Department of Physics and Pre-Engineering Program

College of the Sciences and Mathematics

127 Merion Science Center
Department of Physics
Anthony J. Nicastro, Chairperson

The Department of Physics offers three undergraduate degree programs:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:

Cooperative Physics/Engineering Programs

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
  • Computer Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Energy Engineering
  • Engineering Science
  • Environmental Systems Engineering
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mining Engineering
  • Nuclear Engineering

A similar, dual degree cooperative physics/engineering program is available through West Chester University’s affiliation with the School of Design and Engineering of Philadelphia University. This program is available to all freshmen as well as transfer students. Areas of study in engineering at Philadelphia University are the B.S.E. programs in general engineering and mechanical engineering with minor tracks in industrial, architectural, composites, and textile engineering. 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.

Majors in Physics and Pre-Engineering

Minor in Physics and Pre-Engineering

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 for all physics courses.

AP Test Score on AP Test 4 5
Physics BPHY 130PHY 130
Physics C MechanicsPHY 170PHY 170
Physics C Electricity and MagnetismPHY 180PHY 180


Kevin B. Aptowicz (2005)

B.S., Columbia University; M.S., University of Colorado; Ph.D., Yale University

Anthony J. Nicastro (1990)

Chairperson, Physics and Pre-Engineering Program

B.S., B.S., M.S., Ph.D., University of Delaware

Associate Professors

Jeffrey Sudol (2007)

B.A., Macalester College; Ph.D., University of Wyoming

Robert J. Thornton (2008)

B.S., Lehigh University; Ph.D., University of Hawaii

Matthew M. Waite (2001)

B.A., Gettysburg College; Ph.D., University of Delaware

Assistant Professors

Tianran Chen (2014)

B.S., Zhejiang University; Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Anil Kumar Kandalam (2012)

B.Sc., Osmania University; M.Sc., University of Hyderabad; Ph.D., Michigan Technological University

Gary Pascuzzo (2016)

B.S., State University of New York at Stony Brook; Ph.D., Colorado State University

Shawn Pfeil (2012)

B.S., University of California, San Diego; M.A., Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara


Michelle Caler (2016)

PhD University of Pennsylvania

How to Read Course Descriptions


PHY 100. Elements of Physical Science. 3 Credits.

A study of motion, energy, light, and some aspects of modern physics.
Gen Ed Attribute: Science Distributive Requirement.
Distance education offering may be available.
Typically offered in Fall & Spring.

PHY 105. Structure of the Universe. 3 Credits.

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.
Gen Ed Attribute: Science Distributive Requirement.
Typically offered in Fall & Spring.

PHY 115. Engineering Graphics I. 1 Credit.

Use and preparation of engineering drawings. Topics include the use of instruments, linework, geometric construction, lettering, four types of projections, dimensioning, and sections.
Typically offered in Fall.

PHY 116. Engineering Graphics II. 1 Credit.

A continuation of PHY 115, to include topics such as layout, detail, and assembly drawings, developments, auxiliary drawings, various types of drafting, machine tool processes, and computer drafting.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 116 requires prerequisite of PHY 115.
Typically offered in Spring.

PHY 123. Food, Fire, and Physics: The Science of Cooking. 3 Credits.

An exploration of food and cooking from a physical science perspective. Principles of soft matter physics (e.g. phase diagram, intermolecular forces, rheology, diffusion, self-assembly, polymer physics) are discussed and used to gain insight into food and cooking.
Gen Ed Attribute: Science Distributive Requirement.
Typically offered in Spring.

PHY 125. Theology and Science: Enemies or Partners. 3 Credits.

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.
Typically offered in Spring.
Cross listed courses PHI125, PHY125.

PHY 130. General Physics I. 4 Credits.

LEC (3), LAB (2)
An introductory, noncalculus, physics course. Mechanics of solids and fluids, wave motion, heat and temperature, thermodynamics, and kinetic theory.
Gen Ed Attribute: Science Distributive Requirement.
Typically offered in Fall, Spring & Summer.

PHY 140. General Physics II. 4 Credits.

LEC (3), LAB (2)
An extension of PHY 130. Electricity and magnetism, geometrical and physical optics, and modern physics.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 140 requires prerequisite of PHY 130.
Gen Ed Attribute: Science Distributive Requirement.
Typically offered in Fall, Spring & Summer.

PHY 170. Physics I. 4 Credits.

LEC (3), LAB (2), DIS (1)
An introductory laboratory-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.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 170 requires a prerequisite of MAT 161.
Gen Ed Attribute: Science Distributive Requirement.
Typically offered in Fall & Spring.

PHY 180. Physics II. 4 Credits.

LEC (3), LAB (2), DIS (1)
A continuation of PHY 170. Includes electricity and magnetism, geometrical and physical optics, electronics, and modern physics.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 180 requires prerequisite of PHY 170 and co-requisite of MAT 162.
Gen Ed Attribute: Science Distributive Requirement.
Typically offered in Fall & Spring.

