Degree requirements & courses
Our small department and hands-on research opportunities give our students individualized, in-depth preparation for graduate school and careers in science. Students also gain all the benefits of a liberal arts education, and Cornell's flexible One Course At A Time schedule adds even more possibilities.
Our students have double-majored in everything from music to computer science. They have also found time to explore a wide range of leadership roles, travel abroad, perform block-long internships, and more.
One Course At A Time
We believe in an experiential approach to learning, and Cornell's One Course At A Time schedule gives us time to do more than lecture. We frequently work in groups on hands-on activities or problem solving, while the professor is present to provide guidance and feedback. The Cornell physics department is small, so the professors have the opportunity to get to know each of the students in their major, and can help tailor students’ experiences to their preferences and goals.
Students frequently have questions related to studying physics on the block plan, and we have compiled answers to some of these frequently asked questions.
The block plan allows us to devote considerable time and focus to laboratory training. The third course of each of the introductory sequences is devoted entirely to laboratory work, and we also require our majors to take Electronics and Advanced Experimental Physics. In the latter course, students collaborate on block-long experimental projects, giving them a taste of the research process.
Students also have the opportunity to work with our faculty on extended research projects during summers on campus. The department has been particularly focused on a collaborative study of dye-sensitized solar cells in recent years. This experience not only provides valuable research training, but also frequently leads to further undergraduate research opportunities at other institutions. Our students have had great success in their acceptance to major summer research programs at places like Cornell University, the Hubble Space Telescope Institute, and the CERN particle accelerator lab in Switzerland.
Our coursework prepares majors for graduate work in physics or related fields such as astronomy and engineering. But we also encourage our students to make the most of their liberal arts education at Cornell. Many students find connections between physics and other fields and discover that their analytical and problem-solving skills are highly valued in many occupations, including software development, financial markets, business, and technical fields.