Curricular Distinctives

Why Study Physics at Wheaton College?

Wheaton College offers a unique and cutting edge curriculum for physics majors, designed to capture your attention from your very first semester, and working ultimately to prepare you for successful careers in any number of fields or postgraduate studies. 

What will my first year look like?

If you are an incoming physics major, you are encouraged to take the Physics Seminar. This orientation course seeks to “set the table” and introduces you to both Wheaton’s distinctive curriculum and to the larger physics community. The seminar-style class invites you to explore current topics in physics, the assortment of career paths available, and the relationship of physics to the Church and society. In addition, it provides you with a nurturing atmosphere to begin developing friendships (and study groups) with like-minded physics majors.

The first year content courses, Introductory Physics I & II, will firmly ground you in the foundational ideas of Newtonian mechanics and the important practical topics of electricity and magnetism. Both of these courses (hopefully!) pique your interest by devoting significant time to 20th and 21st century physics by diving into the paradigm shifts brought by Einstein’s theory of relativity and the counterintuitive ideas of quantum mechanics. At every turn, opportunities are presented to consider the relationship between our discoveries of the nature of the Universe and evangelical Christian faith.

What about the second year?

After your freshman year, you continue your studies by taking a sequence of courses carefully crafted to scaffold and support more sophisticated learning. For example, sophomore majors typically enroll in the following courses. Math Methods for Physics I & II cover the essential ideas of vector calculus, linear algebra, and ordinary and partial differential equations, all in the helpful context of interesting physics and engineering problems. Modern Science Skills Lab teaches you critical experimental and communication skills, required subjects for all professional physicists. Computer Modeling of Physical Systems seeks to empower you to write complex computer codes to both analyze and describe real-world situations. You will be given numerous opportunities to apply these skills in later courses.

... and the exciting upper level sequence!

The learning progression continues in the junior and senior years. You will take a number of required courses and will be able to take a wide range of technical elective courses, depending on your interests and chosen major track. In your senior year, you will complete your journey with a Senior Capstone course that revisits and places into context many of the larger faith and societal questions encountered at earlier points along the way.