Undergraduate Catalog

2011 – 2012

Current Undergraduate Catalog

Office of Admissions
Emil H. Messikomer Hall
100 W. Rosedale Avenue
West Chester, PA 19383
Phone: 610-436-3411
Fax: 610-436-2907

Revised April 2017

Academic Programs

Department of Physics and Pre-Engineering Program

127 Merion Science Center
Anthony J. Nicastro, Chairperson



ASSISTANT PROFESSORS: Sealfon, Sudol, Thornton

The Department of Physics offeres three undergraduate degree programs:

1. The B.S. in PHYSICS is designed as preparation for graduate school or careers in government or industry. The curriculum includes a strong foundation in mathematics and the humanities. A wide choice of electives in the program provides the flexibility to develop a minor in a related area of interest.

2. The B.S. in EDUCATION in PHYSICS provides a solid background in physics, mathematics, and related sciences for a teaching career at the secondary level and leads to certification to teach physics in the public schools of Pennsylvania.

3. The B.S. in PHYSICS/B.S. in ENGINEERING is a cooperative, dual-degree, five-year engineering program with The Pennsylvania State University at University Park or with Philadelphia University.

For admission to the physics program, most students should have completed, in addition to the general University requirements, one year each of high school chemistry and physics, and a minimum of three years of mathematics, including algebra and trigonometry, and be prepared to start calculus. Any student with a deficiency must complete WRT 120 and MAT 161 with grades of C- or better to be admitted to the program.


The Robert M. Brown Endowed Scholarship for Physics was established in 1997 by Mr. Robert M. Brown. Partial tuition scholarships are awarded annually on a competitive basis to students in the physics program.

In addition, the Dr. Michael F. Martens Award, established by the West Chester Lions Club, is given annually to students who have shown outstanding achievement in physics. Awards are determined by the department’s faculty. Other awards include the Benjamin Faber Award in physics and mathematics, and the Diane and Roger Casagrande Scholarship for students in pre-engineering or communication studies. In addition to these, the Physics/Philosophy Prize is awarded to a student who has made a notable contribution on a topic related to the interface of science and theology. These awards are granted annually at an induction ceremony for new members of the West Chester University Chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honor society.

The physics programs can also be found on the Internet: http://www.wcupa.edu/sciences-mathematics/physics/.


120 semester hours

  1. General ed. requirements, see pages 38-44 (48 semester hours)
  2. Physics courses (40 semester hours)
    PHY 170, 180, 240, 300, 310, 320, 330, 350, 370, 420, and 430; an additional six credits in physics must be chosen from available electives at or above the 250 level
  3. Mathematics courses (17 semester hours)
    CSC 141*; MAT 161*, 162, 261, and 343
    *Also fulfills general education requirement.
  4. Chemistry courses (8 semester hours)
    CHE 103* and 104; CRL 103* and 104
    *Also fulfills general education requirement.
  5. Free electives (17 semester hours)

Students must maintain a GPA of 2.0 or greater in their physics courses. Transfer students must take 15 or more physics credits at West Chester at the 300 level and above for graduation.


121 semester hours

  1. General ed. requirements, see pages 38–44 (48 semester hours)
  2. Core requirements (53 semester hours)
    1. Physics: PHY 170, 180, 240, 300, 310, 320, 330, and 410 or 430
    2. Mathematics: MAT 161*, 162, 261, and MAT 343 or PHY 370

    3. Sciences: CHE 103* and 104, CSC 141, PHY 105 or ESS 111, and one elective
      in biology*
  3.   Professional certification requirements (35 semester hours)
    EDP 250; EDF 300*; EDA 103, 303;
    EDR 347; LANG/ENG 382*; EDS
    306; SCE/SCB 350; EDS 411 and 412
    *These courses meet a general education requirement.

Students must maintain a GPA of 2.0 or greater in their physics courses. Transfer students must take nine or more physics credits at West Chester at the 250 level and above for graduation. See the “Teacher Certification Programs” section of this catalog for an explanation of related requirements.



The Department of Physics, in cooperation with The Pennsylvania State University at University Park, offers degree programs in physics and engineering requiring three years at West Chester University plus two years at The Pennsylvania State University. At the end of this period, the student receives two baccalaureate degrees: a B.S. in physics from West Chester and a B.S. in engineering from Penn State.

Transfer students and students who have completed a bachelor's degree are not eligible for this program.

