FAQs

Questions about Majoring in Physical Science

What is the Physical Sciences Major?

The Physical Sciences major, encompassing the standard subjects of Physics, Chemistry, and Astronomy, explores some of the most fundamental processes in matter, energy, space and time. How did the universe emerge? What is the structure of matter? What physical laws determine the properties of the matter that comprises our planet and its life forms? The major emphasises the ability to understand physical concepts deeply and to solve real world scientific problems, which necessitates clear empirical observation, critical thinking, mathematical reasoning, and thorough analysis. The tangible skills acquired while pursuing the major including rigorous scientific research and technical problem solving, numerical simulation and theoretical modelling are attractive to employers in both scientific and non-scientific sectors.

 

What do I have to do for the Physical Sciences major?

All majors at Yale-NUS College require the completion of 9 modules/courses (including required modules) plus a Capstone research project in the final year. Please see the detailed requirements for the Physical Sciences major here.

A Physical Sciences student can choose to focus on modules within the standard fields of Physics or Chemistry, or explore an interdisciplinary pathway covering different subjects under the Physical Sciences umbrella. Each student within the major receives close advising from a faculty member to devise a course plan most appropriate for their interests and career goals. Examples of pathways within the Physical Sciences can be found on the bottom half of the Physical Sciences requirements page.

Can I go on to graduate school after a major in Physical Sciences at Yale-NUS?

Yes, you can. Every year, about half our graduates in the Physical Sciences major consider graduate school as their next step. Our Physical Sciences alumni thus far have gone on to Master’s and PhD programmes in Physics, Chemistry, and Astronomy, at places including Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale.

Because different graduate programmes can have different expectations for the undergraduate courses a student should have taken, students considering graduate studies are urged to consult with their Physical Sciences faculty advisor early on in the major, to figure out an appropriate course plan.

What can I do with a major in Physical Sciences?

Students graduating with a major in Physical Sciences have access to a large variety of career paths. In Singapore, data gathered by the National University of Singapore show that Physical Sciences majors who directly enter the workforce span a wide range of sectors, including Teaching (28%), Managerial positions (22%), Engineering (13%), Information Technology (11%), and Finance (4%). Many Physical Sciences graduates go on to pursue a graduate programme, often in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy, or Mathematics. The critical thinking and rigorous analytical skills developed within the Physical Sciences major result in versatile workers able to excel in many different areas

For more information on careers after a Physical Sciences major, please consult the CIPE career services.

What do I have to do for a Physical Sciences major?

All majors at Yale-NUS College require the completion of 9 courses plus a capstone research project.  For the Physical Science major this includes general physics, general chemistry, mathematical methods for physical scientists, statistical thermodynamics and either classical mechanics or organic chemistry.  For additional details see: https://www.yale-nus.edu.sg/curriculum/majors/physical-sciences/

Who do I contact with questions about the major?

You can direct questions about the Physical Sciences minor to the Physical Sciences Head of Studies (currently Professor Steven Bernasek). Any of the faculty members in the Physical Sciences major will also be happy to chat with you. Please see the full list of our faculty.

Questions about Minoring in Physical Science

I want to major in another subject. Can I also minor in Physical Sciences?

Yes, you can. If you come from another major, you can declare a minor in Physical Sciences, with the requirement that you complete 5 modules (25 MCs) within or related to Physical Sciences. Modules not offered by the Physical Sciences major, but for which you believe are sufficiently related to Physical Sciences, have to be approved by the Physical Sciences Head of Studies (currently Professor Steven Bernasek) to count towards the minor. All the 25 MCs, like major modules, must be taken for a letter grade unless there is an eligible exception outlined in the undergraduate regulations handbook.

Who do I contact with further questions about the Physical Sciences minor?

You can direct questions about the Physical Sciences minor to the Physical Sciences Head of Studies (currently Professor Steven Bernasek). Any of the faculty members in the Physical Sciences major will also be happy to chat with you. Please see the full list of our faculty.

As a Physical Sciences minor, do I also have to take the required modules for Physical Sciences majors?

No, you do not have to take all the required modules for Physical Sciences majors. The only current requirement for the minor is 25 MCs of modules within or related to Physical Sciences. However, do note that many of the required modules for Physical Sciences majors form the foundational basis for the subject, so they may anyway be good courses to consider for your minor. Please also be aware that some of the required modules are pre-requisites to higher-level Physical Sciences modules. Consult the Yale-NUS course catalogue Yale-NUS course catalogue for the pre-requisites for each module.

Modules Within the Physical Sciences Major

How often are core modules offered?

Physical Sciences core modules are normally offered once a year. These include General Physics, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Classical Mechanics, Physical Chemistry, Electrodynamics, Quantum Mechanics, and Inorganic chemistry. Other modules may be offered once a year or every two years, depending on the demand.

What if I have module conflicts?

Please contact the Head of Studies for the major and the module instructor(s) as soon as you notice a problem. Unfortunately, because of time and room constraints, as well as constraints imposed by other students and faculty, not all conflicts can be resolved, but the earlier you alert us to the issue, the more likely it can be resolved.

Should the Physical Sciences modules be taken in a specific order?

In principle, no. However, there are various pedagogical reasons to consider when charting your course through the major. Many modules in Physical Sciences have specified pre-requisite modules that have to be completed before you can even enrol in them. The required modules for the major are also generally foundational courses that should be taken early on in the major. As a general guide, modules with lower course numbers should be taken earlier than those with higher course numbers, i.e., level-1000 modules should be taken in the first/second year, level-2000 modules should be taken in the second/third year, and level-3000 and above modules should be taken in the third/fourth year. Students are urged to discuss their course plans with their faculty advisors, for a reasonable sequencing of modules.

