In addition to the full spectrum of undergraduate coursework, the department offers many opportunities to participate in research projects both on and off campus. Qualified students may begin research projects as early as their first year. Current research activities in the department include experimental investigations in Astrophysics, Condensed Matter Physics, Plasma Physics, and Materials Science, theoretical investigations in Cosmology and Particle Physics, and theoretical and numerical investigations in complex systems. Departmental resources include well-equipped research and instructional laboratories, as well as laboratory space for qualified students to carry out independent investigations of their own. Many students have also participated in projects at nearby institutions such as the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Students who wish to do advanced work in physics or engineering should complete the introductory physics sequence (Physics 106, 110, 120) as early as possible. These courses provide a foundation in both classical and modern physics. Fundamental understanding and procedures in analytical physics are stressed throughout. This sequence is recommended to all students who have an aptitude for scientific work and who are acquiring a strong background in mathematics, including an introduction to differential and integral calculus. Students with a strong high school physics background or a high score on the Physics AP examination may wish to consider Course Exemption by Examination, whereby the student can be exempted from some or all of the courses in the introductory sequence.
Physics majors typically begin taking courses at the intermediate level by the end of Sophomore year, and are encouraged to complete required 300-level courses by the end of Junior year. This schedule prepares a student for the widest array of 260- and 360-series courses.
Of special interest are the three series of physics courses numbered 160-169, 260-269, and 360-369. These courses cover special topics as well as subjects of active research interest within the Physics department. The 160 series is designed for non-science students interested in varying aspects of physical science. These courses have few prerequisites beyond algebra and trigonometry and many are open only to students who have not taken Physics 106, 110/115, 120/125, or their equivalent. The 260 series of courses is open to anyone who has completed Physics 120 or 125. The prerequisites for 360-series courses vary, but generally require physics beyond Physics 120 or 125.-- Occidental College Course Catalog