Skip to Navigation
Calvin College    
  Sep 26, 2017
2017-2018 Catalog


Return to Academic Departments and Degrees Return to: Academic Departments and Degrees

Professors S. Haan, J. Jadrich, L. Molnar, M. Walhout (chair)
Associate Professors L. Haarsma, P. Harper
Assistant Professors R. Balili, J. Smolinski

The Physics and Astronomy Department offers programs of concentration for students interested in careers or graduate studies in physics, astrophysics, or related disciplines, and for students interested in high school physics teaching. Students intending to major in physics are advised to enter college with four years of mathematics and to complete their 100 and 200-level courses in mathematics and physics during their first and second years.

The physical world core requirement may be met by PHYS 132 , PHYS 133 , PHYS 212 , PHYS 221 , or PHYS 223 . The entire science core requirement (both physical world and living world) may be met by the two-course sequences of PHYS 132 /PHYS 133  or PHYS 133 /PHYS 235 .

The 32-hour major is intended primarily for students seeking a flexible program, e.g., those who are also majoring in another discipline or earning an engineering degree but have an active interest in physics. The major satisfies the college’s concentration requirement for graduation with a BA degree.

Students wanting a BS degree must complete a total of at least 58 semester hours of science and mathematics. Students interested in a physics-related career who want to earn a BS degree based on a physics major should complete the above minimum requirements, including MATH 231 , plus at least one additional 300-level physics theory course. Additional courses in mathematics and computer science are also recommended.

Students planning to pursue graduate study in physics should take all of the physics theory and laboratory courses listed above, all of the mathematics and computer science cognates listed above, and MATH 333 . MATH 331 , MATH 355 MATH 365 , and STAT 343   are recommended. Students are also strongly encouraged to participate in summer research.

Students interested in astronomy or astrophysics careers should major in physics, minor in astronomy, and plan their programs with L. Molnar.

Students pursuing a physics major and optics minor must follow college guidelines for overlap between a major and a minor; this is facilitated by the option in the physics major of substituting upper-level courses for introductory ones.

Elementary and Secondary Integrated Science Studies Minor and Major

Students in the elementary or secondary education program wishing to major or minor in science should consult the Science Education Studies section of the catalog.


The requirements for graduation with honors in physics are:

  1. Minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5 and total of six honors courses (18 hours minimum) overall, including two honors courses outside the major,
  2. At least three honors courses (of 3 or more semester hours each) in physics or astronomy, at least one of the three must be an advanced theory course from 335-376, excluding 347,
  3. Cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 in physics, astronomy, and mathematics collectively,
  4. Completion of an approved physics major, with at least 40 semester hours of physics or the secondary education physics major (ASTR 384  and ASTR 395  may be counted in the 40 hours), and
  5. Successful completion of a departmentally approved research project in physics or astronomy (typically through summer research) and PHYS 395  or ASTR 395 .

To obtain honors credit in any physics or astronomy course, a student can make a contract with the course instructor regarding a special project. Alternatively, a student in an Introductory level physics course up through PHYS 235  or in a 100 - 200-level astronomy course may earn honors in that course by concurrently taking the seminar course, PHYS 195 , and completing its requirements. A student must earn a grade of “B” or better in a course to receive honors designation for that course.


    MajorMinorGroup Major


      Physics: Advanced Laboratory CoursesPhysics: Advanced Theory CoursesPhysics: Introductory Courses

      Return to Academic Departments and Degrees Return to: Academic Departments and Degrees