Physics Undergraduate Degree Programs
The Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa offers undergraduate degree programs in the following areas:
Students must complete the following courses with grades of C (not C minus) or better:
- Phys 170/170L, 272/272L, 274/274L, 310, 350, 400, 480
- One course in advanced laboratory or applied techniques: Computational / Numerical Methods (Phys 305 or Math 407), or Electronics (Phys 475 or EE 211), or Advanced Physics Lab (Phys 480L)
- Chem 161/161L or 171/171L or 181A/181L
- Math 241, 242, 243 and 244; or Math 251A, 252A, and 253A
- Math 307 or 311
- Minimum of 15 credits of an approved Interdisciplinary Concentration (IC) course program
- Courses must be chosen to form a coherent theme related to physics
- Minimum of 12 credits must be non-introductory courses at the 200 level or above
- Proposed IC courses (and any modifications) must be approved by physics department chair or his/her designee
- Approval shall be granted only after the student has passed (or is currently enrolled in) Phys 274, 274L, and Math 243 or 253A
Upon approval of a physics department adviser, Math 215 and 216 may be substituted for Math 241 and 242, and Phys 170 through 272L may be satisfied by Phys 151 through 152L.
Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) Degrees
The Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree programs have very nearly the same basic requirements for courses in physics, chemistry and mathematics. The B.A. program, however, requires approximately eleven courses in the humanities and social sciences, while the B.S. program specifies approximately eight such courses. A second-level year of a foreign language is required for both the B.A. and B.S. programs. Students are also required to complete five writing intensive courses before graduation – see the General Catalog for more information.
The physics major is a program that requires careful planning on the part of the student. It is broadly based not only upon physics courses but also upon a good foundation of mathematics and, often, upon advanced work in such related areas as astronomy, chemistry and engineering. In view of the very large variety of opportunities available to those who have a good fundamental background in physics and mathematics, it is important that the student take advantage of his/her undergraduate years at the University to investigate and experience some of these possibilities to the fullest extent practicable.
Special Emphasis - B.S. Degree Program
Some examples of specialized preparation which the student can initiate as an undergraduate physics major.
The Introductory Physics Courses
A) Physical Science and Engineering Orientation
These introductory physics courses comprise an integrated three-semester sequence with the following order of subject matter:
- Physics 170, 170L
- Physics 272, 272L
- Electricity and Magnetism
- Geometric Optics
- Physics 274, 274L
- Physical Optics
- Special Relativity
- Quantum Physics
- Atomic and Nuclear Physics
In the lecture courses, 170, 272, and 274, the physical systems are described using mathematics through calculus. The associated laboratory courses, 170L, 272L and 274L, are of equal importance. They allow the student to observe and measure real physical systems using various experimental techniques.
B) Physical Science Orientation
Non-calculus physics is offered to potential physical science majors for whom it is of considerable advantage to have the basic elementary physics courses in their first year while simultaneously preparing for their calculus courses. This sequence accommodates those students who may have decided to enter the physical sciences too late to fully prepare themselves by taking advanced high school mathematics.
The associated laboratories for the 151-152 sequences (151L-152L) are essentially the same as the corresponding 170L-272L laboratories described above. They provide the student with the opportunity to practice basic techniques and methods of experimental analysis as applied to scientific research.
Getting Start in Physics Undergraduate Program
When entering the University with only high school experience, students may know that they would like to concentrate in science or engineering, but may not yet know which specific natural science or field of engineering they should choose for a lifetime profession. Fortunately, all the B.S. programs (Biology, Botany, Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics, Microbiology, Physics, and Zoology), along with all the majors in the College of Engineering, recommend the same basic first-year program, including first courses in chemistry, mathematics and physics. This effectively allows the student at least one year of university experience before he/she needs to decide on a major program. In this first year, the student can elect a basic course in such other areas as biology, geosciences, astronomy, or engineering to aid his/her decision.
The prerequisite for PHYS 151 is normally a grade of “C” or better in MATH 140 (precalculus with trigonometry), or MATH 215 or higher. All other PHYS courses require completion of the necessary MATH courses. For students who have not yet completed the MATH course prerequisite, but want to take PHYS 151, the Math Placement Exam is the alternative option to demonstrate their current math skill.
- A score least least 14 (out of 24) correct on Part 1 AND at least 10 (out of 20) correct on Part 2 of the Math Placement Exam in order to qualify for PHYS 151.
If students attain the qualifying score of 14+10 on the two parts of the Math Placement Exam, they qualify for PHYS 151. They will NOT need to take MATH 140 or any other MATH courses before PHYS 151. The department is willing to accept a score of 14+10 on the Math Placement Exam in lieu of the MATH course.
NOTE: The students still need to take MATH 140 or other MATH courses for other reasons: major requirements, FS requirement, etc., so they should check those requirements.
- If students take the Placement Exam and do NOT qualify for PHYS 151, but if they score at least 14 correct on Part 1, they can enroll in MATH 140 in next semester. If they earn a “C” or better in MATH 140, they can continue on to PHYS 151 in the following academic term.
- If students do not score at least 14 correct on Part 1 of the Math Placement Exam, then their remaining option is to take MATH 134 next semester (no minimum Placement Exam score required). If they pass MATH 134, they can automatically continue on to MATH 140 in the following term, and then take PHYS 151 in the term after that.
The Department of Mathematics has an examination for placement in courses. The placement exam will provide a BMAT score into the Banner system and it is good for one year. This will allow you to register for certain mathematics courses. Please visit the Department of Mathematics placement examination for more information.
Students who wish to have their AP Physics reviewed for laboratory credit should submit their laboratory notebooks, with the following information, to the Department of Physics and Astronomy:
- Your full name, UH email address, and telephone number.
- Laboratory notebooks graded by your AP instructor.
- A copy of your College Board AP Physics score sheet.
- The name and location of your high school, and the name of your AP instructor.
Laboratory notebooks, with the above information, should be placed in the box designated “AP Credit for Physics Lab” in Watanabe Hall, Room 416.
Please review the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa’s policy on Advanced Placement Examinations for granting credits and/or waivers.
Begin The Four-Year Physics Program
Please email the The Department of Physics and Astronomy or visit the department office, room 416, to assign an undergraduate academic adviser. The student should see an advisers to ensure that he/she is taking the necessary courses for proper progress in the physics undergraduate degree program.
Special Physics Major Program
It should be emphasized that the Department has provided a means by which the individual student may develop a special physics major program. For example, the student may substitute advanced courses in a related discipline for corresponding advanced courses in physics and thereby fulfill any additional undergraduate requirements for entering a graduate program in a related discipline. Please see undergraduate physics adviser and degree requirements in the General Catalog.
Each year the Department has a number of part-time positions available to undergraduate physics majors. These include assisting individual faculty members in the grading of papers, in laboratory teaching, and in research projects. It is strongly felt that the experience gained by the student assistant is an important part of his/her over-all education in undergraduate physics. In addition, the assistantship can be of significant financial aid to the student. For information about student assistantships, please inquiry with the office of the Department Chair.