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Undergraduate Programme

The Undergraduate BSc Degree

For students who wish to pursue a career in Physics, the usual route is to first obtain a three year BSc in Physics (Major). Each of the three one-year courses build on what was covered during the previous year(s). In the case of the first year course, the basic fundamental concepts of physics are dealt with, focusing on various branches of classical physics, like Classical Mechanics, Electromagnetism, Thermodynamics, Optics and Wave Mechanics. The second and third year courses build up on these introductory topics and cover material such as Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and Statistical Physics.

With such a background, students can pursue more specialised fields of contemporary physics, such as Nuclear, Atomic and Condensed Matter Physics amongst others. See the section on Postgraduate Studies at Wits for information about the Honours, Masters and PhD courses offered at Wits.

Physics Major Courses

The Physics (Major) course, which is specifically intended for students who wish to take up physics as a career, is comprised of components which include formal lectures, laboratory sessions, tutorials, assignments and demonstrations which are designed to introduce the material from various approaches, each in turn complementing the others. For instance, tutorials are designed to develop analytical skills, where students get to spend quality time with their course material, whilst the laboratory sessions provide an opportunity for them to see physics in action. This is where students are granted the opportunity to test the fundamental theories which have been taught during formal lecture sessions.

Physics (Major) Course Structure

Physics I (Major) (PHYS100)

  • Classical Mechanics
  • Mechanical Properties of Matter
  • Electricity and Magnetism
  • Waves and Optics

Physics II (Major) (PHYS200)

  • Thermal Physics
  • Modern Physics
  • Classical Mechanics
  • Electrodynamics

Physics III (Major) (PHYS300)

  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Thermal and Statistical Physics
  • Solid State Physics
  • Nuclear Physics

The third year courses are broken up into the following components:

Nuclear and Solid State Physics III (PHYS300A)
Qualifying Course

Quantum Mechanics III PART A (PHYS300B)
Qualifying Course

Quantum Mechanics III PART B (PHYS300C)
Qualifying Course

Statistical Physics III (PHYS300D)
Qualifying Course

Auxiliary Courses

The School of Physics hosts a number of auxiliary courses, designed either for students who wish to pursue Physics as a career, but have not qualified to enter the Major stream through the usual channels, or for students who wish to take Physics as an undergraduate subject, but do not intend to continue studying the subject into the second or third year.

Breakdown of Auxiliary Course Components

Physical Sciences IA (PHYS122)
Qualifying course for BSc (Special Curriculum)
Various properties of matter, such as mechanical, electrical, optical and thermal, are dealt with from a physical and chemical perspective. During the final quarter of the year, specific topics, such as modern physics and chemical reactions, will be covered. Emphasis will be given to the unified nature of experimentation in the physical sciences, in the laboratory course.

Physics IB(X) PHYS123
Qualifying course for BSc (Special Curriculum)
As a continuation to Physical Sciences IA, this course is designed for those students who wish to enter the Second Year Major steam, i.e.:Physics II Major. Topics such as Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Wave Motion, Electromagnetism as well as introductory courses in modern physics will be covered. These topics are integrated with a practical component, thus cultivating the students scientific skills as the course progresses. Laboratory work as well as relevant mathematical topics are required to be completed, bringing the student on par with the Physics I Major course, thus allowing the student to proceed with the Second Year Major course.

Physics IB PHYS124
Qualifying course for BSc (Special Curriculum)
This course follows on from Physical Sciences IA and is designed for those students who are allowed to proceed to a second qualifying course, Physics (Auxiliary) (PHYS 210). Similar topics as those for Physics IB(X) will be covered (see above).

Physics I PHYS125
Qualifying course for BSc (Special Curriculum)
This is a subsequent course of Physical Sciences IA, and has the same course content as that for Physics I Major (PHYS100). It is thus intended for those who have qualified for PHYS100. The course content includes:

Auxiliary Physics IA (PHYSA17)

  • Dimensional Analysis
  • Vectors
  • Classical Mechanics
  • Elasticity
  • Fluids
  • Gases
  • Thermal Physics

Auxiliary Physics IB (PHYSA18)

  • Electricity and Magnetism
  • Electromagnetic Induction
  • Alternating Current Circuits
  • Physical Optics
  • Introduction to Quantum theory

Except by special permission of the Head of Department, a student is required to have attended the PHYSA17 topic, as well as its associated experimental component before proceeding to PHYSA18

Physics I Auxiliary (PHYS126)
Physical Sciences IA is again a prerequisite for this course and is designed for those who have qualified for Physics I (Auxiliary). Essentially, the course content is identical to that of the Physics I Auxiliary Course (PHYS110), and deals with:

Auxiliary Physics IA (PHYSA19)

  • Dimensional Analysis and Scaling
  • Vectors
  • Classical Mechanics
  • Elasticity
  • Fluids and Gases
  • Thermal Physics

Auxiliary Physics IB (PHYSA20)

  • Waves and Sound
  • Electricity and Magnetism
  • Geometrical and Physical Objects
  • Polarisation
  • Atomic and Nuclear Physics

Except by special permission of the Head of Department, a student is required to have attended the PHYSA19 topic, as well as its associated experimental component before proceeding to PHYSA20

Physics I (Auxiliary) (PHYS110)
First Qualifying Course

Auxiliary Physics IA (PHYSA15)

  • Dimensional Analysis and Scaling
  • Vectors
  • Classical Mechanics
  • Elasticity
  • Fluids and Gases
  • Thermal Physics

Auxiliary Physics IB (PHYSA16)

  • Waves and Sound
  • Electricity and Magnetism
  • Geometrical and Physical Objects
  • Polarisation
  • Atomic and Nuclear Physics
  • Physics II (Auxiliary)

Second Qualifying Course Auxiliary Physics IIA (PHYSB11)

  • Waves
  • Introduction to Quantum and Atomic Physics
  • Solid-state Physics
  • Thermal Physics

Auxiliary Physics IIB (PHYSB13)

  • Introduction to Electronics
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Special Relativity
  • Elementary Particles
  • History of Physics
  • Electronics Laboratory
  • Experimental or Computer-based Project

Experimental Auxiliary Physics (PHYSB61)
Intermediate-level set experiments

Physics IIA (Auxiliary) (PHYS210A)
Qualifying Course

  • Waves
  • Introduction to Atomic and Quantum Physics
  • Solid-state Physics
  • Thermal Physics

 

 

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