Richard E. Crandall

Quantum theory, signal processing, interdisciplinary problems, scientific computing.

John Essick

Solid state physics, atom trapping.

Joel S. Franklin

Field theory, computation.

David J. Griffiths

Classical electrodynamics, elementary particle theory. On sabbatical and leave 2006-07.

Mary B. James

Accelerator physics, classical electrodynamics, physics outreach.

John W. Powell

Neural biophysics, astrophysics, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy.

Robert Reynolds, Emeritus

Astrophysics, computer applications.

Nicholas A. Wheeler

Mathematical physics.

Physics is the most mature of the sciences and provides much of the conceptual apparatus and instrumentation for chemistry, biology, astronomy, and engineering. It has inspired the creative work of mathematicians, philosophers, and social scientists and has repeatedly transformed the framework of civilization. The physics curriculum at Reed College is designed to provide rigorous preparation for those who plan careers in the field while at the same time serving the needs of all interested liberal arts students.

The typical physics major takes Physics 100 as a freshman and Physics 200 as a sophomore; these courses survey the field from a broad perspective and lay the groundwork for more concentrated study in the last two years. Juniors ordinarily take Classical Mechanics (311), Quantum Mechanics (342), Electrodynamics (321 and 322), and Advanced Laboratory (331 and 332); these courses provide a thorough background for a wide range of possible thesis projects in the senior year. Optional courses include Optics, Thermal Physics, Solid State Physics, Astrophysics, Molecular Biophysics, Elementary Particles, Scientific Computation, and Classical Field Theory, as well as Advanced Classical Mechanics and Advanced Quantum Mechanics. Individual or group seminar courses in more specialized topics can usually be arranged at the student’s request.

The physics department’s web page is at

Requirements for the Major

For the student planning a career in physics:

  1. Physics 100, 200, 311, 321, 322, 331, 332, 342, 470.
  2. Mathematics 111, 112, 211, and 212 and one upper-division mathematics course approved by the student’s adviser.
  3. Strongly recommended, but not required: Physics 351, 411, and 442, and a foreign language.

For the student contemplating medical school, secondary school teaching, or engineering:

  1. Physics 100, 200, 311, 321, 331, 332, 342, 470.
  2. Mathematics 111, 112, 211, and 212. 

Physics Course Descriptions

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