Physics Bachelor of Science

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Note: Wikiversity does not confer academic degrees/diplomas/certificates etc.

See for the theory behind this degree

Part of the School of Physics and Astronomy

Links[edit] South African University w/ Physics degree via mail,9171,1226150-5,00.html - Woodie Flowers on a liberal education for the 21st century - Undergraduate Research

Help wanted: Need comments from the following

  • People familar with the Thomas Edison State College or Charter Oak procedures. Anyone who has gone or is going through their program
  • People familar with undergraduate physics degrees in other schools. People who are interesting in taking a physics undergraduate degree
  • People in graduate physics admission committees and employers
  • Students and potential students. Need to find out if this degree plan is attractive to people, and we may need some beta testers that are crazy enough to try to do this.

This page came out of wikimania 2006, and it's my effort to put together a curriculum which will get you an accreditted Bachelor of Science in Physics using free (as in speech) materials. The actual degree will be issued by what I call a "brokerage school" (i.e. someone like Thomas Edison State College) that turns life experience into credits. This will involve a lot of investigation into the little academic details of the schools.

The other thing that is important, is that I'd like to try to see how one could provide the "experience" of getting a Bachelor of Science in Physics. The crucial bit involves working in a research lab or getting an internship. That part is actually more important than the "book work" since getting an internship and letters of recommendation are what really get you into graduate school.

The other crucial part is that I need for this to be a degree that will actually get you into a physics doctoral program. So one thing that I will do is to ask people on graduate admission's committees their opinions on this. Also, something that would be useful is to just get a list of physics schools, and list whether or not they you should even think of applying there with a degree from wikiversity. (Again, the internships are more important than the book work, but we then need to look at the internships to see if they will take you.)

I'll also try to get some input from the professional societies (i.e. AAS, AIP etc.)

It will take me a few months to get this together, but since it is a wiki, feel free to add your contributions. I'll try to put enough of a sketch so that people can fill in material.

Roadrunner 07:23, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

Here are the basic links

Here is the degree program for TESC

For Charter Oak

For Excelsior,55694&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL


One thing that is especially interesting for MIT is that they have changed the degree so that the main point is not to get into grad school as was the case in 1991. I'm using "creating a degree that will get you into grad school" as a requirement, because that is what I know. The problem is that what I'm doing is possibly self-defeating. If this works and you have hundreds of thousands of students qualified for physics graduate school and not a massive expansion in physics graduate schools, then this will be bad, which means that after this project is more or less complete, the next step is to figure out how to massively expand graduate education in physics, which gets into social priorities (you see now why I want discussions of getting funding).

This goes with my challenge to MIT. MIT does not scale. The trick reason that I'm doing this is that I think it would be good to be able to provide an MIT quality of undergraduate physics education to millions of people, and not just twenty year olds. The hard part in all of this involves generating the social networks and communities. The "book learning list" is just a skeleton.

Basic Strategy[edit]

The basic strategy is to use the MIT Course 8 curriculum as a template and then match it with the requirements of either Thomas Edison or Charter Oak which will issue the final degree. That's the easy part.

The hard part will be to find proxies for a lot of the expertial learning and social networking that occurs. The expertial learning will require some sort of intership, and possibly a tutorial model. The social networking will require finding communities if they already exist or building communities if they don't.

Roadrunner 07:55, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

MIT Course 8 Focused Option[edit]

Course VIII Focused Option

The Course VIII focused option is designed to provide the best possible preparation for graduate study in physics. Many students have also found this program to be an excellent, broad based preparation for professional work in related fields such as astrophysics, biophysics, geophysics, and many engineering disciplines. The focused option is unusual among pre-professional programs at MIT in that it offers a particularly large amount of elective freedom: as many as six subjects may be chosen as unrestricted electives without exceeding the minimum requirements for an undergraduate degree. The Departmental program for the focused option consists of the following required subjects and restricted electives. The full requirements for the degree, including the General Institute Requirements, may be found in the MIT Bulletin.

Required Subjects

Restricted Electives One subject given by the Mathematics Department beyond 18.03 Two additional subjects given by the Physics Department beyond 8.02 including at least one of the following: : * 8.07

* 8.08 Classical mechanics
* 8.09


The undergraduate physics student should be able to read and understand papers in physics.

