Department of Physics

Undergraduate Program

The science of physics explores the basic properties of matter and the forces which act upon matter. Using precise experimental measurements, physicists formulate laws which describe the observed behavior of the physical world. In the Bachelor of Science program, students gain experience in dealing with a broad range of physical phenomena. They learn the laws of physics and develop the theoretical and experimental skills necessary to apply these laws to a wide range of phenomena. With a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics, a student is prepared to do design and development work in industry or a government laboratory or to teach high school science and physics. Students planning to do physics research or to teach at the university level should obtain a master's or doctor's degree.

Undergraduate Physics Brochure

Chairperson: Dr. Mark S. Boley
Office: Currens Hall 212
Telephone: 309/298-1596
Fax: 309/298-2850

Faculty: Araya, Babu, Boley, Davies, A. Kapale, K. Kapale, Mallur, Rabchuk, Wang

GradTrac is available to Standard Physics majors.  See more information about GradTrac.

Honors Curriculum - Academically qualified students in this department are welcome to complete an honors curriculum in University Honors, Upper Division Honors, or Lower Division Honors. All Honors students must complete the one-hour honors colloquium (G H 299). Lower Division Honors includes General Honors coursework. Upper Division Honors includes honors work in the major. University Honors combines Upper and Lower Division Honors. For more information about honors curricula visit the Centennial Honors College website at

Integrated Baccalaureate and Master's Degree Program - An integrated baccalaureate and master's degree program is available in Physics.  An integrated degree program provides the opportunity for outstanding undergraduates to earn both degrees in five years. Please refer to the Graduate Studies catalog for details about the integrated program.

Degree Programs

Bachelor of Science – Physics

All students seeking the Bachelor of Science in Physics must complete I, II, and III.A., III.B., or III.C. The minimum semester hour requirement for the baccalaureate degree is 120 s.h.

In accordance with the Illinois State Board of Education certification rules, all candidates seeking teacher education are required by Western Illinois University to obtain a grade of "C" or better in all directed general education courses, all core courses, and all courses in the option. Note C- is below a C.

  1. General Education Curriculum:  43 or 55 s.h.
    Option A Standard Physics: University General Education Curriculum and
    College of Arts and Sciences Curriculum Requirements - 55 s.h.
    Option B Engineering Physics: University General Education Curriculum - 43 s.h.
    Option C Teacher Education: University General Education Curriculum - 43 s.h.
  2. Core Courses: 17 s.h.
    Phys 211, 212, 213, 214, 490#
  3. Options of Study (select A, B or C)
    1. Standard Physics
      1. Special Courses:(24 s.h):
        Phys 311, 320, 354, 427, 428, 430, 470, and any one of the following: Phys 410, 421, 431
      2. Open Electives: (16-18 s.h.)
        Any Minor(A minor in Mathematics is recommended. Phys 468 may be counted toward a minor in mathematics): 16 - 18 s.h.
      3. Other
        Math 133, 134, 231, 333: 15 s.h.
        Chem 201, 202: 8 s.h.
    2. Engineering Physics
      1. Special Courses
        1. Select three of the following: PHYS 310, 311, 312, 320, 354:  9 s.h.
        2. Select two of the following: PHYS 410, 421, 430, 467, 468:  6 s.h.
        3. Select one of the following: PHYS 427, 428, 470:  2-4 s.h.
      2. Engineering courses taken at WIU-QC or a Transfer Institution* of which 15 s.h. must be at the upper-division level:  18 s.h.
      3. Other
        1. CHEM 201, 202:  8 s.h.
        2. CS 225:  3 s.h.
        3. ET 105:  3 s.h.
        4. Math 133, 134, 231, 311, 333:  18 s.h.
        5. Open Electives:  1-3 s.h.
    3. Science/Physics-Teacher Education
      1. Special Courses
        1. BIOL 100, 101, 481:  11 s.h.
        2. CHEM 201, 202:  8 s.h.
        3. GEOL 110, 112:  8 s.h.
        4. PHYS 101, 427, 428, 482#:  13 s.h.
      2. Departmental Electives
        1. Upper-Division physics electives:  6 s.h.
      3. Other
        1. Educ 439:  3 s.h.
        2. EIS 201, 301, 302, 303 (1 s.h), 304 (1), 401:  13 s.h.
        3. MATH 133, 134, 231:  12 s.h.
        4. SPED 310 and SPED 390 or PSY 425 and SPED 390:  4 s.h.
        5. STCH 480:  12 s.h.

