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Physics studies fundamental properties of matter and thus is arguably the most basic of all sciences. The goal of the Physics Department at Stern College for Women is to expose students to the diversity of problems and problem-solving techniques that can be used far beyond the scope of the physical sciences.

The department offers three majors: BA in physics, BA in physical sciences and BA in pre-engineering.

Students majoring in physics gain the foundational knowledge of physics and mathematics, as well as experience in a number of modern research techniques. These skills are required for careers as diverse as scientific research, engineering, medicine and financial analysis. Students may also choose to pursue graduate studies in physical sciences or engineering.

Physical sciences majors learn methods of solving different problems of the natural world. This major prepares students for jobs in many technical fields, or they may choose to continue in a school of engineering or a graduate program in science or engineering.

The major in pre-engineering is part of a combined plan in engineering with Columbia University. Under these plans, the student completes a BA at Yeshiva University and a BS at Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in five years or an MS in six years.

Click here for an overview of recent student accomplishments in STEM (PDF).

Mission Statement

The mission of the undergraduate physics, physical sciences and pre-engineering programs is to provide the highest possible educational experience in physics and the physical sciences for:

  • Students majoring in physics
  • Students majoring in physical sciences
  • Students majoring in pre-engineering
  • Students minoring in physics
  • Students taking service courses as a prerequisite for their majors

Program Student Learning Goals

  1. Students will be able to understand both the theoretical concepts and mathematical techniques of the major fields of physics such as classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, mathematical physics and special theory of relativity.
  2. Students will be able to apply modern laboratory techniques to collect and analyze data.
  3. Students will be able to perform numerical computations and to employ computer models to simulate physical phenomena.
  4. Students will be able to move successfully into graduate school or other professions where strong analytical and problem solving skills are required.
  5. Students will be able to communicate results of research effectively, both orally and in writing, individually and as a part of a team.

For more information, please contact Professor Lea Santos, lsantos2@yu.edu .

Program Information

Please see the Schedule of Classes for the current semester’s offerings.

Physics (PHYS)