Here is a page by Nobel Prize-winner Gerard 't Hooft called "How to Become a Good Theoretical Physicist."


List of free physics textbooks:

This may be a sucker site. I attempted to download the zip version of Electromagnetism Field Theory alleged to be equivalent to the classic in the field authored by Jackson. I received nothing except long lists of advertisement and links to commercial products. user:lazyquasar

There are also some books on Gerard Hooft's page, mentioned above. user:derian

I found the following link through textbookrevolution, has a great list of open course content. many of it's findings are on not sure how this will all fit in but throught I should through it out there. user:RichMac

Replicating the MIT experience[edit]

This is going to sound a bit like haliography but it isn't. It's an effort to demystify MIT. There are a lots of good things about an MIT degree, but if you go through and look at it point by point, there really isn't anything that can't be replicated in an open architecture. The goal here is to figure out how to scale the degree.

Notes on replicating the MIT physics degree; some comments on subfactors.

  • teamwork and social support - the key is replicating the social networks that form between students in the course of taking the degree. One thing that is the case is that physics students are incredibly supportive, and there is much too much work for any one student to do on their own. The other thing is that there is very little in the way of a "weed out" mentality and the pass rates are actually quite high. The other thing is having students constantly complain about the professors (some of whom are quite awful at teaching) is useful since you have a support group.
    • An obstacle in emulating mutual homework help (ahem) would be an efficient and easy way to enter equations in online, so that students can show their peers their partially-completed work. LaTeX looks pretty and is perhaps the fastest way to typeset equations, but it's really nothing like the real thing - fountain pen and parchment paper.
    • With an online course, there really isn't much to complain about the prof. A moderately evil prof expects that you've memorized the Navier-Stokes equation in spherical-tensor form, while a totally evil prof makes you do pointless contour integrals under timed constraints. But: Exams should be open book, since students are going to have book-itchy fingers during exams anyway (read: proctored by a virtual bot). In an advanced physics course, computational support from Mathematica, for example, should also be allowed during exams.

One thing that University of Phoenix has illustrated is that this sort of team building *can be replicated* online.

  • pace and pressure - MIT is a huge pressure cooker that results when you get lots of people with type A personalities in one place. (New York City is also the same way.) The nice thing about MIT is that it teaches you how to manage stress. This is actually something that you need to replicate, but it needs to be done very carefully. The problem with pressure is that you need have safety nets available so that people don't get overwhelmed. This is difficult enough in an physical environment, and it is really hard in an online environment.

My experience is that online, it's very easy for someone to "go dark" and disappear. The other problem with open architectures is the issue of "assumption of responsibility." If a student on the MIT campus has some serious medical issues, then MIT assumes responsibility. In an online environment this is harder.

  • rich environments - Walk down the hallways at MIT, and you can see something happening, and it's not hard to ask the right people and get involved in something that is happening. Just as an example, if you walk down the hall, you see vats of liquid nitrogen (they are like water fountains). This affects your thinking in subtle ways.
  • science culture - You see seminars, people arguing, the process of reading and writing journal articles. How do we incorporate that into the curriculum.

Bad things

  • brutality - There is an element of brutality, but one thing that I found is that the element of brutality is nowhere as bad at MIT as it is in other places. Again, you can look at the pass rates. Any program which doesn't have 80-90 pass rates and which is proud of not having 80-90 pass rates has some serious issues.
  • danger - The MIT undergraduate program is very dangerous. What happens is that there are a lot of "exposed gears" which can psychologically do very, very bad things. The problem is that if a student reacts to pressure and stress by withdrawing, this causes a downward spiral whose results are not pretty.
  • scalability and flexibility - The basic problem is that as it currently exists the MIT degree does not scale and it is designed for full-time undergraduate students. This has subtle effects. If you are 19, the MIT experience is useful to teach you how to deal with pressure and stress. If you are 35, you've probably already learned how to deal with pressure and career related stress, and this isn't a useful part of the curriculum.

The other thing is that degree programs naturally attract very driven people, who are busy and stressed out of their minds.

The informal curriculum[edit]

  • No multiple choice tests - All evaluation should consist of hand graded individually graded assignments
  • No weed out classes
  • Encouragement of team work

Summer Internships[edit]

(Note: Can someone more familar with the NSF REU program put in more stuff in here. Also I'm interested to know how the REU programs handle students older than average.)