Jul 23, 2024  
2022-2023 University Catalog 
2022-2023 University Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Physics Honors, BS

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About the Program

Purdue physics is an internationally recognized department for excellence in forefront research and undergraduate and graduate education. Our undergraduate classes for physics majors average 30 or fewer students and are taught by professors actively engaged in forefront research. Undergraduate research is strongly encouraged and opportunities exist as early as the second semester to work in a research group. These groups include experimental and theoretical condensed matter physics, high energy physics, nano-physics, nuclear physics, astrophysics, biological physics, geophysics, relativity, and interdisciplinary areas of material science, engineering, or computational science.

The department also helps undergraduates with external internships, particularly for the summers. Upon graduation our students are accepted for graduate programs at many of the top universities and are also sought after for positions in industry, particularly high-tech positions. Our graduates have an exceptional record of career accomplishment in a wide variety of settings, including academia and major industrial and government labs.

The honors program offers an intensive concentration in physics that provides a solid foundation for advanced studies.  Successful graduates of this challenging program are recognized for both the depth and breadth of their physics education, and they have gone on to the premier graduate schools in the country and, ultimately, to many different career choices.

The honors program provides a solid theoretical and experimental background in mechanics, electromagnetism, waves and oscillations, thermal physics, quantum mechanics, and the micro-structure of matter.

A very important feature of this plan is a senior research project (PHYS 59300 ) with a written report in some area of modern physics, such as condensed matter physics, nuclear physics, elementary particle physics, biophysics, geophysics, etc. Students receive individual supervision and guidance from a faculty member whose specialty matches the area of their research project. PHYS 59300  introduces students to the type of research atmosphere they later might encounter as professional physicists, and it promotes self-motivation and independence in their work.

The Honors Program in the Department of Physics and Astronomy begins in the Junior Year. All physics majors typically start by taking PHYS 17200  and PHYS 27200  as freshmen.  Students from other majors who have taken PHYS 17200 /PHYS 27200  may switch into the Honors Physics major.  Admission to, and continuation in, the honors program requires that all the core courses (PHYS 17200 , PHYS 27200 , PHYS 30600 , PHYS 30700 , PHYS 34400 , PHYS 34000 , and PHYS 42200 ) be complete with a B or better, or special permission from the Physics Undergraduate Committee.

The following stipulations need to be met in order to be in, stay in and graduate in the Honors or Applied Honors Program:

  • No D+ or worse grade is allowed in any course for a student to stay in the Honors Programs.
  • No more than one C range grade is allowed in all physics courses taken for a student to graduate with Honor. Note that a course can be re-taken for the purpose of satisfying this guideline.
  • Both the physics AND overall GPAs of 3.0 or better are required for a student to graduate with Honor.
  • All the core courses (PHYS 17200 , PHYS 27200 , PHYS 30600 , PHYS 30700 , PHYS 34400 , PHYS 34000 , and PHYS 42200 ) be complete with a B or better.
  • Students need to petition to Undergraduate Committee for exceptions or requests.

Physics Website

Physics Major Change (CODO) Requirements  (Students must CODO into Physics before moving into Physics Honors.)

Degree Requirements

120 Credits Required

Curriculum and Degree Requirements for College of Science

A College of Science degree is conferred when a student successfully completes all requirements in their degree program.  Students will complete coursework or approved experiential learning activities to meet the following three degree components:

  1. Major
  2. Science Core Curriculum
  3. Electives

Students may use any of the following options to meet College of Science degree requirements:

  • Purdue Coursework
  • AP, IB, and CLEP credit.  The use of AP and IB coursework varies between College of Science degree plans.
  • Transfer Credit. Students should consult the Admissions Transfer Credit Resource page for all available transfer options.

College of Science degree programs vary widely in their approval and use of the proceeding options and thus students are strongly encouraged to work closely with their academic advisors and to regularly consult their MyPurduePlan to view the use of each option in their degree plan. 

Most College of Science degree programs contain elective credits students may use to pursue courses that relate to their interests or which support their major area of study. The elective area of a degree plan may also be used to complete minors, second majors and certificates such as the Entrepreneurial Certificate. With the exception of courses on the No Count List, any Purdue course may be used to meet the elective area of a student’s degree plan.

College of Science Core Requirements

All Students starting Purdue University Fall semester, 2007 or later are required to pursue the 2007 Science Core curriculum.

The College of Science Core Curriculum requires the completion of approved coursework and/or experiential learning opportunities in the following academic areas:

Earning Core Curricular Requirements through Experience

Students may meet selected core curriculum requirements through approved experiential learning opportunities. Interested students should contact their academic advisor for more information on this option and incorporating experiential learning into their four-year program of study. For more information on earning requirements through experience, please click here.

Physics Honors Major Courses (66-68 credits)

Major Selective* (15-16 credits)

  • Advanced Lab Options

  • or

  • PHYS/ASTR Selective ≥ 500 level - Credit Hours: 3.00
  • PHYS/ASTR Selective ≥ 500 level - Credit Hours: 3.00
  • Science/Engineering Selective ≥ 300 level ( could be met by Statistics for College of Science core) - Credit Hours: 3.00
  • Science/Engineering Selective ≥ 300 level ( could be met by Statistics for College of Science core) - Credit Hours: 3.00

Other Departmental/Program Course Requirements (43-62 credits)


^ - Labeled as a Science Core Selection in the four year plan of study

* - Requirement may be met with a zero credit experiential learning option. See your advisor for more information.

