Physics Science Education Major

Teach physics, and you’ll get to pass along your excitement about the physical world to help students succeed and develop their own career goals.

In addition to your core education courses, as a physics science education major you'll receive broad exposure to the physical sciences in both classroom and lab settings. This instruction will give you the skills and confidence you need to create engaging lesson plans that will allow students to explore the subject matter with excitement.

Career Options

Physics science education majors go on to teach at the middle and high school levels.

High School Preparation

Good preparation for the physics science education major includes high school exposure to Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, Computer Science, Physics, and Writing.

Preparing for Licensure

Licensure requirements are subject to change, therefore, students considering teaching in this area should be in continuous contact with the chair of this program and the School of Education for a list of required courses. 

Enhancing Your Experience

It is highly recommended that physics science education majors take advantage of Saint Mary's Master of Arts in Instruction program, through which students can complete a certification program with a master’s degree in five years. Please consult with the department chair for more information.

Degree Requirements

A. All of the following courses

(either M148 & M149 or M151):

C131 General Chemistry I (3 cr.)

This course covers the fundamental principles upon which the study of chemistry is based. Stoichiometry, atomic structure, molecular structure, chemical bonding, behavior of gases, kinetic molecular theory, properties of solutions, chemical reactivity and thermochemistry are included.

C133 General Chemistry I Laboratory (1 cr.)

This laboratory is an inquiry-based approach to understanding the process of doing chemistry. Each week, as a team member with a specific role working for a consulting company, the student receives a letter from a "chemical client" requesting the solution to a chemical problem. It is the responsibility of the team to design a solution, collect data, and report the results to the client in report form.

C142 General Chemistry II (3 cr.)

This course includes the study of the chemistry of molecular forces, redox reactions, chemical kinetics, chemical equilibrium theory, electrochemistry, chemical dynamics, organic chemistry, phase behavior and solution chemistry.

C144 General Chemistry II Laboratory (1 cr.)

This laboratory is an inquiry-based approach to understanding the process of doing chemistry. Each week, as a team member with a specific role working for a consulting company, the student receives a letter from a "chemical client" requesting the solution to a chemical problem. It is the responsibility of the team to design a solution, collect data, and report the results to the client in report form.

M148 Calculus I with Precalculus (part 1) (4 cr.)

This course, followed by M149, provides a two-semester sequence that covers the material of M151 along with built-in coverage of precalculus topics. Topics in M148 include: solving equations, functions, classes of functions (polynomial, rational, algebraic, exponential, logarithmic), right triangle trigonometry, angle measure, limits and continuity, derivatives, rules for derivatives. Credit is not granted for this course and M151 or courses equivalent to college algebra and college trigonometry.

M149 Calculus I with Precalculus (part 2) (4 cr.)

This course completes the two-semester sequence that begins with M148, and together with M148 provides a two-semester sequence that covers the material of M151 along with built-in coverage of precalculus topics. Topics in M149 include: trigonometric and inverse trigonometric functions, rules for derivatives, applications of derivatives, and definite and indefinite integrals. Credit is not granted for this course and M151.

M151 Calculus I (4 cr.)

This course provides an introduction to the differential and integral calculus. Topics include: the concepts of function, limit, continuity, derivative, definite and indefinite integrals, and an introduction to transcendental functions. Credit is not granted for this course and M148 and M149.

M152 Calculus II (4 cr.)

This course is a continuation of M151. Some of the topics of M151 are revisited at a higher mathematical level. Topics include: applications of the definite integral, techniques of integration, improper integrals, introduction to differential equations, numerical methods for integration and approximation, curves in the plane given parametrically, polar coordinates, and vectors in 2-space and 3-space.

M251 Calculus III (4 cr.)

This course continues the development of Calculus from M151 and M152. Topics include: sequences and series, and differentiation and integration of vector-valued functions and functions of several variables.

P201 Introductory Physics I (3 cr.)

This course is the first half of a two-semester introductory, calculus-based, physics course for all students planning to enter one of the scientific professions. It covers the fundamental principles of mechanics, oscillations, and fluid mechanics.

P202 Introductory Physics I Laboratory (1 cr.)

One three-hour laboratory is held each week covering topics studied in the lectures.

P211 Introductory Physics II (3 cr.)

This course is the second half of a two-semester introductory, calculus-based, physics course for all students planning to enter one of the scientific professions. It covers the fundamental principles of waves, physical and geometrical optics, and electricity and magnetism.

P212 Introductory Physics II Laboratory (1 cr.)

One three-hour laboratory is held each week covering topics studied in the lectures.

P304 Introduction to Modern Physics with Laboratory (4 cr.)

This course considers atomic and nuclear physics and studies the experimental evidence that led to the development of the theories of quantum mechanics. The special theory of relativity, wave particle duality, and atomic structure are also examined.

