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Help With Physics majors at different schools

ryanroosryanroos 51 replies19 threads Junior Member
I really want to major in physics at a top liberal arts school (Amherst, Williams, Pomona). I like how these schools have strong focus on undergrad and that faculty are hired for their teaching ability and not just their research ability. The small class sizes are also something that I am fan of. All this said I feel like most liberal arts schools are known for good humanity's programs rather than science. My question is will a physics degree from one of these schools be looked down on, or not given as much credit as a degree from a similar course rigor research university? Thanks!
13 replies
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Replies to: Help With Physics majors at different schools

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 85070 replies758 threads Senior Member
    Check the junior/senior level physics offerings and how often they are offered. Expected courses:

    classical and relativistic mechanics
    electromagnetism (often 2 semesters)
    quantum mechanics (often 2 semesters)
    statistical and thermal physics
    junior/senior level physics lab
    junior/senior level physics electives
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  • merc81merc81 12190 replies207 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2017
    Physics is a liberal art of course.

    Among their general academic attributes across the arts and sciences, Amherst and Williams are additionally notable for being among the few schools that have produced Apker Award recipients, the highest recognition for undergraduate research in physics.
    edited November 2017
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  • CrewDadCrewDad 1697 replies24 threads Senior Member
    @ryanroos,
    Within the past 10 years, Wesleyan and Williams have been awarded two Apker Awards in physics.
    Wesleyan's physics prize was won against much bigger schools since the Apker is divided into two tracks, one for Ph.D-granting institutions and one for non-Ph.D-granting institutions.

    Colgate 2007
    Haverford 2008
    Mt Holyoke 2009
    Wellesley 2009
    Williams 2010
    Wesleyan 2010
    Augustana 2011
    Franklin & Marshall 2012
    Wesleyan 2013
    Loyola Univ MD 2014
    Williams 2015
    University of San Diego

    Ph.D institutions.
    University of Michigan 2007
    University of Pennsylvania 2008
    Princeton 2011
    Princeton 2012
    RIT 2013
    University of Minnesota 2014
    Caltech 2015
    MIT 2016

    If you're interested in pursuing a Ph.D, using data from the National Science Foundation, the following schools produced the highest percentage of graduates who eventually go on to earn a Ph.D. in physics.

    Caltech
    Reed
    Swarthmore
    Lawrence
    Carleton
    Haverford
    Williams
    MIT
    CO School of Mines
    Grinnell
    Amherst
    Princeton
    Wabash
    College of Wooster
    Gustavus
    Vassar
    Kenyon
    Rice
    Bryn Mawr
    University of Rochester.
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  • AlexandreAlexandre 24280 replies434 threads Senior Member
    Physics is an uncommon major, even at large research universities. For example, at Michigan, which has 29,000 undergraduate students, only has 150 or so undergraduate Physics majors (Freshmen-Seniors), and another 100 Physic graduate students (both MS and PhD). Michigan Physics department has 70 full time faculty members (not including research professions or lecturers). So we are looking at a 3:1 student to faculty ratio. The labs are world class and accessible to all students. The research opportunities are excellent too. For Physics majors, I would recommend research universities.
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  • ChembiodadChembiodad 2414 replies21 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2017
    Regarding the Apker Award, it has only been in place since 1978 and less than 100 students have been distinguished with the award, so I've attached the link the Award as its profiles all the awardees since inception including many from liberal arts colleges - five that weren't included above are Hamilton, Harvey Mudd, Oberlin, Middlebury and Swarthmore amongst others https://www.aps.org/programs/honors/awards/apker.cfm
    edited December 2017
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  • circuitridercircuitrider 4281 replies189 threads Senior Member
    Echoing @Alexandre 's point, Wesleyan graduated 17 physics degrees in 2015-2016 according the College Navigator(11 majors and 6 graduate students.) If you extrapolate that over four years, that's about 68 students altogether. The department has thirteen full-time professors or a student:faculty ratio of 5:1
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  • AroundHereAroundHere 3605 replies22 threads Senior Member
    You can find numbers of students who graduate with a particular major on Niche. Click on "See all majors."
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  • ChembiodadChembiodad 2414 replies21 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2017
    @circuitrider, that mirrors Hamilton College's results on College Navigator from the NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) with 13 Physics graduates. When combined with Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geological Sciences, Math and Neuroscience it totals 28% of the undergraduate degrees awarded; if add in Psychology - Research and experimental it totals 33.5%, so agree STEM is a big focus at many LAC's. At Hamilton, Math is the largest STEM major with 31 graduates or 6% of total.
    edited December 2017
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  • intparentintparent 36292 replies644 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2017
    Why don't you apply to Harvey Mudd instead of Pomona? Best of both worlds, if you can get in.
    edited December 2017
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  • ryanroosryanroos 51 replies19 threads Junior Member
    Thank you all for the responses, they were very helpful!
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  • Daorys99Daorys99 18 replies2 threads Junior Member
    @ryanroos Where did you end up applying? And have you enrolled at one?
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  • ryanroosryanroos 51 replies19 threads Junior Member
    @Daorys99 I am actually a sophomore so I don't know yet but my focus has shifted to wanting to be an engineer now. I'm still looking for the small style of school just now for schools that offer engineering majors.
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