  • 1031C, 1032C Introductory Physics 4 credits
    Two-semester, algebra-based course, taken by students who intend to major in biology, chemistry, and the health professions. Topics covered: kinematics and dynamics of the particle and rigid bodies, conservation laws, momentum, energy and angular momentum, oscillations, waves, fluids, thermodynamics, optics, electromagnetism, modern physics. Laboratory experiments are designed to help students master the principles covered in lecture. (lecture: 3 hours; recitation: 1 hour; lab: 2 hours). Laboratory fee.
  • 1051C, 1052C General Physics 5 credits
    Two-semester, calculus-based course for Physics, Physical Sciences and Pre-Engineering majors. Topics covered: kinematics and dynamics of the particle and rigid bodies, conservation laws, momentum, energy and angular momentum, oscillations, waves, fluids, electromagnetism and optics. Laboratory experiments are designed to help students master the principles covered in lecture. Lecture: 4 hours; recitation: 1 hour; lab: 2 hours 45 minutes. Laboratory fee.
    Prerequisite for PHYS 1051C: MATH 1412 or more advanced or instructors permission.
    Prerequisite or co-requisite for PHYS 1052C: MATH 1413
  • 1140 Mathematical Physics 3 credits
    One-semester course covering the mathematical foundations of modern physics. Topics: functions of complex variables, multiple integrals, Fourier series, special functions, integral transforms (Laplace and Fourier), Green functions, distributions. Examples, problems and applications from different fields of physics.
    Prerequisite:  PHYS 1042C.
  • 1221 Classical Mechanics I 3 credits
    Newtonian mechanics; oscillations: simple, damped and driven; resonance; elements of nonlinearity; noninertial frames of reference; motion relative to the Earth; conservative forces and potential energy; central forces; planetary motion.
    Prerequisite: PHYS 1041C.
  • 1222 Classical Mechanics II 3 credits
    Lagrangian mechanics. Constraints. Variational calculus and Hamilton's equations. Rotations of rigid bodies in two and three dimensions. Eulers equations. Tensor analysis. Small coupled oscillations and normal coordinates. Classical waves: the wave equation, dispersion, interference, polarization. Fresnel and Fraunhofer diffraction.
    Prerequisite PHYS1221.
  • 1321 Electromagnetic Theory I 3 credits
    Vector calculus, Maxwell’s equations in integral and differential form; electrostatics, Poisson’s equation; magnetostatics; time-varying fields.
    Prerequisites: PHYS 1042C, MATH 1510.
  • 1322 Electromagnetic Theory II 3 credits
    Polarizability tensor, electrodynamics in matter. Electromagnetic radiation by accelerating charges; Lienard-Wiechert potentials, multipole radiation, bremsstrahlung, synchrotron radiation, applications to materials science. Antennas. Electromagnetic wave propagation in matter. Electromagnetic basis of physical optics. Fresnel equations, Kirchoff diffraction theory. Wave-guides and cavity resonators.
    Prerequisite: PHYS1321
  • 1340 Computational Methods in Scientific Research 3 credits
    Use of computers to solve real problems in biology, physical sciences and economics. Numerical methods and data analysis, and how to visualize results with plots and movies.
    Prerequisites: MATH 1413. Recommended PHYS 1031C, 1032C or 1041C, 1042C
  • 1401 Introduction to Solid State Physics 3 credits
    A survey of the properties of condensed matter. Classification of crystalline lattices. Elements of crystallography. Cohesive forces in solids. Vibrations of crystals. Quantization. Debye and Einstein theories of phonons and thermal conductivity. Free electron theory of metals. Bloch functions and band theory. The Fermi surface. Semiconductors. Survey of advanced topics: excitations in lattices (plasmons and polarons), superconductivity, magnetic materials and models, theory of crystalline defects and alloys.
    Prerequisites: PHYS  1621.
  • 1510 Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics 3 credits
    The laws of thermodynamics. Entropy. Equations of state. Phase transitions. Thermodynamic potentials. The Third Law. Distribution functions. Theory of ensembles. Statistical formulation of temperature. Quantum and classical ideal gasses. Electronic conductance. Bose-¬Einstein statistics. Planck’s Law.
    Prerequisite or corequisite: MATH 1510.
  • 1621 Introduction to Quantum Mechanics 3 credits
    Wave--particle duality. Uncertainty principle. Formalism: Hilbert Space, Observables, Hermitian Operators. Solutions to Schrodinger's Equation in One Dimension: Transmission and Reflection at a Barrier; Tunneling; Potential Wells; Harmonic Oscillator; Free Particle. Schrodinger's Equation in Three Dimensions: Hydrogen Atom. Angular Momentum and Spin. Perturbation Theory. Introduction to Quantum Information.
    Prerequisites: PHYS 1221, MATH 2105 or permission of instructor.
  • 1810 Intermediate Experimental Physics 3 credits
    Nonlinear oscillations, diffraction of waves, interferometry, measurement of electron charge/mass ratio, RC filters, propagation of electromagnetic waves. (lecture: 1 hour; lab: 3 hours)
    Prerequisite: PHYS 1042C.
  • 2051 Intermediate Physics I 3 credits
    This course examines wave phenomena with an emphasis on light and offers an introduction to thermal physics. Topics covered include mechanical waves, sound, light as an electromagnetic wave, geometrical optics, interference, diffraction, temperature, heat and the laws of thermodynamics.
    Prerequisites: PHYS 1042, MATH 1413. Co-requisite: MATH 1510.
  • 2052 Intermediate Physics II 3 credits
    This course introduces the main ideas of modern physics as they were historically developed during the great revolution that took place in Physics between 1880 and 1930, which shaped our current ideas in relativity, quantum mechanics and statistical physics.   It presents in a historical context how those ideas were generated, which were the great experiments that led to their development, and the theoretical underpinnings on which they rest.
    Prerequisite: PHYS 2051
  • 4901, 4902 Independent Study
    See Academic Information and Policies section.
  • 4931-4935 Topics in Physics (1-3 credits)

Physics Major

50-51 credits. PHYS 1051C, 1052C, 2051, 2052, 1221, 1321, 1340, 1510, 1621; MATH 1412, 1413*, 1510, 2105*; and one elective from PHYS, 1222, 1322, 1401, 1810; and one elective from COMP 1300C, MATH 2651, PHYS 1140.

*MATH 1413 and 2105 may count toward the General Education “Elective” category.

MATH 2601 is highly recommended, but not required.

Physics Minor

17 credits. PHYS 1051C, 1052C, 2051, 2052, and one elective from PHYS 1140, 1221, 1321, 1340, 1510, 1810.

Physical Sciences Major

52-56 credits. PHYS 1051C, 1052C, 2051, 2052; MATH 1412, 1413*, 1510, 2105*, 2601; COMP 1300C; CHEM 1045C; ECON 1010**; Plus 3 additional courses related to the particular field(s) of engineering in which the student is interested:

  1. Concentration in Chemistry: CHEM 1046C, 1213R, CHEM 1215L and an advanced CHEM elective.
  2. Concentration in Electromagnetism: PHYS 1321, 1322, plus a Physics elective
  3. Concentration in Mechanics: PHYS 1221, 1222,  plus a Physics elective
  4. Concentration in Computer Science: COMP 1320C plus 2 advanced electives.
  5. Concentration in Biology: BIOL 1011C, 1012C, plus an advanced BIOL elective.

