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The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers a multitrack program of study which allows each student flexibility to choose a suitable set of courses that will prepare the student for their chosen career goal. With the assistance of physics faculty advisors each student will select a program of theoretical and experimental courses through which they will gain an understanding of the broad range of general principles which characterize the discipline of physics; and they will acquire the ability to apply theoretical and experimental techniques to solve a wide variety of problems.

Graduates will be prepared for highly technical post-baccalaureate employment in applied physics, engineering physics, and other scientific areas. Upon graduation students will also be prepared to enter programs of advanced study in physics, engineering, medicine, environmental science, and related disciplines. The department also offers courses which are cognate requirements in other disciplines and courses which satisfy general university requirements in the natural sciences. A brief description of the various degree paths is given below along with a sample schedule. A full description of our course offerings and degree requirements can be found in the Physics & Astronomy section of the JMU Catalogue.

The Fundamental Studies Option

The Fundamental Studies option is the traditional model for undergraduate physics which is still widely expected for acceptance to most graduate programs in physics in the United States. It provides a thorough exposure to the analytical and theoretical methods used in advanced physics. Students who pursue this path will develop strong mathematical skills to use in describing quantitatively the world around us. Not only will they be prepared for continued education in the sciences, but they will also have demonstrated many of the skills and traits valued in the job market today including quantitative and analytical reasoning, scientific communication, and a strong work ethic. 

Applied Option

The student who is more interested in directly entering the job market may be more interested in the applied physics track. The Applied Physics option is geared toward the student who is interested in the practical application of the types of analytical thinking and problem solving that make physics unique. One options within applied physics is to focus on computational science. Computational techniques involve the modeling of extremely complex physical systems using computers. It is a vital skill in such fields as fluid mechanics, meteorology, and even finance. Computational science is not about programming but about finding the proper way to create a virtual model of the important parameters that govern the physical behavior of a system.

Another option within applied physics is to focus on materials science. The study of materials science is a pursuit to understand how the structure of the materials that things are made of influences their properties. Students in this program will discover how the world around us is made from the nanoscale up. They will also learn the advanced scientific characterization and fabrication techniques that are so important in this field.

The third option within applied physics is to focus on electronics and instrumentation. This allows students to better understand the ways in which equipment is used to measure and analyze the world around us.

Individual Option

The individual option plan is meant to provide the flexibility needed for students to pursue interdisciplinary or unique plans of study. It requires completion of the core requirements and 25 additional physics or related credits above PHYS 260 approved by the student's advisor and department head.. The plan of study should be coherent and challenging and motivated toward a particular goal of study, not simply a collection of desired courses. Examples of individual option plans in the past have included ones geared toward biophysics, geophysics, and secondary school education. 

Combined Physics/Engineering Option

The combined engineering/physics degree program involves 3 years of work at James Madison University toward a B.S. in Physics. During this time, the student completes the core curriculum, all general education requirements, a course in differential equations, and 12 additional credits in physics as approved by their advisor and department head. The physics courses must be completed with a minimum B+ average. After the third year, the student has the right to apply for admission to the Graduate Program at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. A total of 37 credit hours of physics or other physics-related courses taken at either school will be required for the JMU Bachelor of Science degree in physics. 

Following the 6th semester (3rd year) the student moves to the University of Virginia to complete the next four semesters in the engineering program.

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