Areas of study in engineering at The Pennsylvania State University at University Park are the following:

Biological Engineering Energy Engineering Mining Engineering

Computer Engineering

Environmental Systems Engineering Nuclear Engineering

Electrical Engineering

Industrial Engineering Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering
Engineering Science Materials Science and Engineering  


A similar, dual degree cooperative physics/engineering program is available through West Chester University’s affiliation with the School of Engineering and Textiles of Philadelphia University. This program is available to all freshmen as well as transfer students. Areas of study in engineering at Philadelphia University are 1) the B.S.E. program in general engineering with minor tracks in mechanical, industrial, architectural, environmental, and textile engineering; and 2) B.S.E. programs in architectural engineering, mechanical engineering, industrial and systems engineering, and textile engineering technology. Contact the Department of Physics for further information on either of these cooperative programs.

Admission to The Pennsylvania State University or to Philadelphia University is contingent on a recommendation from the Department of Physics and the student having maintained the overall average for the specific engineering major. Most areas of engineering require a minimum of 3.0 GPA for admission at the junior level. Some are higher.

Requirements for Physics/Engineering Programs

  1. General ed. requirements, see pages 38–44 (48 semester hours)
  2. Physics (32 semester hours)
    PHY 115, 116, 170, 180, 240, 260, 300, 310, and 320; an additional nine credits in physics at or above the 300 level must be chosen, depending on the engineering area selected.
  3. Mathematics (18 semester hours)
    CSC 141*; MAT 161*, 162, 261, and 343
    *Also fulfills general education requirement.
  4. Chemistry (8 semester hours)
    CHE 103* and 104; CRL 103* and 104
    *Also fulfills general education requirement.

In addition, students intending to enroll in chemical engineering should take CHE 231 and 232; in mining engineering, ESL 201 and ESS 101; and in petroleum and natural gas engineering, ESL 201 and ESS 101. Students intending to enroll in electrical or nuclear engineering should take PHY 370 and PHY 420.

Minor in Physics (19 semester hours)

The program can be used as technical preparation to complement work in other scientific or nonscientific areas, e.g., business majors interested in careers in technologically oriented industries, majors interested in technical or scientific sales, English majors interested in technical writing, or social science majors interested in the area of energy and the environment.

PHY 130 and 140, or PHY 170 and 180; also PHY 240. In addition, students must select eight credits of physics courses at the 250 level or above, chosen under advisement with the Department of Physics. Transfer students must take a minimum of six credits at West Chester at the 250 level or above. A 2.0 GPA or better must be maintained in all physics courses.


Symbol: PHY

(3,2) represents three hours of lecture and two hours of lab.

100 Elements of Physical Science (3) A study of motion, energy, light, and some aspects of modern physics.

105 Structure of the Universe (3) A survey of phenomena and objects in the universe from the very smallest distance scales to the grandest in the cosmos. Includes a historical consideration of the developments of modern theories of the physical world.

115 Engineering Graphics I (1) Use and preparation of engineering drawings. Topics include the use of instruments, linework, geometric construction, four types of projections, dimensioning, and sections.

116 Engineering Graphics II (1) A continuation of PHY 115 with emphasis on computer-aided design, to include topics such as layout, detail, and assembly drawings, developments, auxiliary drawings, various types of drafting, machine tool processes, and computer drafting. PREREQ: PHY 115.

125 Theology and Science: Enemies or Partners (3) An inquiry into the relationship of theology to the natural sciences. Team taught by both a physicist and a philosopher, the course investigates how ideas of God have been affected by advances in physics and biology. Crosslisted with PHI 125. Students may not take both courses for credit.

130 General Physics I (4) An introductory, noncalculus, physics course. Kinematics, dynamics, mechanics of solids and fluids, wave motion, heat and temperature, thermodynamics, and kinetic theory. (3,2) PREREQ: Algebra and trigonometry.

140 General Physics II (4) An extension of PHY 130. Electricity and magnetism, geometrical and physical optics, and select topics in modern physics. (3,2) PREREQ: PHY 130.

170 Physics I (4) An introductory calculus-based course. Includes mechanics, kinetic theory, waves, heat, and thermodynamics. The laboratory emphasizes error analysis, the writing of technical reports, and data analysis using computers. (3,2) PREREQ: MAT 161.

180 Physics II (4) A continuation of PHY 170. Includes electricity and magnetism, geometrical and physical optics, electronics, and modern physics. PREREQ: PHY 170. Concurrent with MAT 162.

240 Introduction to Modern Physics (3) An atomic view of electricity and radiation, atomic theory, special relativity theory, X-rays, radioactivity, nuclear reactions, and introductory quantum mechanics. PREREQ: MAT 162, and PHY 140 or 180.

