Objectives for MajorsA student graduating from Oberlin College with a major in physics will possess:
A knowledge of physics. The student will
- have a qualitative grasp of the way things work (e.g., force is related to acceleration, a magnetic field is associated with a changing electric field, confined particles have quantized energies);
- know the basic laws of physics and their range of application (e.g., Maxwell’s equations, conservation of momentum, the Schrödinger equation);
- understand experimental evidence for the basic laws and the role of measurement in science;
- have a general awareness of what fields of physics are the subject of current investigation;
- know career paths that are available with a bachelor’s degree in physics.
Problem solving skills. The student will be able to
- identify important concepts and ignore irrelevant data;
- use simple techniques (e.g., dimensional analysis, limiting cases, symmetry, back-of-the-envelope estimates), both as rough solutions and as tests of more detailed solution techniques;
- use physical intuition to guess the character of a solution without actually solving the problem;
- translate physical concepts into mathematical language;
- use sound reasoning and detect flaws in logic;
- use computer skills such as symbolic and numerical analysis, write simple programs, and know when a computational approach is appropriate;
- carry out detailed solutions (e.g., solving algebraic, differential, and integral equations).
Experimental skills. The student will be able to
- take measurements of physical phenomena (e.g., electrical, magnetic, and/or optical signals);
- use equipment (e.g, vacuum systems, cryostats) to control experimental conditions;
- understand and take necessary safety precautions;
- document experimental results;
- design experiments, including developing procedures for optimal data collection;
- analyze data using relevant curve fitting and error analysis methods.
Communication skills. The student will be able to
- present physics to technical and non-technical audiences;
- write technical papers that are accurate, clear, and concise;
- locate, evaluate, and use appropriate electronic and print resources;
- convey information using graphs, drawings, and pictures.
Objectives for Students Majoring in Another Science
Through taking an introductory course in our department, students will
- become acquainted with the major subfields of physics;
- gain a sufficient knowledge to understand applications of physics in their major field;
- acquire a basis for more advanced study of physics concepts needed in their major field;
- advance their problem solving skills;
- develop skills in making elementary laboratory measurements, especially electrical ones.
Objectives for Students Not Majoring in a Science
By taking a physics or astronomy course, a student will
- acquire a basic understanding of some fundamental laws of nature (e.g., the first and second laws of thermodynamics or Newton’s laws of mechanics) and how they may be used to understand real-world phenomena;
- understand that science involves reasoning from observations and experiments, and appreciate the character and limitations of science;
- practice applying logic and quantitative reasoning;
- begin to appreciate the beauty, elegance, and economy of scientific explanations.
Adopted 24 November 2005.