Undergraduate Catalog


Chairperson: Dr. Kishor Kapale
Office: Currens Hall 212
Telephone: (309) 298-1596
Fax: (309) 298-2850
Email: Physics@wiu.edu
Website: wiu.edu/physics

Program Offerings and Locations:

  • Bachelor of Science in Physics: Macomb
  • Minor in Conceptual Physics: Macomb
  • Minor in Physics: Macomb

Learning Outcomes

For student learning outcomes, please see wiu.edu/provost/learningoutcomes.


Araya, Babu, Boley, A. Kapale, K. Kapale, Mallur, Rabchuk, Wang.


GradTrac is available to Physics majors with an option in Standard Physics. See more information about GradTrac.

Honors Curriculum

Academically qualified students in this department are encouraged to complete an honors curriculum in University Honors, Honors in the Major, or General Honors. All Honors students must complete the one-hour honors colloquium (G H 299). General Honors includes General Honors coursework. Honors in the Major includes honors work in the major. University Honors combines Honors in the Major and General Honors. View more information about honors curricula or visit the Centennial Honors College website at wiu.edu/honors.

Integrated Baccalaureate and Master’s Degree Program

An integrated baccalaureate and master’s degree program is available for the Bachelor of Science in Physics: Master of Science 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.

Department Information

The science of Physics explores the basic properties of matter, energy, and their mutual interactions. 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, computational, 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 study further and obtain an M.S. or Ph.D. degree.

Degree Program

Bachelor of Science—Physics

All students seeking the Bachelor of Science in Physics must complete I, II, and III.A, III.B, III.C, or III.D below, and the foreign language/global issues requirement for the major#. The minimum semester hour requirement for the baccalaureate degree is 120 s.h.

In accordance with the Illinois State Board of Education licensure rule, all candidates seeking a Professional Education License or endorsement 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. This rule does not supersede course prerequisite requirements in the catalog that specify a letter grade.

Please see the Teacher Education section of this catalog for more information about WIU’s Teacher Education Program.

  1. University General Education Curriculum: 43 or 55 s.h.
    Option A Standard Physics: University General Education and College of Arts and Sciences Curriculum Requirements—55 s.h.
    Options B (Engineering Physics), C (Teacher Education), and D (Materials Science): University General Education Curriculum—43 s.h.
  2. Core Courses: 15 s.h.
    PHYS 211, 212, 213, 214
  3. Options of Study (select A, B, C, or D)
    1. Standard Physics
      1. Special Courses: 26 s.h.
        PHYS 271, 311&, 354, 420, 427, 428, 430, 470, 490†, 499, and any one of the following: PHYS 305, 410, 421, 431, 461, 462
      2. Any minor (A minor in Mathematics is recommended. PHYS 406 may be counted toward a minor in Mathematics.): 16 s.h.
      3. Other: 23 s.h.
        1. MATH 133, 134, 231, 333: 15 s.h.
        2. CHEM 201, 202: 8 s.h.
    2. Engineering Physics
      1. Special Courses: 19–22 s.h.
        1. PHYS 271, 490†, 499: 2 s.h.
        2. Select three of the following: PHYS 310@, 311&, 354, 420: 9–10 s.h.
        3. Select two of the following: PHYS 305, 406, 410, 421, 430: 6 s.h.
        4. 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: 33–35 s.h.
        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: 38 s.h.
        1. BIOL 101; PHYS 381, 481: 8 s.h.
        2. CHEM 201, 202: 8 s.h.
        3. GEOL 110: 4 s.h.
        4. BIOL/GEOL 181; PHYS/GEOG 182: 8 s.h.
        5. PHYS 427, 428, 482†: 10 s.h.
      2. Departmental Electives: Upper-Division Physics Electives: 6 s.h.
      3. Science Electives
        Any additional mathematics or science courses leading to additional endorsements in mathematics or science (MATH, BIOL, BOT, CHEM, GEOG, GEOL, MICR, ZOOL)
      4. Other: 45 s.h.
        1. EDUC 239, 339, 439, 469: 3 s.h.
        2. EDS 202, 301, 303 (2 s.h.), 304 (1 s.h.), 305, 401: 13 s.h.
        3. MATH 133, 134, 231: 12 s.h.
        4. ENG 366: 2 s.h.
        5. SPED 390: 3 s.h.
        6. STCH 480: 12 s.h.
    4. Materials Science
      1. Special Courses: 32 s.h.
        PHYS 305, 311, 354, 406, 410, 418, 420, 430, 464, 472, 490†
      2. Directed Electives: 6 s.h.
        Select two of the following: PHYS 421, 427, 428, 431
      3. Other: 34 s.h.
        1. CHEM 201, 202, 330, 433: 16 s.h.
        2. MATH 133, 134, 231, 311, 333: 18 s.h.

# The foreign language/global issues graduation requirement may be fulfilled by successfully completing one of the following: 1) a designated foreign language requirement [see Foreign Language/Global Issues Requirement]; 2) a General Education global issues course; 3) any major’s discipline-specific global issues course; or 4) an approved Study Abroad program.