PHY 240. Introduction to Modern Physics. 3 Credits.

An atomic view of electricity and radiation, atomic theory, special relativity theory, X-rays, radioactivity, nuclear fission, and introductory quantum mechanics.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 240 requires prerequisites of PHY 140 or PHY 180 and MAT 162.
Typically offered in Spring & Summer.

PHY 260. Engineering Statics. 3 Credits.

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.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 260 requires prerequisites of PHY 130 or PHY 170 and MAT 162.
Typically offered in Spring.

PHY 300. Mechanics. 3 Credits.

Particle kinematics, dynamics, energy, and momentum considerations; oscillations; central force motion; accelerated reference frames; rigid body mechanics; Lagrangian mechanics.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 300 requires prerequisites of PHY 140 or PHY 180 and MAT 162.
Typically offered in Fall.

PHY 310. Intermediate Physics Lab I. 2 Credits.

A laboratory course to familiarize students with laboratory equipment and methods by performing a series of classical and modern physics experiments. The results of these are reported through both oral presentations and written reports.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 310 requires co-requisite of PHY 240.
Gen Ed Attribute: Writing Emphasis.
Typically offered in Fall & Spring.

PHY 320. Intermediate Physics Lab II. 2 Credits.

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.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 320 requires prerequisites of PHY 310 and CSC 141.
Gen Ed Attribute: Writing Emphasis.
Typically offered in Fall & Spring.

PHY 330. Electronics I. 3 Credits.

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.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 330 requires prerequisites of MAT 161 and PHY 140 or PHY 180.
Typically offered in Fall.

PHY 350. Heat and Thermodynamics. 3 Credits.

Equations of state, first and second laws of thermodynamics, ideal and real gases, entropy, and statistical mechanics.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 350 requires prerequisite of PHY 240 or co-requisite of MAT 262.
Typically offered in Fall.

PHY 370. Mathematical Physics. 3 Credits.

Selected topics in mathematics applied to problems in physics, ordinary differential equations, vector calculus, Fourier analysis, matrix algebra, and eigenvalue problems.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 370 requires prerequisites of MAT 261 and PHY 140 or PHY 180.
Typically offered in Fall & Spring.

PHY 390. Fundamentals of Astrophysics. 3 Credits.

An advanced physics course that deals with a broad range of topics in modern astrophysics. Topics include, but are not limited to, astronomical measurements, celestial mechanics, radiative transfer theory, stellar structure, and both newtonian and relativistic cosmology.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 390 requires prerequisites of PHY 240.
Typically offered in Spring.

PHY 400. Analytical Dynamics. 3 Credits.

Wave propagation, Lagrange's equations and Hamilton's principle, rigid body motion, and special relativity.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 400 requires prerequisites of PHY 300 and MAT 343.
Typically offered in Spring.

PHY 410. Optics. 3 Credits.

Geometrical and physical optics. Reflection and refraction at surfaces, lenses, interference and diffraction, and polarization.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 410 requires prerequisites of PHY 140 or PHY 180 and co-requisite of MAT 262.
Typically offered in Fall.

PHY 420. Atomic Physics & Quantum Mechanics. 3 Credits.

Fundamental concepts of quantum mechanics with application to atomic physics. Topics covered are Bohr model, Schrodinger equation with applications, perturbation theory, helium atom, and scattering theory.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 420 requires prerequisites of PHY 240 and PHY 300 and MAT 343 or PHY 370.
Typically offered in Spring.

PHY 430. Electricity and Magnetism. 3 Credits.

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.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 430 requires prerequisites of PHY 300 and MAT 343 or PHY 370.
Typically offered in Spring.

PHY 440. Microcomputer Electronics. 3 Credits.

Laboratory study of special circuits, integrated circuits, microcomputers, and microcomputer interface applications.
Pre / Co requisites: PHY 440 requires prerequisites of PHY 330 and MAT 343 or PHY 370.
Typically offered in Spring.

PHY 450. Advanced Physics Lab I. 1 Credit.

A course to familiarize students with contemporary laboratory equipment and methods.
Typically offered in Fall.

PHY 460. Advanced Physics Lab II. 1 Credit.

A continuation of PHY 450.
Typically offered in Spring.

PHY 470. Seminar in Physics. 1 Credit.

Oral and written reports on approved topics. Variation in topics from year to year, depending on the interest and needs of students.
Typically offered in Spring.
Repeatable for Credit.

PHY 480. Special Topics in Physics. 1-3 Credits.

Topics of special interest to be presented once or twice. Enrollment requirements to be specified by the instructor. Course may be repeated by student for credit any number of times when different topics are presented.
Typically offered in Spring.
Repeatable for Credit.

PHY 490. Introduction to Research. 1-9 Credits.

Specific problems in consultation with the faculty adviser.
Typically offered in Fall.
Repeatable for Credit.