#PHYS 490 fulfills the Writing Instruction in the Discipline (WID) graduation requirement for the Standard Physics and Engineering Physics options. PHYS 482 and 490 fulfill the Writing Instruction in the Discipline (WID) graduation requirement for the Science/Physics-Teacher Education option.

* When transferring to a different institution, the student must complete the Engineering degree to receive the degree in Physics from Western under this option.


Minor in Physics: 21 s.h.

  1. Phys 211, 212, 213, 214 15 s.h.
  2. 6 hours in 300 or above physics courses 6 s.h.

Broad Area Minor in Physics
Designed for pre-medicine students and majors in the life sciences, geology, and business. Emphasizes the tools of applied physics which can be utilized to solve problems in other areas 18 s.h.

  1. Phys 124, 125: 10 s.h.
  2. Additional hours chosen from: Phys 214 or 300 or above 8 s.h.
    The following courses are particularly recommended: Phys 428, 470.

Pre-Professional Programs
Pre-professional programs in Architecture and Engineering are available. See Pre-Professional Programs for a detailed description of the requirements.

Course Descriptions


100 Physics for Society. (4) (General Education/Natural Sciences) A survey course in physics that introduces basic principles and applications in the modern world. Uses algebra at the high school level. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.
IAI: P1 901L.

101 Introduction to Astronomy. (3) (General Education/Natural Sciences) A basic introduction to astronomy for students with no college background in mathematics or physics. The central problems of twentieth century astronomy are emphasized. No mathematical background beyond high school algebra will be assumed. No prerequisites.
IAI: P1 906.

Applied Physics (114, 115) is a one year sequence which stresses basic concepts and applications to practical problems. Designed for the non-science major, it satisfies the general requirements for a laboratory science.

114, 115 Applied Physics. (4 each) (General Education/Natural Sciences) Includes mechanics with hydrostatics and hydrodynamics; heat and thermodynamics; wave motion and optics; D.C. electricity, magnetic induction and A.C. electricity. Assumes that students have a knowledge of high school algebra and trigonometry. Recommended, but not required, to take the course in sequence. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.
Phys 115 only – IAI: MTM 902L.

General Physics (124, 125) is a non-calculus general physics sequence designed to meet the needs of all science majors who do not plan to take the Physics 211-214 sequence.

124, 125 General Physics. (5 each) A two-semester introduction to basic ideas and experimental methods in such areas as mechanics and the conservation laws; wave motion and sound; heat and temperature; electricity and magnetism; light and optics; atomic and nuclear physics. Assumes that students have a knowledge of high school algebra and trigonometry. The course must be taken in sequence. 3 hrs. lect.; 1 hr. discussion; 2 hrs. lab.

University Physics (Physics 211, 212, 213 and 214) is a calculus-based general physics sequence designed for science and pre-engineering majors.

150  Energy and the Environment. (4)(General Education/Natural Sciences)  An introductory course concerned with such topics as energy sources, energy conversion, air and land pollution, and alternative energy sources. Uses algebra at the high school level. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

211(formerly PHYS 197)  University Physics I. (4)  (General Education/Natural Sciences)  Motion, Newton's Laws, Forces, momentum, energy, work, rotation, and simple harmonic motion. Corequisite: MATH 133. 3 hrs. lect.; 1 hr. discussion; 2 hrs. lab.

212(formerly PHYS 200)  University Physics II. (4)  Kinetic theory, thermodynamics, wave motion, sound, optics. Prerequisite: PHYS 211. Corequisite: MATH 134. 3 hrs. lect.; 1 hr. discussion; 2 hrs. lab.
IAI: EGR 913; PHY 913.

213(formerly PHYS 198)  University Physics III. (4)  Electrostatics, electric fields, D.C. circuits, magnetism, A.C. circuits, and introduction to basic electronic devices. Prerequisite: PHYS 211. Corequisite: MATH 134. 3 hrs. lect.; 1 hr. discussion; 2 hrs. lab.

214(formerly PHYS 201)  University Physics IV. (3)  Relativity, blackbody radiation, atomic structure and spectra, introduction to quantum mechanics, selected topics from nuclear and solid state physics. Prerequisite: PHYS 212 and 213, or 125. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

311 Classical Mechanics (3) Basic concepts of dynamics including Newton's Laws, energy,  body dynamics, oscillators, Lagrange's method, central forces, accelerated coordinate systems. Prerequisite: Phys 211. Corequisite: Math 333.
IAI: Egr 943.

