May 28, 2024  
Whittier College Catalog 2021-2022 
Whittier College Catalog 2021-2022 ARCHIVED CATALOG

Department of Physics and Astronomy

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Seamus Lagan
Glenn Piner
Serkan Zorba,

Physicists seek to understand nature at its most profound level. From the behavior of quarks that are the constituents of protons and neutrons, to superclusters of galaxies, physicists seek to learn the inner workings of nature. As physicists explore new parts of nature, practical applications emerge. In fact, many spectacular technologies are byproducts of physicists’ investigation of nature.

At Whittier, Physics and Astronomy is a small department, attracting some of the college’s best students to a friendly atmosphere, small classes, opportunities to participate in research, and close interactions between students and faculty. Courses are often taught in a non-traditional Workshop format that emphasizes learning by investigation and extensive use of the department’s excellent computing facilities. Physics majors enjoy 24 hour per day access to the Physics Lounge and Physics Library where students work together on homework or simply relax.

The Whittier College Chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) is at the core of the intellectual and social life of the department. SPS sponsors several lectures per semester by physicists from other colleges, universities, national labs, and industrial labs who discuss their research. SPS also sponsors astronomy parties in the desert, trips to research facilities off-campus, a pizza and movie night, an annual picnic, and other activities.

The Whittier College Department of Physics and Astronomy offers all of its majors the opportunity to participate in research. Faculty and students engage in research together and have authored papers together. In addition, our students’ research experiences have helped them gain admission to top graduate programs and secure positions of responsibility in industry. Moreover, participation in research is just plain fun.

The Physics program at Whittier is rigorous and is designed to prepare students for entry into Ph.D. programs in Physics. But the major is also flexible and offers students options which help prepare them for careers in teaching and employment in industry after graduation. Many of our Physics Majors also complete a major or minor in Mathematics.

The Department’s web page, accessible through the Whittier College web page and at, provides up-to-date information and announcements important to students interested in physics.

Physics majors should be aware that a maximum of 48 credits of physics courses can be counted toward the 120 units required for graduation. Physics majors are welcome to take more than 48 credits of physics courses, but doing so will necessitate completion of more than 120 credits in order to receive a B.A. from Whittier College.

Students planning to enter Ph.D. programs in Physics should plan to take more than the minimum number of Physics and Math courses.

Guidelines for Choosing a Beginning-Level Physics or Astronomy Course

Students not majoring in science:

PHYS 100 , PHYS 101  and PHYS 103  are suitable for students who have a limited mathematics background. Each of these courses satisfies the COM1 requirement of the Liberal Education program.

Pre- Health students:

PHYS 135A  and PHYS 135B  together constitute a year of algebra-based physics suitable for many pre-health and preprofessional students who will be taking the MCAT and related exams.

Physics majors and 3-2 Engineering Students:

PHYS 150  and PHYS 180  together constitute a year of calculus-based physics and are required of all physics majors and 3-2 engineering students.

Students with credits in AP physics, A-level physics, or other college-level physics courses should seek advice from the physics faculty, preferably before registering for physics courses at Whittier College.



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