What if I am interested in taking elective courses offered by another major at Yale-NUS College? Can I count this towards the requirements of the Physical Sciences major?

In general, the module must be sufficiently related to Physical Sciences to be counted towards the major. This can include modules offered by other majors in Yale-NUS that are cross-listed within the Physical Sciences modules. For other modules not offered by the Physical Sciences major, approval from the Physical Sciences Head of Studies must be sought, with sufficient reasons provided, for them to be counted towards the major.

Exceptions to the rule are MCS modules explicitly stated to satisfy the Physical Sciences Mathematics requirement; see the Physical Sciences major requirements page for the list of such courses.

Note that you cannot double count the same course for your major and your minor

Can I or should I take modules at NUS? Do they count towards the Physical Sciences major?

We are fortunate to have NUS next door with large Physics and Chemistry departments. We offer a wide variety of modules here in Yale-NUS, and it is usually pedagogically more coherent to complete the slew of basic courses in Yale-NUS, but if there is something of particular interest to you that we do not offer here, please do take advantage of the offerings in NUS. This is particularly true of high-level specialized modules, for which NUS often has a much larger menu because of its large size. Find more information about NUS course offerings here

Modules taken at NUS Physics and Chemistry departments can generally be counted towards the Physical Sciences major here, provided they are taken for a letter grade, and that you do not fall below the number of MCs required to be done at Yale-NUS, as prescribed in the undergraduate regulations handbook. Modules taken at other NUS departments can also potentially be counted, if they are sufficiently related to Physical Sciences; these require approval from the Physical Sciences Head of Studies. If you are unsure if a module counts towards the major requirements, consult with your faculty advisor and/or the Head of Studies before signing up for it.

What if I am interested in taking modules while on a study-abroad programme? Do they count towards the Physical Sciences major?

Our students often do a single semester abroad. Modules taken during that semester abroad can be counted towards the Physical Sciences major if they overlap significantly with core Physical Sciences modules (and taken in their place) at Yale-NUS, or are sufficiently advanced modules in a Physical Sciences discipline. These all require transfer-of-credit approvals through CIPE and the Physical Sciences Head of Studies. If you are unsure if a study-abroad module counts towards the major requirements, consult with your faculty advisor and/or the Head of Studies before signing up for it.

What Physical Sciences modules are being offered this year?

The Physical Sciences modules offered each semester can vary from year to year. For the list of modules being offered this year, please consult the Yale-NUS course catalogue.

 

Research Opportunities

When should I start doing research in Physical Sciences?

Many students in Yale-NUS are interested in doing some research in during their four years here, even before embarking on their Capstone project in the final year. In fact, we encourage all our students to start participating in research projects early on in their Yale-NUS journey. Many students eventually taking up the Physical Sciences major already take part in research with our faculty in Year 1, often through the Summer Research Programme organized by CIPE. Starting on research early, even just through simple projects, allows you to pick up research skills and explore different topics and interests. These experiences will be useful throughout your years at Yale-NUS and beyond, and can guide your choice of Capstone project for the major.

How can I go about looking for research opportunities with a Physical Sciences faculty?

The first experience at research for many students is through the Summer Research Programme organized by CIPE every year. In addition, if you are interested in doing research during the semester, please talk to our Physical Sciences faculty directly to express your interest and find out about research opportunities. You can read about what our Physical Sciences faculty do for research on the faculty pages, and contact those whose work you are curious to learn more about.

Capstone Projects

Where can I find information about the Physical Sciences Capstone project?

The description of the Physical Sciences Capstone project requirements can be found here. There, you can find information on the nature and learning goals of the Capstone project, the assessment guidelines, as well as the list of past projects done by our Physical Sciences students.

Where can I find general research advice and guidance on things like how to manage a large research project, track my sources, avoid plagiarism, research ethics, etc.?

Your first point of contact will be your Capstone supervisor, once you have settled on the project. In addition, some of these points will be covered in the Capstone Research Seminar that you will take in Year 4 alongside your Capstone project. The Physical Sciences Head of Studies, Capstone Coordinator, and other Physical Sciences faculty are always available to talk about these issues, if you need more help. The library also has various resources we encourage you to use.

 

When and how should I start thinking about my Capstone project?

You should start thinking about your Capstone project plans already in Year 3. Students usually settle on a Capstone project arrangement with a Physical Sciences faculty at the start or during the summer leading up to their fourth year, so that they are ready to embark on the project right at the beginning of Year 4. Start by thinking about what general area you might want to work in and contact potential faculty members for advice and help in devising a suitable project. Often, faculty members you have worked with before on previous research projects can be good starting points. You can also consult with the Physical Sciences Head of Studies for general advice on the scope and viability of your project, as well as for ideas on potential Capstone supervisors.

Can I work with a professor at NUS or an external supervisor on my Capstone project?

Yes, with the permission of the Physical Sciences Head of Studies, and, of course, only if the arrangement is viable (e.g., the physical lab is within easy access). Our students sometimes choose to work with supervisors outside of Yale-NUS when their specific interests do not match those of our faculty. A Yale-NUS co-supervisor will be assigned in such cases, to monitor the progress and to offer guidance on standards and regulations for a Yale-NUS Capstone project.

Is there any funding related to Capstone projects?

Yes, Capstone projects come with a small amount of funding that can be requested to cover the costs of consumables and small equipment. The funding request process usually opens before or at the start of the project; look out for the announcement from the College.