Professor Penn and Student

Physics has been identified as the branch of science that seeks to discover, unify and apply the most basic laws of nature.

The study of Physics provides a strong background for students who are planning for careers in areas such as physics, astrophysics, astronomy, geophysics, oceanography, meteorology, engineering, operations research, teaching, philosophy, medicine, and law.

PHYS 150 and 160 have a calculus co-requisite and are intended for students majoring in the natural sciences or other students with a strong interest in science.

Courses with numbers lower than 150 are particularly suitable for students not majoring in a physical science.

Physics offers two disciplinary majors, a B.A. and a B.S., and a disciplinary minor.


If you'd like to view a full listing of our course options in Physics or any other subject, please visit the Online Course Catalogue.

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Requirements for the Major (B.A.)

disciplinary, 12 courses

PHYS 150, PHYS 160, PHYS 270, PHYS 285, PHYS 383, MATH 130 Calculus I, MATH 131 Calculus II, and five additional courses in physics at the 200- or 300-level. A course at the 200- or 300-level from another science division department may be substituted for a physics course with the approval of the department chair.

Requirements for the Major (B.S.)

disciplinary, 16 courses

All of the requirements for the B.A. physics major, plus four additional courses in the sciences. Only those courses which count toward the major in the departments that offer them satisfy this requirement.

Requirements for the Minor

disciplinary, 6 courses

PHYS 150, PHYS 160, PHYS 270, and three additional physics courses.


Our students choose from a variety of introductory and advanced courses, each designed to develop students' analytical and experimental skills while providing extensive training in mathematical and analytical methods.

Below, you'll find a sampling of some of our most popular classes, as well as suggestions for making Physics a part of your larger interdisciplinary experience at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

PHYS 110 "Beam Me Up, Einstein!": Physics Through Star Trek


Consider things like warp drive, cloaking devices, holodecks and time travel and learn what the principles of physics tell us about these possibilities. Learn how Star Trek offers an excellent context for learning about topics including black holes, antimatter, lasers and exotic phenomena. Next, enroll in ENG 375 Science Fiction Film and examine how science fiction films are shaped by the relationship between technology and capitalism in the production of images and effects.

PHYS 355 Classical and Quantum Information and Computing


Be part of a revolution in the making! Quantum computers bring together physics, math, and computer science to provide vastly more powerful computing. Learn about Shannon's theory of information; reversible and irreversible computation; the no-cloning theorem; entanglement; Shor's algorithm, Grover's algorithm, and other quantum algorithms; quantum cryptography; and quantum error- correcting codes. Then take CPSC 229 Fundamentals of Computation to gain an understanding of the mathematical foundations of classical computing.

PHYS 370 Relativity, Spacetime, and Gravity


Learn why Albert Einstein had to replace Isaac Newton's conceptions of space and time and how he reformulated Newton's mechanics. Understand how it is possible that two observers moving relative to each other can each see the other's clock run more slowly than their own. Discover why straight lines in spacetime are longer than curved lines. Investigate the possibilities for updating Newton's theory of gravity and how Einstein's geometric theory of gravity passes all the tests. Understand why the GPS system requires the effect of gravity on clocks to be accounted for. Learn why time seems to become a spatial dimension and space a temporal one near a black hole. Investigate planetary orbits in the vicinity of a black hole. Revel in the power of the geometric description of physics!



Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.