Composition & Presentation

First-Year Composition (3-4 credits)

Choose one course from this list . (satisfies Written Communication and Information Literacy for core)

Technical Writing And Presentation* (0-6 credits)

Choose one or two from this list COM 21700  is strongly recommended to satisfy Oral Communication for core.

Cultural Diversity (Language & Culture)^* (0-9 credits)

Choose courses from this list  to fulfill each Option below (select courses COULD satisfy Humanities for core).

  • Language & Culture Option I
  • Language & Culture Option II
  • Language & Culture Option III

General Education^ (9 credits)

Choose courses from this list  to fulfill each Option below (select courses COULD satisfy Behavioral/Social Science for core).

  • General Education Option I
  • General Education Option II
  • General Education Option III

Great Issues In Science (3 credits)

Choose one from this list .

Laboratory Science (8 credits)

(satisfies Science for core)

Multidisciplinary Experience^* (0-3 credits)

Choose one from this list  (select courses COULD satisfy Science, Technology, Society for core).

Team-Building and Collaboration

Met with required major coursework (PHYS 17200 ). 

Electives (1-17 credits)

University Requirements

University Core Requirements

For a complete listing of University Core Course Selectives, visit the Provost’s Website.
  • Human Cultures: Behavioral/Social Science (BSS)
  • Human Cultures: Humanities (HUM)
  • Information Literacy (IL)
  • Oral Communication (OC)
  • Quantitative Reasoning (QR)
  • Science #1 (SCI)
  • Science #2 (SCI)
  • Science, Technology, and Society (STS)
  • Written Communication (WC)

Civics Literacy Proficiency Requirement:

The Civics Literacy Proficiency activities are designed to develop civic knowledge of Purdue students in an effort to graduate a more informed citizenry.

Students will complete the Proficiency by passing a test of civic knowledge, and completing one of three paths:

  • Attending six approved civics-related events and completing an assessment for each; or
  • Completing 12 podcasts created by the Purdue Center for C-SPAN Scholarship and Engagement that use C-SPAN material and completing an assessment for each; or
  • Earning a passing grade for one of these approved courses (or transferring in approved AP or departmental credit in lieu of taking a course)

For more information visit the Civics Literacy Proficiency website.

Prerequisite Information:

For current pre-requisites for courses, click here.

Program Requirements

Fall 1st Year

15-17 Credits

15-17 Credits

15-17 Credits

Spring 2nd Year

16-17 Credits

Fall 3rd Year

18 Credits

16-18 Credits

Fall 4th Year

15 Credits

Spring 4th Year

13-15 Credits


  • COULD Satisfies a University Core Requirement
  • 3.0 Graduation GPA required for Bachelor of Science degree.
  • 3.0 average in PHYS/ASTR classes required to graduate.
  • No more than one C grade (i.e., C+, C, or C-) is allowed in all physics courses taken
  • No grade of D+ or worse is allowed in any course.
  • ♦ Identified as a critical course. Students should earn minimum of a B- see advisor for further details

College of Science Pass/No Pass Option Policy

  • Only free electives and courses at the 50000-level general education requirement may be taken under the pass/not-pass option. 
  • The pass/not-pass grade mode may be entered for courses which are not required by a student’s major(s), minor(s) or science core curriculum.
  • Grade mode Passing is equivalent to at a minimum grade of C- had a letter grade been awarded.
  • Students may elect to use the pass/not-pass option for no more than 20% of the 124/120 credit requirement for graduation and for no more than two courses per academic year (Fall-Summer).
  • The pass/not-pass option cannot be elected for a course that has already been completed with a letter grade. University Regulation.
  • Students may take elective credit while abroad using the P/NP mode.  In the case of universities which only post P/NP, the University will apply a calculation process to determine a letter grade.
  • Department of Languages and Cultures P/NP policy and Language Placement results. Students must take advanced coursework for a letter grade to receive credit for lower-level language courses.

World Language Courses

World Language proficiency requirements vary by program. The following list is inclusive of all world languages PWL offers for credit; for acceptable languages and proficiency levels, see your advisor.

ASL-American Sign Language ARAB-Arabic CHNS-Chinese FR-French
GER-German GREK-Greek (Ancient) HEBR-Hebrew (Biblical) HEBR-Hebrew (modern)
ITAL-Italian JPNS-Japanese KOR-Korean LATN-Latin
PTGS-Portuguese RUSS-Russian SPAN-Spanish  





Critical Course

The ♦ course is considered critical.

In alignment with the Degree Map Guidance for Indiana’s Public Colleges and Universities, published by the Commission for Higher Education (pursuant to HEA 1348-2013), a Critical Course is identified as “one that a student must be able to pass to persist and succeed in a particular major.  Students who want to be nurses, for example, should know that they are expected to be proficient in courses like biology in order to be successful.  These would be identified by the institutions for each degree program”. 


The student is ultimately responsible for knowing and completing all degree requirements.

The myPurduePlan powered by DegreeWorks is the knowledge source for specific requirements and completion.

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