2023-2024 College Catalog

Physics, Bachelor of Arts

Department Chair:

Kevin Schultz



Lawrence Nienart; Kevin Schultz (Chair), Parker Troischt









Physics, the most fundamental of the sciences, deals with the laws describing the behavior of matter and energy. From the study of physics, students acquire not only knowledge of the subject itself, but valuable training in analytical thinking and a quantitative approach to problem solving which will be useful in both their professional and personal lives. At the same time, an understanding of the language and analytical methods of science, and of the fundamental principles of physics, offers preparation for life in a future heavily influenced by science and technology. A major or minor in physics can be combined with study in other disciplines to produce particularly strong future employment credentials.

Course requirements for the major in physics provide students with a broad and flexible background in the discipline, and enable them to develop analytical skills necessary to pursue a career in physics or a related field. Students are introduced to the major sub-disciplines within classical and modern physics: optics, relativity, mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, atomic and nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, and electronics. In addition, majors must take courses in general chemistry, calculus, and differential equations.

Beyond the minimum requirements, students can tailor their academic programs to meet their interests and needs. Students considering graduate study in physics, for example, are encouraged to take additional courses in physics and mathematics. In addition to advanced courses in an area of interest, majors can pursue a particular area through directed study with a faculty member. A senior project also is required for the major. Some recent senior projects include measuring the phase transitions in a ferroelectric solid, the drag force on a smooth sphere, and computer- generated holograms.

Those students interested in engineering can earn a B.A. degree in physics from Hartwick and an engineering degree from Clarkson University or Columbia University through the College’s “dual degree” program. Arrangements with other institutions are possible as well. Under this program, a student spends three years at Hartwick and two at an engineering school, graduating with a bachelor’s degree from each school. In addition, a student may complete four years at Hartwick, earning a bachelor’s degree in physics, and then spend two years at the engineering school and earn a master's of science degree in engineering. Students interested in either option should begin their study of physics and mathematics early in their college career in order to fulfill requirements without difficulty.

First-year students who may be considering a major in physics should take Light & Relativity (PHYS 160) and Single Variable Calculus (MATH 121) in their first term at Hartwick. However, a full physics major may be completed starting as late as the beginning of the sophomore year, provided the student has taken Single Variable Calculus as a first-year student.