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PHYS 2325-2326: Seminar for Physics Majors

Students studying physics together on Reading Day before final exams begin.

The PHYS 2325-2326 sequence provides first-year and transfer physics majors with a foundation for success in their undergraduate degree and subsequent careers by focusing on their problem solving skills and their ability to access information, evaluate existing knowledge and integrate knowledge and experience across various disciplines.  The fall/spring course sequence exposes students to the many arenas in which physicists work and help students develop career plans and goals. 

3 Things You Should Know About PHYS 2325-2326:

  1. Physicists have a specific productive way to think about solving problems, whether they are real-world problems or "textbook" problems. In this course, we help you understand and apply this way of "thinking like a physicist."
  2. Also, we also want to acquaint you with much of the research and other opportunities available in the department because we think all of you should engage in research before you graduate. We also encourage all of our students to engage in some teaching or outreach during their time at Virginia Tech.
  3. Finally, we want to introduce you to the interactive clubs and other activities available to students in the department, such as the Society of Physics Students, the Astronomy Club of Virginia Tech, and the Ladies of Robeson.

Key Learning Experience
The signature experience in our course is learning how to think like a physicist to solve problems. We start with ill-defined questions, so-called “Fermi Problems”, that require you to make assumptions to arrive at rough quantitative answers to questions such as: “How many slices of pizza are consumed in Blacksburg in a semester?”

We build upon this work, tacking "end of chapter" problems, and finally, a large real-world problem. Throughout all of this effort, you work in teams, as most physics learning and research is done today.

What is the most enjoyable part of the course? What can students learn from this part of the course?
We think that you will find the work on Fermi Problems to be pretty cool. It permeates much of the other problem-solving effort. You will learn flexibility in thinking and that one should jump right in, making bold, simplifying assumptions to get the creative problem-solving juices flowing.

Other Things to Know About PHYS 2325-2326?
All you need to succeed in this course is a healthy curiosity and willingness to work with others. No special equipment or supplies are needed, other than your brain and experiences!

Contacts: John Simonetti and Alma Robinson