PHYS - Physics course descriptions


Wendy Weber (chair), Chad Garber, Elizabeth Golovatski, Viktor Martisovits, Pavrithra Premaratne, Alexey Pronin, Puneet Vishwarkarma


Statement of philosophy

Physics, the most fundamental physical science, is concerned with the basic principles of the universe. It is the foundation on which engineering, technology and the other sciences are based. The physics program at Central College is a four-year program that prepares students for jobs in engineering and other technical areas, teaching, physics graduate school, engineering graduate school and research. It is the major that is the foundation for most of the engineering specialties in Central’s engineering dual-degree programs with The University of Iowa, and Iowa State University. Our mission is to teach physics theory, problem-solving skills, and experimental techniques with an emphasis on science as a method for exploring the world. We prepare our students to be able to reason from the general fundamental principles to specific applications in physics and engineering. A student trained in physics will be able to work in a variety of specialties.


Study abroad opportunities

Students majoring in physics have been able to study abroad with careful planning, especially during the summer.  


Major Communication Skills

The communication skills goals of the Analytical and Physical Science department are to prepare our students to be able to read the technical and mathematical literature used in physics and to be able to explain physical concepts in a clear and logical fashion both in writing and speaking. Difficulties that arise in oral communication occur typically in public speaking situations and are best addressed by practice provided in speech classes. Early evaluation of skills is done in PHYS 111. Skill in reading physics texts is evaluated through normal chapter tests and quizzes in which comprehension of test questions and text material is required to pass. Writing skills are evaluated through laboratory reports that require a formal writing style. Speaking skills are evaluated through personal conversations with the students by the physics faculty during normal conversation involving technical matters.

Monitoring and remedial opportunities occur in each physics course in that tests, quizzes, and personal discussions with the students provide us with information that is used to advise students about any changes that must be made to improve their communication skills. Students in many courses are assigned short presentations to give to a class. Enrollment in PHYS 331 for two semesters is required of all physics majors. Each student must be able to communicate orally on a one-to-one basis with the instructor of the class regarding technical problems arising from experiments performed.

All graduating physics majors know how to read technical material, if slowly. Since speed is not a concern, there are no specific reading requirements. PHYS 331 has sufficiently high standards of technical writing that passing both semesters is evidence of a student’s writing skills. The formal requirement needed to meet the communication skill goal in speaking is to pass COMM 160 Communication in Everyday Life or COMM 270 Public Speaking.


Physics Major Requirements (minimum of 57 credits)            

  1. Complete all of the following:
    PHYS 111 General Physics I with Lab (5)
    PHYS 112 General Physics II with Lab (5)
    PHYS 225 Modern Physics I (3)
    PHYS 331 Advanced Labs (4) (2 semesters)
    CHEM 111 General Chemistry with Lab (4)
    MATH 131 Calculus I (4)
    MATH 132 Calculus II (4)
    MATH 231 Multivariable Calculus (3)
    MATH 250 Differential Equations (3)
  2. Complete 19 credits from the following elective courses:
    PHYS 211 Analog Electronics (3)
    PHYS 215 Theoritical and Experimental Methods (2)
    PHYS 216 Waves (2)
    PHYS 322 Optics (3)
    PHYS 325 Modern Physics II (3)
    PHYS 326 Analytical Mechanics (4)
    PHYS 412 Quantum Mechanics (4)
    PHYS 421 Electricity and Magnetism II (3)
    ENGR 212 Dynamics (3)
    ENGR 311 Thermodynamics (3)
    ENGR 321 Electromagnetism (3)
  3. Complete one of the following:
    COMM 160 Communication in Everyday Life (3)
    COMM 270 Public Speaking (4)


Physics Minor Requirements (18 credits)

  1.  Complete all of the following:
    PHYS 111 General Physics I with Lab (5)
    PHYS 112 General Physics II with Lab (5)
    PHYS 225 Modern Physics I (3)
    PHYS 331 Advanced Laboratories (2)
  2. Complete an additional 3 credits of PHYS courses numbered 211 or above


Central’s dual degree engineering program leads to a B.A. from Central and a B.S. in engineering from either The University of Iowa or Iowa State University. Students obtain a strong liberal-arts education. A broad background in the liberal arts, as well as our emphasis on communication skills, helps students to establish themselves as thoughtful, creative, productive engineers. The transition from high school to a demanding course of study such as engineering can be difficult. Students are helped by small classes taught by extremely well-qualified, experienced teachers committed primarily to their teaching.

Typically, a student enrolls at Central College and chooses a science major closely allied with an engineering field of interest (usually physics, chemistry, mathematics or computer science). After three years of full-time study at Central (with at least 90 semester hours of credit completed, including all Core requirements and all major requirements), the student leaves Central and enrolls at either The University of Iowa or Iowa State University. Upon completion of one year of engineering study at The University of Iowa or Iowa State University, appropriate credits are transferred back to Central, enabling the student to graduate with a B.A. degree from Central. The student will then earn a B.S. in engineering from the cooperating institution after an additional one to two years of engineering study.  Students pursuing Central’s B.S. in Engineering program are not eligible to participate in the dual degree engineering program.

Prior to the start of the first semester of classes in the first year at Central, interested students must formally declare to Central’s pre-engineering program director their intent to participate in order to graduate in the time frame mentioned above. They must also complete specific courses at specific points in their academic programs to remain eligible for continued participation. Careful consultation with the appropriate faculty advisors makes this cooperative program successful.

This dual degree program also enables students to complete a full four years of study and the B.A. degree at Central. Students opting to do so may then take advantage of their advanced standing toward the fulfillment of B.S. in Engineering requirements at any of the cooperating institutions. Students pursuing this option must declare their intent prior to the start of their second year at Central.