*MATH 1413 and 2105 may count toward the General Education “Elective” category.

**ECON 1010 may count toward the General Education “Foundation” category.

See the individual departments for the course descriptions.

For more details about the Physics, Physical Sciences and Pre-engineering major and minor - see the factsheets at the Academic Advisement webpage.

Combined Programs

Yeshiva University runs two combined programs leading to engineering degrees (BE or ME):

  • Joint program between YU and Columbia University
  • Joint program between YU and Stony Brook University

Students interested these combined programs will have an option to major in pre-engineering that has reduced course requirements ocompared to other YU majors, in lieu of the students' intended transfer to an engineering school prior to graduation from YU. Stern College students interested in joining one of these programs are urged to discuss their specific course of study with pre-engineering adviser Professor Lea Santos (lsantos2@yu.edu) each semester prior to registration.

The following list includes faculty who teach at the Beren (B) and/or Wilf (W)

We have designed two majors for students interested in studying engineering, the Pre-engineering major (3 years at SCW + 2 years at Columbia University) and the Physical Sciences major (4 years at SCW + 2 years at Columbia University), which are described below. However, students may also opt for a related major in Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science or Mathematical Sciences before transferring to Columbia University.

We advise students interested in Engineering or related careers to take our "Engineering Foundations" course, which introduces students to the different fields of engineering and the different aspects of the Engineering discipline.

Dual degree engineering programs are common paths for liberal arts students interested in studying engineering. They have advantages and disadvantages, which are discussed in

"Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Liberal Arts Students Interested in Engineering"

Pre-Engineering Major

The Pre-engineering major is open to students who enter SCW with sufficient AP credits so that they can complete the major, general and reduced Jewish Studies requirements (4 semesters of Core + 14 JS credits) in 3 years, either one year in Israel and two years at SCW, or three years at SCW.

Pre-engineering majors must continue their studies through a Combined Program in engineering with Columbia University (BE). Students who do not continue at Columbia, must complete a total of 6 semesters of Core and change their major (e.g., Physical Sciences or a Shaped Major) in order to receive the BA degree from SCW.

To be eligible to apply for admission to Columbia through the Combined Program in Engineering, Pre- engineering majors must meet the SCW graduation requirements, other than the 128 credits, as well as all Columbia requirements listed in the Columbia Combined-Plan Guide (available at the Academic Advisement Center). Provided that they maintain a 3.3 GPA overall, with no grade lower than a B in courses required by Columbia, and receive the recommendation of the pre-engineering advisor, students enrolled at YU prior to Fall 2019 are guaranteed admission to the two-year program at Columbia. For students who enroll in YU beginning with Fall 2019, admission will be competitive with Columbia reserving the right to admit students based upon criteria such as GPA in Columbia required courses, overall GPA, recommendations, etc.

If admitted, students should file for a Leave of Absence and not file for graduation from SCW.

After successfully completing the two-year program at Columbia, students file for a BA from YU, and a BS from Columbia.

Physical Sciences Major

The Physical Sciences major is ideal for students who want to be an engineer and get a B.A. degree in sciences with a concentration in the future field of engineering of their choice. After completing this major in 4 years, the student is eligible to apply for admission to Columbia through the Combined Program in Engineering. However, the student is also ready to apply to graduate programs, which is an advantage over the pre-engineering major.

Graduate Schools

Planning for Graduate Studies in Physics and Related Fields

List of Graduate Programs

Visit a guide to graduate programs in physics and related fields

GRE Tests

GRE test information

Fellowships (Partial List)

National Physical Science Consortium

The Timeline

The best strategy is to decide on the list of graduate schools during your junior year and check the schools' deadlines. Then use the GRE bulletin to work backward and figure out the appropriate dates for the GRE tests. The timeline below is thus just a general advice, applicable to those schools that have application deadline of January 1 or later.

  1. August preceding the graduating year: study and register for the subject GRE test
  2. Fall of the graduating year: take general GRE test
  3. September of the graduating year: meet with career services and physics department faculty to determine which programs to apply and to try to determine which area of physics is of interest to you
  4. September of the graduating year: start researching fellowships. Their deadlines may be as early as October.
  5. November of your graduating year (tentatively): take subject GRE test
  6. November, December of your graduating year: send applications to graduate schools

Other Useful Links

Physics Forum: http://www.physicsforums.com/

Physics Colloquia at YU

The current schedule of YU physics colloquia schedule is available here.

Physics Colloquia in New York City

Physics Department Graduates

 Stern College for Women Physics Department Graduates 

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