312 Engineering Mechanics (Statics and Dynamics). (4) Analysis of force systems; static equilibrium; dynamics of particles and rigid bodies using Newton's Laws and the principles of work, energy, impulse, and momentum. Prerequisite: Phys 211. Corequisite: Math 333.

320 Electricity and Magnetism I. (3) Electrostatics, magnetostatics, electromagnetic induction, introduction to Maxwell's equations. Prerequisite: Phys 213. Corequisite: Math 333.

354 Thermodynamics. (3) Concept of temperature; the first, second, and third laws of thermodynamics; applications to gases; change of state; kinetic theory; and applications to simple models of familiar situations. Prerequisites: Phys 212 and Math 333.
IAI: Egr 946.

410 Computational Methods (3) Applications of FORTRAN and/or MATHEMATHICA to programming of numerical and analytical calculations, data fitting, simulation of physical problems, and individualized work on problems chosen from the student’s field of interest. Prerequisites: basic knowledge of FORTRAN, one year of general physics, one year of calculus, or consent of instructor.

421 Electricity and Magnetism II. (3) Maxwell's equations, plane EM waves in infinite media, reflection and refraction of EM waves, guided EM waves, radiation of EM waves, relativistic treatment of electricity ad magnetism. Prerequisite: Phys 320.

427 Advanced Electronics. (3) Electronic measurement fundamentals, passive circuit elements, analog electronics (op amps, transducers, noise reduction), digital electronics (logic gates, flipflops, counters, combinational and sequential circuitry), D/A and A/D conversion, data acquisition techniques. Prerequisite: Phys 115 or 125 or 213. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

428 Applied Optics. (4) Geometrical optics, diffraction, interferometry, polarization, laser construction, optical materials, holography. Modern optical techniques and instrumentation are emphasized. Prerequisite: Phys 125 or 212. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

430 Introductory Quantum Mechanics I. (3) Atomic nature of matter, atomic models, introduction to quantum mechanics including Schrödinger equation. Prerequisites: Phys 214.

431 Introductory Quantum Mechanics II. (3) Spin, fine structure, atomic spectroscopy, perturbation theory, applications.   Prerequisites: Phys 430.

467  Mathematical Methods of Physics I. (3)  Vector analysis, matrices, determinants, infinite series, applications of differential equations, numerical solutions.   Corequisites: PHYS 214, MATH 333, or consent of instructor.

468  Mathematical Methods of Physics II. (3)  Complex variables, orthogonal functions, special functions, general solution of partial differential equations in physics. Fourier series and Fourier integrals.   Prerequisite: PHYS 467.

470 Modern Experimental Physics. (2) Laboratory experiments illustrating both the development of modern physics and modern experimental systems techniques. Experiments cover a range of topics. Prerequisite: Phys 214.

476 Special Topics in Physics. (1-4, repeatable with no maximum) Lecture courses in topics of current interest, to be announced in the class schedule. Topics based on the student's previous training and interests. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

477 Special Problems in Experimental and Theoretical Physics. (1-4, repeatable with no maximum) Individualized study of any phase of physics not otherwise covered. Opportunity for undergraduates to engage in experimental or theoretical research under staff supervision. Prerequisite:consent of the instructor.

478 Physics Internship. (1-12) A one-semester on-the-job experience in an industrial facility or a research laboratory. Prerequisites: consent of department chairperson and Phys 477.

490 Seminar. (2) Reading, discussion, and criticism of selected topics. Oral presentation and formal paper on a chosen topic. Writing Instruction in the Discipline (WID) course. Prerequisite: Eng 280.

491 Honor Thesis.(1-3, not repeatable) A physics thesis prepared by an honors student under the direction of one or more members of the physics department. Prerequisites: Honors major in physics and junior or senior standing.


482 (cross-listed with Biol 482 and Chem 482) Science in Context. (3)Interdisciplinary course designed for science majors pursuing secondary teacher education. Students will explore science as inquiry, the unifying principles of science, and the role of social contexts and ethics in science. Writing Instruction in the Discipline (WID) course. Not open to students with credit in Biol 482 or Chem 482. Prerequisites: senior standing in Science/Physics-Teacher Education option, or permission of instructor; Eng 280.

439 Methods of Teaching Secondary Science. (3) Study of secondary teaching methods (Grades 6-12) from the standpoints of theory and practice, curriculum objectives and standard implementation, materials, and evaluation and assessment. Included are demonstrations, discussions, lectures, classroom participation, and field observations. Prerequisites: major in Science/Physics-Teacher Education option and Educ 301. Corequisite: EIS 303.

480 Student Teaching. See STch 480.