Bachelor Studies

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Physics Major

When I matriculated, I was sure of my major in physics, although I thought I might switch back to chemistry, what I thought I wanted to study when I began looking for colleges. I began taking core courses along with the main group of freshman majors, notably separated from the physics courses for engineers and pre-meds. It was clear from the beginning that we would be treated better, given more attention, better encouragement, than those in the "weed-out" classes. Even with the support of the department, if it wasn't for Mark Evenson inviting me to join a study group of close physics friends our first winter, I don't know how I would have survived. The bright star of that study group, Katherine Woo, invited me second semester sophomore year to attend the first day of a graduate course with her in the history of science; she didn't want to be in there alone with the older students. She ended up dropping the course, while I ended up enjoying it immensely, wondering at how I had avoided history as much as possible in my schooling. I quickly added an undergraduate research project under the same professor that semester; that work eventually became my first co-publication of an academic paper.

  • Physics 116:Mechanics
  • Math 293:Calculus
  • Physics 217:Electricity and Magnetism
  • Math 294:Calculus
  • Physics 218:Optics and Waves
  • Math 421:Applicable Math (differential equations IIRC)
  • Physics 315:Microphysics
  • History 481:History of Modern Physics/Theory of Science
  • History 303:Supervised Research/Undergraduate Research Program
  • Physics 325:Electricity & Magnetism
  • History 443:Science and Culture in Austria
  • Physics 318:Analytical Mechanics
  • Physics 330:Modern Experimental Optics
  • Government 384:War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
  • History 282:Science in Western Civilization

By the end of my junior year I had completed all the course requirements for my major, with a self-designed concentration in history. I wish I had gotten to know my advisor, Kurt Gottfried, better, only much later learning of his interest in social issues in physics and his own interesting path in physics.

Other Important Courses

  • Sociology 315:Sociology of Science
  • Government 318:American Congress
  • Physics 481:Components and Systems

Dead Ends

  • Civil and Environmental Engineering 309:Special Topics (I was going to study nuclear power, but I dropped the course after the professor and I couldn't arrive at a course of study.)
  • Economics 203:Microeconomics (Learned a bit of economics, but with two major issues: This was billed as economics for those with skills in calculus, but the non-calculus course was over-booked, so the algebra students signed up for this class and spent much of lectures asking the professor to revert to graphical and simplistic representations; the professor was quite ill for much of the course, so the majority of students systematically weaseled most of the rigor out of the class.)
  • Economics 204:Macroeconomics (ditto)

Life-shaping electives

  • Italian 121:Elementary Italian I
  • Italian 122:Elementary Italian II
  • Music 220:Learning Counterpoint through Digital Technology I (baroque inventions)
  • Music 221:Learning Counterpoint through Digital Technology II (baroque fugues)