Physics (PHYS)

Physics is the study of how and why things work — from the minute world of the atomic nucleus to the universe itself — within the context of a few fundamental laws. The St. Olaf Physics Department offers a strong, flexible major and a specialized concentration in engineering. Both programs provide excellent undergraduate research opportunities and applied projects. We are a lively department with a sense of community among students, faculty and staff.

The faculty have a passion for connecting physics to many other areas of science and technology, and for pondering the fundamentals of matter and energy responsible for an enormous variety of phenomena in nature. Training in physics includes mathematics, computer programming, and quantitative reasoning – opening doors to a wide range of career opportunities.


Typical First Year Schedule

  • FYS 120 or WRIT 120 or Conversation Program
  • PHYS 130
  • MATH 119 or MATH 120 or MATH 126 or MATH 128
  • World Language
  • OLE Core/Elective
  • FYS 120 or WRIT 120 or Conversation Program
  • PHYS 131
  • Continue Math Sequence (through at least MATH 126/128)
  • World Language
Additional Information

Link to 4-Year plan

  • Receiving credit for previous coursework does not imply placement beyond Physics 130. Consult with the department chair to discuss placement.
  • AP / IB: Course credit is given for a score of 4 or 5 on AP Physics 1, 2, C-Mech or C-E&M, or a score of 5-7 on IB HL.
  • Cambridge A Levels: Course credit and fulfillment of the OLE Core Natural Science requirement are given for a score of “A”.
  • Credits for transfer courses or other programs are determined in consultation with the Registrar and the Physics Chair.
  • Almost all students begin the physics major with Physics 130. This course is only offered in the fall semester.
  • Consult with the Department Chair if you are interested in starting with Physics 131 or 232. Though rare, these placements are appropriate in some cases.
Informational Events
Physics and Engineering information session: Wednesday, June 15, 2022 at 7pm Central time at this zoom link: