Courses & Curriculum 

Degree Options

For the physics major, Canisius College offers the degree of Bachelor's of Science. For those students interested in combining their physics studies with another degree, there is the opportunity for dual majors. The physics minor is available for those majoring in a different area but would like to take more physics classes as electives.


Physics majors use modern physics equipment like a high-resolution spectroscopy equipment, lasers, high vacuum apparatus, a multi-channel nuclear spectrometer, various radiation detectors, and an X-ray spectrometer. They have access to departmental computers.  In addition, a large supply of other equipment is available for students to use as early as their first semester. 

Student Research

The faculty in the department are active in research in the fields of experimental nuclear physics, robotics, physics education, and computational science.  Students frequently join with a professor on his or her respective projects and perform a variety of research tasks.  Students gain skills in large-scale computation, data analysis, electronics, and detector assembly and testing.  In many cases, the research is interdisciplinary with the student working with a physics professor and a faculty member in the Mathematics, Computer Science, and Digital Media Arts Departments.  Routinely, students present posters at local, statewide, and national conferences.  Past students have conducting research through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates at institutions such as University of Rochester, University of Notre Dame, and Baylor University.


PHY 107 Computer Programming for Science   3 credits
Introduction to computer programming with the C language.  Examples and applications for science.   Fall

PHY 129 Introduction to Astronomy   3 credits
Understanding modern astronomy by using ideas from basic physics. Mathematics minimized. Naming and viewing stars and constellations is included. (Field 6)  Fall

PHY 131 Earthquakes: Seismology and Society         3 credits
The science behind earthquakes; their causes, locations, frequency and measurement; and their affects on geography, human structures and society. (Field 6, Global Awareness)  Fall 

PHY 133 Dinosaurs          3 credits
An introduction to dinosaurs and their world through an examination of their anatomy, evolution, phylogenty, behavior, metabolism and the cause of their extinction.  Exploration of geological concepts such as uniformitarianism, stratigraphy, sedimentation, fossilization and taphonomy will help to explain how this knowledge was extracted from the rocks.(Field 6) Spring 

PHY 201 and 201L General Physics I, with Lab       3+1 credits
General Physics for biological-science students.  Mechanics of rigid bodies, mechanics of fluids, thermal energy and thermodynamics.  Pre-requisite: MAT 111 or 110.  Lab required (i.e., 201L) with lecture (201).  (Field 6) Fall 

PHY 202 and 202L General Physics II, with Lab       3+1 credits
General Physics for biological-science students.  Electricity and magnetism, geometrical and physical optics.  Pre-requisite: PHY 201 with a grade of C- or higher.  Lab required i.e., 202L) with lecture (202).  (Field 6) Spring

PHY 223 and 223L General Physics for Physical Science Majors I, with Lab       3+1 credits
Calculus-based general physics.  Mechanics of rigid bodies.  Pre-requisite: MAT 111 or 110.  Lab required (i.e., 223L) with lecture (223). Spring.

PHY 224 and 224L General Physics for Physical Science Majors II, with Lab       3+1 credits
Calculus-based general physics.  Electricity and magnetism, geometrical and physical optics.  Pre-requisite: MAT 112 and PHY 223 with a grade of C- or higher.  Lab required (i.e., 224L) with lecture (224). Fall. 

PHY 225 and 225L General Physics for Physical Science Majors III, with Lab       3+1 credits
Calculus-based general physics. Mechanics of fluids, mechanical waves, thermodynamics and kinetic theory, geometrical and physical optics, special theory of relativity.  Pre-requisite: MAT 211 and PHY 224 with a grade of C- or higher.  Lab required (i.e., 225L) with lecture (225). Spring.

PHY 226-226L Basic Electronics            3+1 credits
Circuit analysis, power supplies, semiconductor physics, operational amplifiers, digital electronics. Integrated circuit techniques. Includes laboratory work each week. Prerequisite:  A grade of C- or higher in PHY 224 is required.  Spring

PHY 301 Optics            3 credits
Geometric optics, interference, diffraction, fiber optics, laser system design, holographic metrology and non-linear optical phenomena. Prerequisites: MAT 222 and PHY 224. Offered on demand. 

PHY 330 Electromagnetism I            3 credits
Static and time-varying classical electric and magnetic fields in free-space and matter. Prerequisite: PHY 224. Prior completion of or concurrent registration for MAT 335 is strongly encouraged. Fall odd-numbered year, 2 year cycle

PHY 331 Electromagnetism II            3 credits
Primary topic: electromagnetic waves in free-space and matter, beginning with the Maxwell equations. Additional topics: radiation and special relativity.  Prerequisite: PHY 330.  Spring even-numbered year, 2 year cycle

PHY 332 Statistical and Thermal Physics           3 credits
Develops statistical concepts and methods used to relate macroscopic to microscopic descriptions of many particle systems.  Prerequisite: PHY 225. Fall even-numbered year,  2 year cycle 

PHY 335 Mathematical Analysis for Physicists           4 credits
Theory and applications of infinite series, Fourier series, Green's functions, Fourier integrals, vector calculus, linear algebra, partial differential equations, and complex variable. Prerequisite: MAT 222 or consent of instructor. Fall odd-numbered years - 2 year cycle

PHY 350 Modern Physics Laboratory           1 credit

This course covers the basic principles of 20th century modern physics.  The topics include blackbody radiation, particle/wave duality, x-ray diffraction, Bohr’s model of the atom, quantum tunneling, and the Schrodinger equation.  Carries Advanced Writing Attribute.  Prerequisite: PHY 225.  Fall 2-year cycle

PHY 351 Advanced Physics Laboratory       1 credit

This course emphasizes advanced experiments and experimental technique.  Topics include, but are not restricted to, dosimetry, radiation detection, gamma-ray spectroscopy, Rutherford scattering, atomic spectroscopy, thin-film deposition, and magnetic resonance. Pre-requisite: PHY 225.  Carries Oral Communication Attribute.  Fall 2-year cycle opposite PHY350.

PHY 360 Scientific Modeling    3 credits
An introduction to the use of computer models to develop understanding in a scientific context. This course is intended for students in any scientific or mathematical discipline, and focuses on the principles involved in using and interpreting computer models. The course is divided into three main sections: dynamical modeling, structural modeling and computer-based statistical methods. Problems will be drawn from biology, biochemistry, chemistry, geology and physics. Prerequisites: MAT 111 and a one-year introductory science sequence (in computer science, chemistry, biology or physics).  Offered irregularly, 2 year cycle

PHY 443 Classical Mechanics   3 credits
One, two, and three dimensional motion of a particle, non-inertial systems, classical scattering, rigid-body motion. Lagrange and Hamilton equations, calculus of variations, oscillations.   Prerequisites: PHY 224, MAT 222.  Fall even-numbered year, 2 year cycle

PHY 445 Special Topics in Physics    1 credit

This course will cover model formation and development using archival journal articles in physics.  The subject material will rotate by semester among topics such as astrophysics, quantum theory, and thermodynamics.  Students will be expected to read and critique journal articles, lead discussions on journal articles, and trace the development of an area of physics through assigned readings.  Enrollment is restricted to physics majors and minors with senior status, and by permission of instructor. Spring 2-year cycle.

PHY 446 Quantum Mechanics I          3 credits
Experimental basis of quantum mechanics, state functions, operators. Review of linear algebra techniques and introduction of the Dirac notation.  Prerequisites: PHY 225, MAT 222. Fall even-numbered years - 2 year cycle

PHY 447 Quantum Mechanics II         3 credits
Application of Schrodinger’s equation, Hamiltonian mechanics, angular momentum, intrinsic spin, parity, and time-dependent quantum mechanics. PHY 446 is highly recommended. Spring odd-numbered years - 2 year cycle

PHY 449 Nuclear Physics Lab           1 credit
Introduction to experimental nuclear physics.  Experiments study nuclear instrumentation, characteristics of radiation and nuclear spectra. Prerequisite: PHY 225. Offered on demand. 

PHY 498 Senior Project            1-3 credits
A one-semester research project done under the supervision of a faculty member. Prerequisite: Senior standing in physics and permission of department chair.  Spring

PHY 499 Independent Study           3 credits
Prerequisite: Permission of department chair.  Spring and Fall