Learning Outcomes for the BS program in Physics

The physics major will teach all students core content in classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, and thermal physics.  We also expect students to choose from a few more advanced topics.  The program learning outcomes do not enumerate the (many) specific content learning outcomes of all those courses, but instead summarizes the cross-cutting learning outcomes that are not the specific content of any one class, but instead are program outcomes intended to be learned through many of our courses.

Problem Solving – Physics majors and minors will be able to

  1. Organize and carry out solutions to long, complex physics problems.
  2. Decide on strategies to be used and assumptions that need to be made.
  3. Determine what constitutes sufficient evidence for a conclusion.
  4. Use both algebraic and geometric approaches in problem-solving.
  5. Computationally model the behavior of physical systems.
  6. Troubleshoot difficulties encountered in experiments or computations. 


Sense Making – Physics majors and minors will be able to

  1. Translate physical descriptions into mathematical equations, and conversely, explain the physical meaning of mathematical results.
  2. Examine intermediate results or other quantities that could be used to ensure a solution is physically reasonable.
  3. Identify what they don’t understand, and ask specific questions in order to gain understanding.
  4. Articulate where they experience difficulty; and take actions to move beyond that difficulty.


Communication – Physics majors will be able to

  1. Write effectively using professional norms.
  2. Present work verbally using professional norms.
  3. Use graphs and diagrams to convey results.
  4. Write clear physical and mathematical arguments including effective use of equations.
  5. Collaborate with other students.


Experiment – Physics majors will be able to

  1. Design an experiment to measure a given physical quantity.
  2. Make measurements on physical systems.
  3. Estimate sources of error in a measurement.
  4. Interpret measurements, taking into account the limitations of the measurements and the limitations of models.