Physics is perhaps the most basic of the sciences; it lies at the core of many fields. Columbia has a longstanding scientific tradition and its departments are at the forefront of a wide range of research.
The Physics Department serves a large number of undergraduate students in Columbia College, SEAS, and General Studies. Most students will take a physics course to fulfill a science, engineering, or pre-medical requirement. All of these required courses are taught by the faculty.
The opportunity for close interaction between undergraduates and members of the physics faculty is one of Columbia's special strengths. The ratio of professors to junior and senior physics majors in recent years has been 3:2.
All undergraduate physics courses are taught by faculty members and some undergraduates have even co-authored papers with professors.
Normally a student begins with a sequence of three one-semester courses that introduce the various subfields of physics. These courses include lecture and laboratory work which form the basis for more advanced study. However, students who enter with advanced preparation in mathematics and physics may instead take a two-semester accelerated sequence that is taught at a more advanced level.
In addition, the Physics Department offers a first-year seminar in Contemporary Physics and Astronomy. Faculty members discuss their current research interests at a level that assumes little formal physics background but that conveys the intense excitement of research at the forefront of science.
Following the introductory sequence, the department offers a wide variety of intermediate and advanced courses in classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, nuclear and particle physics, astrophysics, statistical mechanics, and condensed matter physics, as well as laboratory experience in modern physics and electronics. Senior physics majors take an advanced seminar course in which they study an area of current physics research in depth. (For more information, please see the Columbia College bulletin and the bulletin of the School of General Studies.) The undergraduate programs at Columbia lead smoothly into the program of graduate study and research. Qualified undergraduates can undertake individual tutorials in advanced topics under a faculty member's supervision.