifically designed for those students planning a career in high school teaching, and it is coordinated with the UMBC education department. This allows students to obtain a degree in physics education that includes certification for teaching high school physics in a four-year program. This method fulfills the Maryland requirement for new high school teachers that they major in the subject area they teach.

A special feature of both degree tracks is the opportunity for undergraduates to participate in the faculty’s research programs. Many students doing this research are co-authors with their research mentors on papers at technical conferences and in research journals. To help support undergraduate research, the department presents the Langenburg Student Research Award each year to a junior or senior physics major. This cash award is to support the student during the semester he or she is performing research. The departmental honors program requires the course Senior Research (PHYS 499), but this course can be taken as an elective by any student with consent of his or her academic advisor and a faculty research mentor. It is important for all students to work closely with their departmental academic advisor to take full advantage of the elective courses offered, especially once a particular career path has been chosen.

The department offers minors in both physics and in astronomy. The astronomy minor is aimed especially at those students interested in pursuing careers in astronomy or astrophysics.

The department also offers a combined B.S./M.S. program for highly qualified students. In 2000, the department moved into a new, 72,000-square-foot Physics Building, which includes many outstanding facilities for undergraduates. There is a tutorial center, a study room, a resource room containing a large number of texts and other books, and a computer laboratory with PCs configured for both Windows and Linux applications.

The department recently has purchased nearly $6 million worth of new equipment, including a 0.8 meter astronomical telescope, which is housed in a dome on the roof of the Physics Building. Other special facilities in the building include: a class-100 clean room, in which state-of-the-art photonic and electronic devices can be fabricated, and a microscopy facility containing a scanning electron microscope with special characterization attachments and an atomic force microscope. These facilities are used by students in optics courses, in the advanced laboratory course and in undergraduate research projects.

Typically about half the graduating seniors go on to graduate school. Recent graduates have been accepted at MIT, Harvard, The Johns Hopkins University and the universities of California at Berkeley, Illinois and Michigan, among others.

Career and Academic Paths

The career opportunities for physics majors are numerous and varied. Many of UMBC’s physics majors go on to pursue advanced degrees in physics and allied fields of science and engineering at the nation’s leading graduate schools. Other physics students find employment immediately upon graduation. Recent graduates are working in electro-optics, space physics, computer modeling and semiconductor research, among other fields, with employers such as Northrop Grumman, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the National Security Agency and Lawrence Livermore Laboratories. Other graduates have gone on to medical or law school or to other careers for which the problem-solving skills and understanding of the physical world learned in physics courses prepare them.

Several graduates of the physics B.S. program have chosen a career teaching high school physics. Additional students, who wish to pursue a career in teaching, have enrolled in the new B.A. program in physics education. The number of students enrolled in the physics education program is expected to increase rapidly due to the shortage of high-school physics teachers.

The UMBC Department of Physics offers both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Applied Physics and Atmospheric Physics. Undergraduates making satisfactory progress in their physics and mathematics courses may obtain permission from their advisor to take graduate-level courses.

The areas of research emphasis in the graduate programs are non-linear and quantum optics, solid-state materials and nanophysics, photonics, atmospheric physics and astrophysics. All faculty have active research programs, several of which are internationally known. The external research funding of the department exceeds $6 million per year. These funds come from such agencies as NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research and the National Security Agency.

The department plays a major role in UMBC’s Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET) with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. There are 9 JCET research faculty affiliated with the Department of Physics. The department also participates in the Center in Astrophysics (CRESST) with NASA’s Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics.

Major Programs

B.S. IN PHYSICS

Physics majors must take and pass the following courses:


Physics Courses (48 credits)

  • PHYS 121 Introductory Physics I
  • PHYS 122 Introductory Physics II
  • PHYS 122L Introductory Physics Laboratory
  • PHYS 220 Introduction to Computational Physics
  • PHYS 224 Introductory Physics III
  • PHYS 303 Thermal and Statistical Physics
  • PHYS 320L Electronics for Scientists
  • PHYS 321 Intermediate Mechanics
  • PHYS 324 Modern Physics
  • PHYS 330L Optics Laboratory
  • PHYS 407 Electromagnetic Theory
  • PHYS 424 Introduction to Quantum Mechanics
  • PHYS 431L Modern Physics Laboratory


Six elective credits in physics at the 300 level or higher, one of which must be a lecture-type course.

Other Courses (25 or 26 credits)

  • MATH 151 Calculus I
  • MATH 152 Calculus II
  • MATH 251 Multivariable Calculus
  • MATH 221 Linear Algebra
  • MATH 225 Differential Equations

  • CMSC 104 Problem Solving and Computer Programming
    OR
  • CMSC 201 Computer Science I for Majors

  • CHEM 101 Principles of Chemistry I

Physics Elective Courses:

  • PHYS304 Fundamentals of Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • PHYS 315 Galaxies and the Interstellar Medium
  • PHYS 335 Physics and Chemistry of the Atmosphere
  • PHYS 402 Nuclear Physics
  • PHYS 403 Solid-State Physics
  • PHYS 405 Stellar Astrophysics
  • PHYS 415 Observational Astronomy
  • PHYS 416 Extra-galactic Astronomy and Cosmology
  • PHYS 418 Semiconductor Optical Devices
  • PHYS 425 Relativistic Physics
  • PHYS 428 Integrated Optics and Holography
  • PHYS 430 Introduction to Materials
  • PHYS 440 Computational Physics
  • PHYS 480 Mathematical Physics I
  • PHYS481 Mathematical Physics II
  • PHYS 490 Senior Seminar
  • PHYS 499H Senior Research

For physics majors, the suggested sequence of courses starts with the basic core, which is usually completed by the end of the first three semesters at UMBC. The basic core consists of PHYS 121, PHYS 122, PHYS 122L, CMSC 104 or CMSC 201, CHEM 101, MATH 251 and all of its prerequisites.


