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Physics

Why study physics at Washburn?

A degree in physics from Washburn University equips you to think clearly about the world around you, analyze problems, recognize connections, draw conclusions based on evidence, and apply your knowledge to a wide range of fields.  Our small classes mean you get personal attention not available at larger universities.  Students also participate in research projects in one-on-one collaboration with our professors.  Our department specializes in computational physics research, with a wide range of applications, from the dynamics of neutron stars to how life on Earth is affected by radiation from space.

More than a list of facts, a physics degree gives you tools you can use to learn anything.  In a rapidly changing workplace, a physics degree gives you flexibility to succeed in any number of jobs, from engineering to technical writing to the practice of law.

Bachelor of Arts in Physics

Each candidate is required to complete the university requirements for the bachelor of arts degree and 25 hours in physics, including 12 upper-division hours. Credits in astronomy courses or 100-level physics courses will not be counted towards the major. At least six hours of physics courses must be taken at Washburn University.

Bachelor of Science in Physics

Each candidate is required to complete the university and department requirements.

Minor in Physics

A minimum of 20 hours in Physics is required,  including:

Course Number Course Title Credit Hours
PS 261 or PS 281 College Physics I or General Physics I 5
PS 262 or PS 282 College Physics II or General Physics II 5
300-level Physics Courses 10

25% of the total minor hours must be taken in residence at Washburn University. For any course to counts towards the minor, the students must earn a "C" or better.

PS 101 Introduction to Physics (3)

For non-majors. Recommended for partial fulfillment of the graduation requirement in natural science. Selected topics from the field of classical and modern physics are studied and discussed in terms of their impact on modern society without mathematical emphasis. This is a general education course.

PS 102 Introduction to Physics – Health (3)

For non-majors. Recommended for partial fulfillment of the graduation requirement in natural science. Selected topics from the field of classical and modern physics are studied and discussed in terms of their impact on the health profession. Students will not receive credit for both PS 101 and PS 102. This is a general education course. Prerequisites: MA 112 or MA 116 or higher, or concurrent enrollment.

PS 120 Meteorology (3)

The Earth’s atmosphere and basic circulation patterns including types and classification of clouds and air masses, the formation of fronts, winds aloft computations, principles of forecasting, energy considerations and other associated physical processes. This is a general education course. Prerequisites: MA 104 or one and a half years of high school algebra.

PS 126 Physical Science for Elementary Ed (5)

This course, designed to provide a comprehensive background in physical and earth science for the elementary school teacher, will provide lecture and laboratory experiences which will serve to improve confidence in both scientific process and product applicable to all elementary curricula. Four lectures and one lab period per week. This is a general education course.

PS 131 Biological Physics for the Health and Life Sciences (3)

A one-semester course covering classical and modern physics, designed primarily for students in the health professions. Typical subjects include the laws of motion, gravity, heat, sound, light, electricity, and magnetism. Subjects are treated conceptually along with the use of basic data. Recommended for partial fulfillment of the graduation requirement in natural science. Not applicable toward credit for physics major requirements. Students will not receive credit for both PS 101 and PS 131. This is a general education course. Prerequisites: MA 112 or MA 116 or higher, or concurrent enrollment.

PS 132 Biological Physics for the Health and Life Sciences Laboratory (1)

A laboratory exploring classical and modern physics, designed primarily for students in the health professions. Experiments in motion, gravity, heat, sound, light, electricity, and magnetism are designed to teach physics concepts and basic laboratory techniques. The course is designed to introduce students to laboratory techniques used in physics, emphsaizing instrumentation, data acquisition, and analysis. One three-hour laboratory period per week. Recommended for partial fulfillment of the graduation requirement in natural science. Not applicable toward credit for physics major requirements. This is a general education course. Prerequisites: PS 131 or concurrent enrollment. Concurrently enrolled students may not drop PS 131 and remain enrolled in PS 132.

PS 261 College Physics I (5)

Recommended for medical arts and general science students. Mechanics, heat, and sound are studied. Lecture-recitation and laboratory. This is a general education course. Prerequisites: MA 116 and MA 117, or MA 123, or MA 151, or concurrent enrollment.

PS 262 College Physics II (5)

A continuation of College Physics I. Electricity, optics and modern physics. Lecture-recitation and laboratory. Prerequisite: PS 261.

PS 281 General Physics I (5)

Required for students who wish to major in physics and astronomy and for pre-engineering students. Mechanics, heat, and sound are studied. Lecture-recitation and laboratory. This is a general education course. Prerequisite: MA 151 or concurrent enrollment.

PS 282 General Physics II (5)

A continuation of General Physics I. Electricity and magnetism, optics, and modern physics. Lecture-recitation and laboratory. Prerequisite: PS 281.

PS 291 Elementary Computational Physics (2)

An introduction to computer modeling of physics problems using spreadsheet programs, computer algebra systems, and other mathematical software. Prerequisite: MA 151 or concurrent enrollment.

PS 310 Relativity (2)

Concepts of space and time, frames of reference, Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity and elements of General Relativity. Prerequisite: PS 262 or PS 282; MA 253.

PS 320 Electromagnetic Theory I (3)

The basic theory of electromagnetic fields and waves using calculus and vector methods. Prerequisites: PS 262 or PS 282; MA 253.

