Department of Physics

Programs of Study

The department is excited to announce the New B. A. Physics Major (enrollment beginning Fall 2017), in addition to the versatile B. S. Physics Major and the B. A. Physics-Teaching Major.


The Department of Physics offers three undergraduate programs: Bachelor of Science Physics, Bachelor of Arts Physics, and Bachelor of Arts Physics Teaching. All Physics students must complete an additional 38 hours of Liberal arts core courses, as well as a certain number of freely chosen electives, in addition to their major requirements.

The B.S. Physics Major (59 hours) is recommended for students who wish to prepare for a career in any area of physics, engineering, or other technical field, graduate study in physics or engineering, or any endeavor which requires critical thinking and quantitative analysis.

Students in the B.S. Physics Major, B.A. Physics Major or the B.A. Physics–Teaching Major who perform significant research during their undergraduate career may be invited by the department to participant in honors thesis research. Students must undertake 4 hours of Undergraduate Research (PHYSICS 3000) and, during their senior year, complete one hour of Senior Thesis.

Students in the B.S. Physics Major can also participate in the Physics/Engineering Dual-Degree Program. This program leads to a B.S. Physics Major degree from the University of Northern Iowa and a B.S. Engineering degree from Iowa State University (ISU) or The University of Iowa (UI). This program requires approximately three years of attendance at UNI followed by approximately two years of attendance at ISU or UI. This program is an excellent opportunity for those students who want to combine the benefits of direct faculty interaction at UNI with the robust engineering programs of ISU or UI.

The B.A. Physics Major (42 hours) is suitable for a student with interdisciplinary interests. The Physics requirements can be completed in 5 semesters thus providing an opportunity to take courses in other science areas of interest.

The B.A. Physics Major-Teaching program (46 hours + 30 hours of teacher professional development) is for students preparing to be physics teachers at the secondary school level. It is highly recommended to take appropriate courses to achieve licensure approval in a second subject area, as well. Completion of this major will satisfy the requirements of the Iowa Department of Education for physics approval.


Physics Minor

The physics minor is an excellent route for students interested in learning more about the natural world and gaining expertise in various technical skills, but who may not have time to commit to a full major.

Required Physics Courses (8 hrs) : PHYSICS 1511 or 1701, PHYSICS 1512 or 1702.Electives in Physics (12 hrs): 2000+ courses with no more than 3 hours total of PHYSICS 3000 and/or 4450
Total: 20 hours

Nanoscience Minor

The nanoscience minor is an interdisciplinary sequence of courses to introduce students to nanoscience and nanotechnology. This minor is highly accessible to biology, chemistry, and physics students with an interest in this rapidly changing field. The minor requires 2 semesters of introductory chemistry and 2 semesters of introductory physics for background, followed by two hands-on laboratory courses in nanoscience and nanotechnology which can be taken for credit in either Physics or Chemistry.

Required Science (13-16 hrs): CHEM 1110 & 1120 or CHEM 1130, PHYSICS 1511 or 1701, PHYSICS 1512 or 1702

Required Nanoscience (6 hrs): PHYSICS/CHEM 4200 and PHYSICS/CHEM 4210

Total: 19-22 hours


Program Certificate

The University of Northern Iowa makes available, in addition to traditional programs, the opportunity for students to earn program certificates. Program certificates provide an alternative to programs leading to a degree, a major, or a minor; they certify that an individual has completed a program approved by the university. For information on the following certificates, contact the Department of Physics or the Office of the Registrar, which serves as the centralized registry.

Physics Teaching Certificate

Completion of the certificate for the following majors meets the requirements of the State of Iowa Grades 5-12 Physics Teaching Endorsement.

Required Physics: PHYSICS 1511 General Physics I (4) or PHYSICS 1701 Physics I for Science and Engineering (4), PHYSICS 1512 General Physics II (4) or PHYSICS 1702 Physics II for Science and Engineering (4), PHYSICS 4080/5080 Resources for Teaching Physics (2): 10 hours

Required Science Education: SCI ED 3300/5300 Orientation to Science Teaching: 3 hours

Electives chosen from the following: 3-5 hours

Elective hours vary by major program. Mathematics Teaching majors and Chemistry Teaching majors must select three hours from the following; other secondary science teaching majors including All Science Teaching, Middle/Junior High School Science Teaching, Biology Teaching, and Earth Science Teaching must select five hours from the following:

First-Year Projects in Physics (1 hr)  
Projects in Basic Robotics and Sensors (1 hr)  
Physics III: Theory and Simulation (3 hrs)  
Undergraduate Research in Physics  (max. 2 hrs allowed)  
Optical Science (3 hrs)  
Modern Physics (4 hrs)  
Modern Physics Laboratory (2 hrs)  
Nanoscience  (3 hrs)  
Nanotechnology (3 hrs)  
Project Lead The Way: Digital Electronics (3 hrs)  
Introduction to Electronics (4 hrs)

Total: 16-18 hours