& Students may also fulfill this requirement through the completion of ENGR 212. See advisor.

† PHYS 490 fulfills the Writing Instruction in the Disciplines (WID) graduation requirement for the Standard Physics, Engineering Physics, and Materials Science options. PHYS 482 fulfills the Writing Instruction in the Disciplines (WID) graduation requirement for the Science/Physics—Teacher Education option.

@ Students may also fulfill this requirement through the completion of ENGR 211. See advisor.

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


Minor in Physics: 16 s.h.
  1. PHYS 300: 3 s.h.
  2. Choose one of the following sequences: 8 s.h.
    1. PHYS 211, 212
    2. PHYS 211, 213
  3. At least 5 s.h. of approved Physics elective courses numbered 300 or above; may not include more than 3 s.h. of PHYS 477: 5 s.h.
Minor in Conceptual Physics: 16 s.h.
  1. PHYS 300: 3 s.h.
  2. Choose at least 13 s.h. from the following courses: 13 s.h. PHYS 100, 101, 114, 115, 124, 125, 150, 182, 476 (up to 4 s.h.), 477 (up to 3 s.h.)

Pre-Professional and Dual Program

A pre-professional program in discipline-specific Engineering is available. See Pre-Professional Programs for detailed descriptions of the requirements. Please also see the Dual Programs section of this catalog for a detailed description of the dual program in Arts and Sciences and Engineering.

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 modern astronomy, examining the physical principles of telescopes, gravity, radiation and atoms, the solar system, stars, galaxies, and cosmology. No Physics or Mathematical background beyond high school algebra and physical science is 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. 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.

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

177 Introduction to Physics Research Methods. (1–3) Individualized course covering research methods in Physics intended for freshmen and dual-credit high school students interested in conducting a research project under faculty supervision. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

182 (Cross-listed with GEOG 182) Integrated Science II. (4) (General Education/ Natural Sciences) A laboratory course in interdisciplinary science with an emphasis on the Earth’s place in the physical universe. Topics address the nature of matter and energy and their impact on the Earth’s weather and climate. (Integrated Science I is BIOL/GEOL 181) Not open to students with credit in GEOG 182. Prerequisite: MATH 100 or 110. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab. University Physics (211, 212, 213, and 214) is a calculus-based general Physics sequence designed for science and Pre-Engineering majors.

211 University Physics I. (4) (General Education/Natural Sciences) Motion, Newton’s laws, forces, momentum, energy, work, rotation, and simple harmonic motion. Prerequisite or Corequisite: MATH 133. 3 hrs. lect.; 1 hr. discussion; 2 hrs. lab. IAI: PHY 911.

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

213 University Physics III. (4) Electrostatics, electric fields, D.C. circuits, magnetism, A.C. circuits, and introduction to basic electronic devices. Prerequisite: PHYS 211. Prerequisite or Corequisite: MATH 134. 3 hrs. lect.; 1 hr. discussion; 2 hrs. lab. IAI: PHY 912.

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

271 Careers in Physics. (0) Individualized course for freshman and sophomore Physics majors, discussing modern careers in Physics and the corresponding technical skills required, to prepare them to attain the necessary skills in their junior and senior years. Graded S/U only. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

300 Concepts of Modern Physics. (3) This course is intended for Physics minors, and it focuses on the main concepts of modern physics such as relativity, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, solid state physics, and nuclear and particle physics. Cannot be applied toward Physics major. Prerequisite: Students must have completed one of the following sequences required for a Physics minor: PHYS 114/115, 124/125, 211/212, or 211/213; or consent of instructor.

305 (Formerly PHYS 367) Mathematical Methods of Physics I. (3) Vector analysis, matrices, determinants, infinite series, applications of differential equations, numerical solutions. Prerequisites or Corequisites: PHYS 214, MATH 333, or consent of instructor.

310 Statics. (3) Basic concepts of statics with engineering applications including rigid bodies, simple structures, flexible cables, beams, friction, virtual work. Not available to students who are currently enrolled in or have completed ENGR 211. Prerequisite: PHYS 211.

311 Classical Mechanics. (3) Basic concepts of dynamics including Newton’s laws, energy, momentum, rigid body dynamics, oscillators, Lagrange’s method, central forces, accelerated coordinate systems. Prerequisite: PHYS 211. Prerequisite or 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.

381 (Cross-listed with BIOL/CHEM/GEOL/ METR 381) Introduction to Science Teaching. (1) Designed for students interested in teaching science. Through this course, students will gain experience with lab safety, with lesson planning, and in field observations. Not open to students with credit in BIOL/CHEM/GEOL/METR 381. Prerequisite: ENG 280 and at least one introductory level science course with a grade of B or higher, OR permission of the instructor.

406 (Formerly PHYS 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 305.

410 Computational Methods. (3) Introduction to programming and applications of modern programming languages to numerical and analytical calculations, data fitting, simulation of physical problems, and individualized work on problems chosen from the student’s field of interest. Prerequisites: one year of introductory Physics, one year of calculus, or consent of instructor.

