The Physics Major

Physics is the study of the properties of matter, energy, radiation, and their interactions. It is generally regarded as basic to all the natural sciences, and as such is a fundamental part of the professional preparation of biologists, chemists, engineers, and other scientists and technologists. Students interested in becoming astronomers generally obtain undergraduate degrees in Physics.

The major program in physics provides the foundations for a broad spectrum of challenging careers in scientific and non-scientific fields. Baccalaureate physics majors find employment opportunities as, for example, research associates in commercial and governments laboratories, sales and engineering representatives for manufacturers of technical products, industrial management trainees, and teachers at the secondary school level.

Many of ETSU's graduates in physics continue their studies in graduate and professional schools, where they specialize in a wide variety of disciplines.

Pursuing a Major in Physics

See the description of the requirements for the Physics major in the  ETSU Catalog for 2012/2013 for more information.

For students starting at ETSU in Fall 2010, a major in physics at the bachelor's level requires a minimum of 37 semester hours of courses in physics.

  • As of Fall 2010, the required courses for the major are:
    • PHYS 2110-20 Technical Physics I/II (10 credit hours)
    • PHYS 3010 Mechanics (4)
    • PHYS 3410 Advanced Physics Lab (2)
    • PHYS 3610 Atomic and Nuclear Physics (3)
    • PHYS 3710 Electricity and Magnetism (4)
    • PHYS 4117 Kinetic and Statistical Physics (4)
    • PHYS 4617 Quantum Physics (4)
  • In addition, students can select from the following Physics electives to fulfill the 37 credit hours requirement:
    • ASTR 3415 Astrophysics (3)
    • ASTR 4110 Extragalactic Astronomy (4)
    • ASTR 3970 Variable Stars (2)
    • PHYS 3210 Optics (4)
    • PHYS 3510 Biophysics (3)
    • PHYS 4007 Computational Physics (4)
    • PHYS 4717 Electromagnetic Theory (4)
    • PHYS 4850 Physics Seminar (1)
    • PHYS 4860 Special Topics in Physics (1-3)
    • PHYS 4900 Independent Study (1-3)

The upper-level physics courses are typically offered on either a 2-semester or 4-semester rotation. For a preliminary schedule listing which semester each upper level courses will be offered, click here.

Students are strongly encouraged to take mathematics at least through ordinary differential equations, and such additional elective courses in astronomy, physics, mathematics, and chemistry as their curriculum will permit.

The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers a major in physics with the B.S. degree. The physics major must also satisfy the General Education Core Requirements and College of Arts and Sciences B.S. requirements. All major programs in physics must be approved by a faculty advisor for physics majors or the chair of the department. To complete university graduation requirements, students must also complete a minor in another subject area.

For more information about majoring in physics, contact one of the Faculty Advisors for Physics majors, Dr. Mark Giroux or Dr. Beverly Smith.

Pursuing a Minor in Physics

A minor in physics at the bachelor's level requires a minimum of 20 semester hours of study in physics, distributed as follows:

Course Requirements (Hours) for a Physics MINOR:

  • PHYS 2110-20 Technical Physics I,II (10 credit hours)
  • 10 credit hours PHYS electives chosen from any of the 3000-4000 level Physics courses, with the exception of PHYS-4950 Seminar in Physics.

Contact one of the Physics faculty advisors for more information: Dr. Mark Giroux ( ) or Dr. Beverly Smith (

Transfer Students

Transfer student majoring in physics should contact physics major advisors Dr. Mark Giroux or Dr. Beverly Smith for advising as soon as possible. This will insure that the student's previous work will be coordinated efficiently with ETSU requirements.

Student Research in Physics and Astronomy

Many ETSU Physics majors get involved in research projects while undergraduates. These include Senior Theses, Independent Study projects, Summer Research Internships, and paid research assistant positions during the school year.

Many of these research projects are done in Astronomy. ETSU has one of the largest collection of professional astronomers of any university in the state of Tennessee. The ETSU astronomers have access to a 36-inch telescope (the SARA observatory) on Kitt Peak in Arizona, which can be accessed remotely from campus. As well, ETSU has a state-of-the-art campus observatory (the Harry D. Powell Observatory). In addition, ETSU astronomers conduct research using NASA satellites and theoretical modeling.

ETSU also has research programs in biophysics and material science.

For more information about getting involved in research at ETSU, contact the physics major advisors Dr. Mark Giroux or Dr. Beverly Smith, or contact individual faculty members.

Teacher Education

Students interested in pursuing a teacher education program for certification as a physics teacher in grades 7-12 are asked to see one of the faculty advisors for Physics majors Dr. Mark Giroux ( ) or Dr. Beverly Smith ( as well as the professional advisor in the Office of Student Services, 321 Warf-Pickel, College of Education.   For more information, click here.

Last Modified: July 4, 2011 by B. J. Smith