How to Major in Physics and Go Abroad

General Considerations:

Most physics courses have physics and math prerequisites. This puts a lot of restrictions on when you can take courses and the order in which you take them. Another scheduling complication is that none of our major courses are offered both fall and spring semesters. Nonetheless, it is possible to spend a semester or year abroad with sufficient planning.

It is recommended that you accelerate your math preparation by entering SLU with advanced placement in calculus, or by taking the equivalent of Math 135 (Calculus I) and/or Math 136 (Calculus II) in summer school. All of the scenarios below assume that you take all of your required physics and math courses at SLU. It is possible in some cases for you to increase your scheduling flexibility by arranging to take required courses abroad at the host institution. This is particularly true for the London Program or the program at McGill University in Montreal.

The following schedules list only the basic courses required for the physics major. Students planning to go on to graduate work in physics should take Physics 402 (Quantum Mechanics) in the Spring semester of the senior year.

Junior Year Abroad – Entire Year:

In order to not back-load most of your major courses in the senior year, it is a practical necessity to accelerate your math preparation, either by coming to SLU with enough calculus background that you can start with Math 136 (as is shown in the chart below) or by taking the equivalent of Math 205 (Multivariable Calculus) in the summer after your first year. Even with this planning, you would need to take three physics courses in the senior fall semester. Physics 452/489 (Seminar/Senior Research) may be taken in the spring semester with advanced approval by the department.

  • First Year
    • Fall Semester
      • Phys 151 - University Physics
      • Math 136 - Calculus II
    • Spring Semester
      • Phys 152 - University Physics
      • Math 205 - Multivariable Calculus
  • Sophomore Year
    • Fall Semester
      • Phys 221 - Modern Physics
      • Phys 333 - Mathematical Methods of Physics
    • Spring Semester
      • Phys 222 - Modern Physics
      • Phys 308 - Electricity and Magnetism (or in Senior Year)
      • Math 230 (Differential Equations) or Math 217 (Linear Algebra)
  • Junior Year
    • Fall Semester
      • Abroad
    • Spring Semester
      • Abroad
  • Senior Year
    • Fall Semester
      • Phys 307 - Classical Mechanics
      • Phys 317 - Instrumentation Lab (0.5 credits)
      • Phys 401 - Quantum Mechanics
    • Spring Semester
      • Phys 318 - Electronics Lab (0.5 credits)
      • Phys 452 (Seminar in Contemporary Physics) or Phys 489 (SYE: Advanced Lab)

Junior Semester Abroad – Fall:

It is obvious that the previous plan will also work for this case, with the minor change of taking Physics 308 (Electricity & Magnetism) in the Junior year Spring semester.

Junior Semester Abroad – Spring

This is the recommended choice in that courses are distributed in the most even way. Moreover, in this case you do not need to have an accelerated math sequence.

  • First Year
    • Fall Semester
      • Phys 151 - University Physics
      • Math 135 - Calculus I
    • Spring Semester
      • Phys 152 - University Physics
      • Math 136 - Calculus II
  • Sophomore Year
    • Fall Semester
      • Phys 221 - Modern Physics
      • Math 205 - Multivariable Calculus
    • Spring Semester
      • Phys 222 - Modern Physics
      • Phys 308 (or in Senior Year)
      • Math 230 (Differential Equations) or Math 217 (Linear Algebra)
  • Junior Year
    • Fall Semester
      • Phys 307 - Classical Mechanics
      • Phys 317 - Instrumentation Lab (0.5 credits)
      • Phys 333 - Mathematical Methods of Physics
    • Spring Semester
      • Abroad
  • Senior Year
    • Fall Semester
      • Phys 401 - Quantum Mechanics
      • Phys 452 (Seminar in Contemporary Physics) or Phys 489 (SYE: Advanced Lab)
    • Spring Semester
      • Phys 308 - Electricity and Magnetism
      • Phys 318 - Electronics Lab (0.5 credits, or in Sophomore Year)

Senior Semester Abroad – Fall:

This scenario is possible ONLY in the case that the department is able to offer Physics 401 (Quantum Mechanics) in the Spring semester of your senior year and if you obtained permission in advance of going abroad to take Physics 489 (Senior Research) in the Spring semester.

  • First Year
    • Fall Semester
      • Phys 151 - University Physics
      • Math 135 - Calculus I
    • Spring Semester
      • Phys 152 - University Physics
      • Math 136 - Calculus II
  • Sophomore Year
    • Fall Semester
      • Phys 221
      • Math 205 - Multivariable Calculus
    • Spring Semester
      • Phys 222 - Modern Physics
      • Math 230 (Differential Equations) or Math 217 (Linear Algebra)
  • Junior Year
    • Fall Semester
      • Phys 307 - Classical Mechanics
      • Phys 317 - Instrumentation Lab (0.5 credits)
      • Phys 333 - Mathematical Methods of Physics
    • Spring Semester
      • Phys 308 - Electricity and Magnetism
      • Phys 318 - Electronics Lab (0.5 credits)
  • Senior Year
    • Fall Semester
      • Abroad
    • Spring Semester
      • Phys 401 - Quantum Mechanics
      • Phys 452 - Seminar in Contemporary Physics