418 (Cross-listed with BIOL/CHEM/GEOL 418) Introduction to Scanning Electron Microscopy. (4) The course focuses on capabilities and operation of scanning electron microscopes with emphasis on beam-material interactions, sample preparation, image acquisition and analysis, and X-ray measurements with applications in Biology, Chemistry, Geology, and Physics. Not open to students with credit in BIOL/CHEM/GEOL 418. Prerequisites: BOT 200 (C grade or better), or CHEM 202, or MICR 200 (C grade or better), or PHYS 125, or PHYS 212, or ZOOL 200 (C grade or better); or consent of instructor. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

420 Electricity and Magnetism I. (3) Electrostatics, magnetostatics, electromagnetic induction, introduction to Maxwell’s equations. Prerequisites: PHYS 213 and MATH 333.

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 and magnetism. Prerequisite: PHYS 420.

427 Advanced Electronics. (3) Electronic measurement fundamentals, passive circuit elements, analog electronics (op amps, transducers, noise reduction), digital electronics (logic gates, flip flops, 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, introduction to quantum mechanics including Schroedinger equation. Prerequisite: PHYS 214 and MATH 333.

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

461 Stellar Astrophysics. (3) Introduces basic concepts and tools in modern astrophysics, including celestial mechanics, spectroscopy, and telescopes. Provides a comprehensive description of stellar astrophysics. The physical processes and observational characteristics of stars in hydrostatic equilibrium, including our sun, are analyzed. Prerequisite: PHYS 214 or permission of the instructor.

462 Galactic and Extragalactic Astrophysics. (3) An overview of galactic and extragalactic astrophysics. The Milky Way galaxy is studied in detail, including dark matter and stellar evolution. Other galaxies, the large scale properties of the universe, and cosmology are discussed. Prerequisite: PHYS 461 or permission of the instructor.

464 Introduction to Materials Science. (3) This course explores the fundamentals of structure and properties of materials. Topics include: classification of materials; structure and bonding; electrical, thermal, magnetic, and optical properties; and applications. Prerequisite or corequisite: PHYS 430.

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.

472 (Cross-listed with CHEM 472) Experimental Techniques in Materials Science. (2) This course explores basic experimental techniques used in studying the structure and properties of materials. Students will gain hands-on experience in operating a variety of instruments, and learn to collect and analyze data to study the properties of materials. Not open to students with credit in CHEM 472. Prerequisite: PHYS 464.

476 Special Topics in Physics. (1–4, repeatable with no maximum) Lecture course 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. Prerequisite: consent of department chairperson and PHYS 477.

481 (Cross-listed with BIOL/CHEM/GEOL/ METR 481) Techniques and Issues in Science Teaching. (3) An interdisciplinary course wherein preservice middle and high school science teachers develop techniques and resources appropriate for their instructional program, deepen understanding of scientific concepts, and examine lab safety. Requires involvement in several professional development activities outside of class time. Not open to students with credit in BIOL/CHEM/GEOL/METR 481. Prerequisites: EDUC 439 and ENG 280 or equivalent. Corequisite: BIOL/CHEM/GEOL/METR/ PHYS 482.

482 (Cross-listed with BIOL/CHEM/GEOL/METR 482) Science in Context. (3) Interdisciplinary course for science majors in which students explore science through inquiry, the unifying principles of science, and the role of social contexts and ethics in science. Writing Instruction in the Disciplines (WID) course. Not open to students with credit in BIOL/CHEM/GEOL/METR 482. Prerequisites: senior standing in one of the following science majors—Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geology, or Meteorology; ENG 280; or permission of instructor.

490 Seminar. (2) Reading, discussion, and criticism of selected topics. Oral presentation and formal paper on a chosen topic. Writing Instruction in the Disciplines (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. Prerequisite: Honors major in Physics and junior or senior standing.

499 Assessment of Physics Knowledge. (0) Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree through the Department of Physics are required to take this course in their last semester. Students will complete an assessment of their knowledge of physics concepts. Graded S/U only. Prerequisites: PHYS 490, senior standing in the Department, and permission of the instructor.


239 Pre-Teacher Education Program Admittance. (0, repeatable with no maximum) Students pursuing teacher licensure are required to take this course in the semester they plan to be fully accepted in the Teacher Education Program (TEP). Students must meet established departmental criteria for admittance to TEP. Graded S/U.

339 Pre-Student Teaching Clearance. (0) Students pursuing teacher licensure are required to take this course prior to their student teaching semester. Students must meet established criteria for departmental clearance to student teach. Prerequisites: Full admittance to the Teacher Education Program (TEP). Graded S/U.

439 Methods of Teaching Middle and High School 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: BIOL/GEOL 181 or GEOG/PHYS 182, BIOL/CHEM/GEOL/METR/PHYS 381, and EDS 301 (all with C- grade or better). Corequisite: EDS 303.

469 Pre-Licensure Clearance. (0) Students pursuing teacher licensure are required to take this course in the semester they student teach. Students must meet criteria established by the department in order to be recommended for licensure. Prerequisite: departmental clearance to student teach. Corequisite: Student Teaching (STCH). Graded S/U

480 Student Teaching. See STCH 480.