PS 321 Electromagnetic Theory II (3)

A continuation of Physics 320. Prerequisite: PS 320.

PS 322 Electrical Laboratory (2)

Basic theory of semiconductors and the application of this theory in electrical measurements. One hour lecture and three hours laboratory a week. Prerequisite: PS 262 or PS 282.

PS 330 Optics (3)

Physical and geometrical optics. Lecture-recitation. Prerequisite: PS 262 or PS 282.

PS 332 Optics Laboratory (1)

Experiments with lens systems, mirrors, aberrations, the spectrometer, interference and diffraction, and polarization. Prerequisite: PS 330 or concurrent enrollment.

PS 334 Thermodynamics (3)

A consideration of heat phenomena, the first and second laws of thermodynamics, their principal consequences and applications to simple systems, and the kinetic theory of gases. Prerequisites: PS 262 or PS 282; MA 253.

PS 335 Theoretical Mechanics I (3)

A mathematical study of classical mechanics. Rigid body statics and dynamics, kinetics and dynamics of particles and systems of particles, and conservative and non-conservative force fields. Prerequisites: PS 262 or PS 282; MA 253.

PS 336 Theoretical Mechanics II (3)

A continuation of Theoretical Mechanics I. Prerequisite: PS 335.

PS 340 Electronics (3)

Digital electronic circuits and devices with special emphasis on computer interfacing to instrumentation. Two one-hour lectures and one three-hour laboratory a week. Prerequisites: PS 262 or PS 282; MA 253.

PS 350 Modern Physics I (3)

Phenomena specific to the extra-nuclear structure of the atom; phenomena peculiar to the atomic nucleus; introduction to quantum and wave mechanics, and relativity. Prerequisites: PS 262 or PS 282; MA 253.

PS 351 Modern Physics II (3)

A continuation of Physics 350. Prerequisite: PS 350.

PS 352 Atomic and Nuclear Physics Laboratory (1)

Measurements of constants fundamental to atomic physics: Planck’s constant, electron charge and mass, speed of light, etc. Techniques of nuclear alpha, beta and gamma ray spectroscopy. Prerequisite: PS 350.

PS 360 Physics Research (1 or 2)

Experimental design and techniques. Extensive use of technical literature will be necessary. Independent work is encouraged. Prerequisites: Consent of instructor.

PS 365 Introduction to Theoretical Physics (3)

Application of ordinary and partial differential equations, Fourier series, Laplace transforms, Gamma functions, and complex variables to problems in the fields of physics and engineering. Prerequisite: PS 262 or PS 282, or concurrent enrollment; MA 253.

PS 366 Introduction to Computational Physics (3)

Techniques and models in computational physics. Prerequisites: PS 262 or PS 282; MA 253.

PS 368 Computational Physics Research (3)

Computational physics research in any of the areas of physics. A written and an oral presentation of the work is required. Prerequisite: Departmental permission.

PS 370 Special Subjects in Physics (Credit to be arranged)

Offered on demand as teaching schedules permit. Material is to be chosen according to student interest from any one of a number of fields of physics. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.

Most upper-division physics courses are offered every other year, in the absence of extenuating circumstances. Below is the standard schedule.

Fall Semester, Even Years Spring Semester, Odd Years

PS 321 (3) Electromagnetic Theory II

PS 330 (3) Optics

PS 332 (1) Optics Lab

PS 350 (3) Modern Physics I

PS 360 (1 or 2) Physics Research

PS 368 (3) Computational Physics Research

PS 310 (2) Relativity

PS 351 (3) Modern Physics II

PS 352 (1) Atomic & Nuclear Physics Lab

PS 335 (3) Theoretical Mechanics I

PS 360 (1 or 2) Physics Research

PS 368 (3) Computational Physics Research

Fall Semester, Odd Years Spring Semester, Even Years

PS 322 (2) Electrical Laboratory

PS 336 (3) Theoretical Mechanics II

PS 360 (1 or 2) Physics Research

PS 365 (3) Theoretical Physics

PS 366 (3) Computational Physics

PS 368 (3) Computational Physics Research

PS 291 (2) Elementary Computational Physics

PS 320 (3) Electromagnetic Theory I

PS 334 (3) Thermodynamics

PS 340 (3) Electronics

PS 360 (1 or 2) Physics Research

PS 368 (3) Computational Physics Research

For a complete description of the individual classes, go to the course catalog at:

Academic Catalog

(Note, this link opens a pdf file of the entire undergraduate catalog in a new window.  When it opens, if you click on the ribbon icon in the upper right corner, it will open a page index.  If you click on any of the arrows, it will open a sub-menu for that section.  If you click on College of Arts and Sciences, you can then scroll down to the Mass Media Department and click on that link to open the course listing for Mass Media.)

GET IN TOUCH WITH Physics & Astronomy Department

Physics & Astronomy Department
Stoffer Science Hall, Room 210
1700 SW College Ave.
Topeka, KS 66621

Phone & Email
Phone: 785.670.2141
physics@washburn.edu
engineering@washburn.edu

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Washburn University School Of Law

Washburn University prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, age, national origin, ancestry, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, veteran status, or marital or parental status. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Dr. Pamela Foster, Equal Opportunity Director/Title IX Coordinator, Washburn University, 1700 SW College Ave, Topeka, Kansas 66621, 785.670.1509, eodirector@washburn.edu.

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