For example:

First Year

  • Fall / Spring
  • MATH 151 / MATH 152
  • CMSC 104 / PHYS 121
  • CHEM 101

Sophomore Year

  • Fall Semester
  • PHYS 122
  • PHYS 122L
  • MATH 251

Especially well-prepared freshmen entering with at least one year of high school calculus may elect to begin the introductory physics sequence in the fall semester of their first year.

For example:

First Year

  • Fall / Spring
  • MATH 151 / MATH 152
  • CMSC 104 / PHYS 122
  • PHYS 121 / CHEM 101

Sophomore Year

  • Fall Semester
  • PHYS 224
  • PHYS 122L
  • MATH 251

Completion of the basic core will prepare all students to enter PHYS 324 in their fourth semester. A sample program starting in the fourth semester is as follows:

Sophomore Year

  • Spring semester
  • PHYS 224 (if not taken earlier)
    OR
  • PHYS220

  • PHYS 324
  • PHYS 320L
  • MATH 225

Junior Year

  • Fall/Spring
  • PHYS 303 / PHYS 321
  • PHYS 330L / PHYS 431L

  • MATH 221 / PHYS 220
    OR
  • PHYS elective

Senior Year

  • Fall / Spring
  • PHYS 407 / PHYS 424
  • PHYS 431L(if not taken earlier) Electives
  • Electives / Electives

B.A. IN PHYSICS EDUCATION

Students enrolled in the physics education B.A. program must satisfy requirements in physics, education and those needed for teacher certification. Therefore, it is essential that students in this program work closely with advisors in both the physics and education departments when choosing courses.


The physics education majors program consists of 73 or 74 credits
distributed as follows:

Physics Courses (32 credits)

  • PHYS 105 Ideas in Astronomy
    OR
  • PHYS106 Introduction to Astrobiology

  • PHYS 121 Introductory Physics I
  • PHYS 122 Introductory Physics II
  • PHYS 122L Introductory Physics Laboratory
  • PHYS 220 Introduction to Computational Physics
  • PHYS 224 Introductory Physics III
  • PHYS 303 Thermal and Statistical Physics
  • PHYS 321 Intermediate Mechanics
  • PHYS 324 Modern Physics
  • PHYS 330L Optics Laboratory

Education Courses (33 credits)

  • EDUC 310 Inquiry into Education
  • EDUC 311 Psychological Foundations of Education
  • EDUC 388 Inclusion and Instruction
  • EDUC 410 Secondary Reading in the Content Areas: The Teaching of
    Reading in Secondary Schools. Prerequisites: Admission to teacher
    education and permission of the department
  • EDUC 411 Secondary Reading in the Content Area – Part II
  • EDUC 412 Analysis of Teaching and Learning
  • EDUC 427 Teaching Science in the Secondary School
  • EDUC 456 Internship in Secondary Education
  • EDUC 457 Internship Seminar in Secondary

Other Courses (42 credits)

  • BIOL101 Concepts of Biology
  • CHEM 101 Principles of Chemistry I
  • CMSC 104 Problem Solving and Computer Programming
  • MATH 151 Calculus I
  • MATH 152 Calculus II
  • MATH 251 Multivariable Calculus
  • MATH 221 Linear Algebra
  • MATH 225 Differential Equations

  • HIST 445 History of Science to 1700
    OR
  • HIST 446 History of Science Since 1700

  • PSYC 100 Introduction to Psychology

At least two three credit courses with the Arts and Humanities (AH) designation

Physics and mathematics courses that serve as prerequisites to other required courses must be satisfied with a grade of no less than “C.”

The cumulative GPA of physics courses at the 300 level, required for
the physics education major, must be at least 2.0

First Year

MATH 151, MATH 152, CMSC 104, PHYS 121, PHYS 105 or PHYS106, CHEM 101,
PSYC 100 and suitable elective courses chosen in consultation with an
advisor.

Sophomore Year


BIOL101, EDUC 310, MATH 251, MATH 221 or MATH 225, PHYS 122, PHYS 122L,
PHYS 224, PHYS 324 and suitable elective courses chosen in consultation
with an advisor.

Junior Year

CHEM 101, EDUC 311, EDUC 410, EDUC 412, HIST 445 or 446, MATH 221 or
225, PHYS 220, PHYS 321, PHYS 330L and suitable elective courses chosen
in consultation with an advisor.

Senior Year


EDUC 388, EDUC 411, EDUC 427, EDUC 456, EDUC 457, PHYS 303 and suitable
elective courses chosen in consultation with an advisor.