B. All of the following:

B110 Botany and Zoology I (3 cr.)

Emphasis is placed upon photosynthesis and respiration,and physiological processes including nutrition, gas exchange, transportation and regulation of body fluids. It is an investigation of the structure and function of both plants and animals and intended as an introductory overview.

B111 Botany and Zoology I Laboratory (1 cr.)

These laboratory studies complement the concepts presented in B110. Investigations including physiological and molecular relationships and interactions are the basis for the course.

B120 Botany and Zoology II (3 cr.)

Emphasis is placed on plant and animal phyla, organs and organ systems of both plants and animals.

B121 Botany and Zoology II Laboratory (1 cr.)

Laboratory studies complementing B120 include plant and animal hormones and reproduction, bacterial techniques, and phylogenetic investigations.

C331 Physical Chemistry I with Laboratory (4 cr.)

This course involves chemical thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, and their applications. The following thermodynamic topics are considered: properties of gases, kinetic molecular theory, the laws of thermodynamics, thermochemistry, and chemical equilibrium. The following kinetic topics are considered: chemical reaction rates, determination of rate laws, reaction mechanisms, and theories of reaction rates.

P111 The Earth and the Solar System (3 cr.)

This course examines physical, geological, and astronomical processes involved in shaping the Earth and other planets. The geological processes acting on the Earth and the natural history of the Earth are studied first, and then used to examine the other bodies of the solar system, studying how the physical characteristics of the planets influence and are influenced by the same basic processes operating in different ways. Topics include: the properties of Earth materials, the evolution of the Earth and geological structures, matter and energy in the Earth system, the Earth in the solar system and the universe, fundamental issues of planetary science, and fundamentals of observational astronomy and objects in the sky (moon phases, properties of orbits, etc.).

P340 Classical Mechanics (3 cr.)

This course is an analytical study of Newtonian mechanics, including the harmonic oscillator, central force motion, nonlinear oscillators, and an introduction to the Lagrangian formulation.

P410 Physics Directed Research (2 cr.)

This course is intended for all physics majors; it is recommended for majors in physics science education. It may be taken in addition to or in place of P390/391 Advanced Laboratory. Its purpose is to provide students an opportunity to explore a topic in physics in depth over a period of at least one semester under the guidance of a member of the physics faculty, and thereby demonstrate understanding of a particular concept or focused set of concepts at the advanced undergraduate level. It is also intended to give students project-based experience in experimental design, recordkeeping, and scientific writing.

C. Three of the following

(either P314 or P315 and either C332 or P380):

C332 Physical Chemistry II with Laboratory (4 cr.)

This course involves an introduction to quantum mechanics and statistical thermodynamics. The following quantum topics are considered: quantum theory and applications to simple systems of particles, approximation methods for complex systems of particles and spectroscopic verification of quantum results. The following statistical mechanics topics are considered: the Boltzmann distribution, statistics of large populations, the partition function and thermodynamic functions from statistical mechanics results.

M252 Linear Algebra (4 cr.)

This course provides an introduction to techniques and applications of linear algebra. Topics include: systems of linear equations, matrices, determinants, Euclidean n-space, real vector spaces, basis and dimension, linear transformations, inner products, and eigenvalues and eigenvectors.

P314 Digital Systems with Laboratory (4 cr.)

This is a course on digital electronics and its applications in modern electronic instrumentation. Emphasis is placed on gaining experience with the use of individual digital integrated circuits and programmable arrays. The course covers Boolean algebra, simple gates, combinational and sequential logic circuits, counters, shift registers, state machines, astable multivibrators, encoding, decoding, multiplexing, and conversion between analog and digital representations. Coursework involves both circuit simulation and actual hardware implementations. The course targets applications in the natural sciences, mathematics, and computer science.

P344 Mathematical Methods for Science (3 cr.)

This course serves physics majors as well as those mathematics majors whose area of interest is analysis. Topics include: Fourier series, complex numbers, analytic functions, and derivatives and integrals of complex functions.

P360 Electricity and Magnetism I (3 cr.)

This course is an introduction to the physics of electricity and magnetism at the intermediate undergraduate level. It examines the experimental evidence that led to the development of the theories of electromagnetism (electrostatics, polarization and dielectrics, magnetostatics and magnetization, electrodynamics, electromagnetic waves, potentials and fields, and radiation) and the development of Maxwell's laws. The mathematical analysis of electromagnetic situations uses vector calculus to a great degree, so students also are exposed to working with a variety of vector operators.

P380 Quantum Mechanics I (3 cr.)

This course expands on the ideas of quantum mechanics introduced in P304, and develops the necessary formalisms and tools for further work. Topics include the Schrödinger equation in its time independent and time-dependent forms, an introduction to operators, square-well and harmonic oscillator potentials, scattering, the hydrogen atom, angular momentum, and perturbation theory.

D. Required education course work