260 Engineering Statics (3) Composition and resolution of forces, equivalent force systems, equilibrium of particles and rigid bodies, centroids and center of gravity, analysis of simple structures, internal forces in beams, friction, moments and products in inertia, and methods of virtual work. PREREQ: MAT 162, and PHY 130 or 170.

300 Mechanics (3) Particle kinematics, dynamics, energy, and momentum considerations; oscillations; central force motion; accelerated reference frames; rigid body mechanics; Lagrangian mechanics. PREREQ: MAT 162, and PHY 140 or 180.

310 Intermediate Physics Lab I (2) A laboratory course to familiarize students with laboratory equipment and methods by performing a series of classical and modern physics experiments. The course emphasizes techniques of data and error analysis. The results of these are reported through both oral presentations and written reports. COREQ: PHY 240. Writing emphasis course.

320 Intermediate Physics Lab II (2) A continuation of PHY 310, but including an introduction to writing scientific proposals and the use of computers for data acquisition. Students are required to propose and complete an experiment of their own design as one part of this course. PREREQ: CSC 141, PHY 310. Writing emphasis course.

330 Electronics I (3) Emphasis is divided between theory and experiment. The course begins with a brief review of resistive and RC voltage dividers. Electronic circuits studied include basic operational amplifiers, timers, instrumentation amplifiers, logic circuits, flip flops, counters, and timers. (2,2) PREREQ: MAT 161, PHY 140 or 180, or permission of instructor.

340 Fundamentals of Radioisotope Techniques (3) Biological, chemical, environmental, and physical effects of nuclear radiation. Radiation detection instrumentation and radio tracer methodology. (2,2) PREREQ: CHE 104, and PHY 140 or 180.

350 Heat and Thermodynamics (3) Equations of state, first and second laws of thermodynamics, ideal and real gases, entropy, and statistical mechanics. PREREQ or COREQ: MAT 261, PHY 240.

370 Mathematical Physics (3) Selected topics in mathematics applied to problems in physics, ordinary differential equations, vector calculus, Fourier analysis, matrix algebra, and eigenvalue problems. PREREQ: MAT 261, and PHY 140 or 180.

400 Analytical Dynamics (3) Wave propagation, Lagrange's equations and Hamilton's principle, rigid body motion, and special relativity. PREREQ: MAT 343 and PHY 300.

410 Optics (3) Geometrical and physical optics. Reflection and refraction at surfaces, lenses, interference and diffraction, and polarization. PREREQ: PHY 140 or 180. PREREQ or COREQ: MAT 261.

420 Atomic Physics and Quantum Mechanics (3) Fundamental concepts of quantum mechanics with application to atomic physics. Topics covered are Bohr model, Schrödinger equation with applications, perturbation theory, hydrogen atom, and scattering theory. PREREQ: PHY 240 and 300, and MAT 343 or PHY 370.

430 Electricity and Magnetism (3) Electrostatics of point charges and extended charge distributions, fields in dielectrics, and magnetic fields due to steady currents. Ampere's Law and induced emfs. Topics in electromagnetic waves as time permits. PREREQ: PHY 300, and MAT 343 or PHY 370.

440 Microcomputer Electronics (3) Laboratory study of special circuits, integrated circuits, microcomputers, and microcomputer interface applications. PREREQ: PHY 330, and MAT 343 or PHY 370.

450 Advanced Physics Laboratory I (1) A course to familiarize students with contemporary laboratory equipment and methods.

460 Advanced Physics Laboratory II (1) A continuation of PHY 450.

470 Seminar in Physics (1) Oral and written reports on approved topics. Variation in topics from year to year, depending on the interest and needs of students.
This course may be taken again for credit.

480 Special Topics (1-3) Topics of special interest to be presented once or twice. PREREQ: To be specified by the instructor. Course may be repeated by student for credit any number of times when different topics are presented.
This course may be taken again for credit.

490 Introduction to Research (1-9) Specific problems in consultation with the faculty adviser. PREREQ: Permission of instructor.
This course may be taken again for credit.

SCB 210 The Origin of Life and the Universe (3) An interdisciplinary course that presents the theory and evidence for the first three minutes of the universe, and formation of the stars, galaxies, planets, organic molecules, and the genetic basis of organic evolution. PREREQ: High school or college courses in at least two sciences.
Approved interdisciplinary course

SCI 102 Electricity with Physical and Biological Applications (3) An exploration of the physics of electrical circuits, the chemical basis of electricity as the flow of electrons, acid-base and oxidation-reduction reactions in chemical and in living systems, the electrical activity in the human nervous system, and connections between electricity and sensation and locomotion in humans. For elementary education majors only. Team taught with the departments of Biology and Chemistry.