Programme Description

Students majoring in Physical Sciences will explore some of the fundamental processes in matter, space, and time. How did the universe emerge? What is the structure of matter? What laws determine the behavior and interactions of the matter that comprises our planet and its life forms? Students will extend their interdisciplinary preparation in science provided by the Common Curriculum with a rigorous, in-depth sequence of courses that explore advanced topics in physics, chemistry, and space sciences. By integrating multiple disciplines and emphasizing the ability to understand physical concepts deeply, the major enables students to continuously question and refine their understanding of scientific issues and solve real-world problems. Students who major in physical sciences will be well-equipped for both scientific and non-scientific careers including graduate study in chemistry, physics, engineering, law, and medicine.

Structure Overview

The major requires 54MCs of coursework (ten 5MC courses and two 2MC “half” courses) including a capstone project, required courses, and elective courses that allow the student to specialize within the discipline. Students design a pathway in their chosen speciality in close consultation with a faculty advisor and with approval by the Head of Studies. Several illustrative pathways are provided below for students wishing to concentrate in chemistry or physics, as well as for students who want a truly interdisciplinary pathway. Courses taken while on study abroad or at NUS can count towards the major, either to replace a required course or as an upper-division elective in the major, with approval by the Head of Studies.

Requirements

All students in the Physical Sciences major are required to complete 54MC in the following:

  1. Either Accelerated Organic Chemistry (YSC2224) or Classical Mechanics (YSC2203)
  2. Either Mathematical Methods in Physical Sciences (YSC2205) or another suitable mathematics course (options listed below)
  3. Statistical Thermodynamics (YSC3224)
  4. A minimum of 25MCs (5 courses) in the Physical Sciences major, including
    1. At least one course that is laboratory-based (options listed below)
    2. No more than 2 introductory courses (options listed below)
  5. A year-long Physical Sciences Research Seminar (YSC4209; 2MCs in both Semesters 1 & 2)
  6. A year-long Physical Sciences Capstone Project (YSC4101; 5MCs in both Semesters 1 & 2)

Mathematics Requirement: Mathematical Methods in Physical Sciences (YSC2205) is cross-listed with Foundations of Applied Math (YSC3240) and is taught by the MCS faculty. Calculus (YSC1216 at Yale-NUS or MA1102R at NUS) will also fulfill the math requirement. However, students who wish to concentrate in physics will need to take math courses beyond calculus in order to be prepared for upper-division courses in the major. For students with sufficiently advanced math preparation, the following courses will also fulfill the math requirement with permission of the Head of Studies: Linear Algebra (YSC2232), Introduction to Real Analysis (YSC3206), Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations (YSC4220), or Complex Analysis (YSC4210).

Laboratory Requirement: The laboratory requirement can be fulfilled by taking any of Organic Chemistry Laboratory (YSC2222; strongly recommended as a co-enrollment with Accelerated Organic Chemistry), Experimental Methods in Physical Sciences (YSC2246), Experimental Physics Laboratory (YSC3213), or Inorganic Chemistry with Laboratory (YSC3228). Students are encouraged to take more than one lab-based course; those additional lab courses count towards the required 25MCs.

Introductory Courses: The two introductory courses currently offered that count towards the major are General Chemistry (YSC1207) and General Physics (YSC1213). Previously offered introductory courses that have been phased out but may still apply to current students include: Introduction to Optics & Imaging (YSC2214), Observational Astronomy & Astrophysics (YSC2217), and Survey of High Energy Physics Experiments (YSC2218). Note that certain introductory electives do not count towards the major. Please see the Introductory Electives for Non-Majors or consult with the Head of Studies.

Capstone: In their fourth year, students will complete a guided independent research project in Physical Sciences in consultation with a faculty advisor. The capstone can comprise original theoretical or experimental work in astronomy, chemistry, or physics. This academic experience will be an opportunity for the students to engage in cutting-edge research in physical sciences while synthesising what they have learned in their courses. The results of the capstone will also be communicated to their peers and faculty, using the presentations and writing styles consistent with practice in the professional scientific disciplines. For more details, see the capstone page.

Example Major Pathways

Below are several suggested pathways through the physical sciences major that capture the most common concentrations (chemistry, physics, or physical sciences) and entry points (students who enter knowing they want to major in physical sciences, and students who decide to major in physical sciences during their second year). Additional paths through the major are very possible, but these plans represent the most common routes and should be used to guide students’ course selections with advice from faculty. Students thinking they may want to apply to graduate programs are encouraged to start taking major requirements early.

Note that the “early start” pathways listed below include more courses than strictly required by the major in order to better-prepare students for graduate programs. The “late start” pathways fulfill the minimum requirements for the major, however there are open course slots that could be used to take additional upper-division courses as appropriate for students’ goals. For examples of advanced chemistry and physics electives, see the page on courses offered. For semesters where there are no Common Curriculum courses, we leave at least one class slot available so students can take courses outside of the major—an important part of a liberal arts education! You may also consult this interactive spreadsheet to design your path through the major.

Chemistry Pathway (Early Start):

Year Semester 1 Semester 2
1 ● 4x Common Curriculum ● 3x Common Curriculum
General Chemistry (YSC1207)
2 ● 2x Common Curriculum
Accelerated Organic Chemistry (YSC2224)
Organic Chemistry Lab (YSC2222)
Calculus (YSC1216 or MA1102R)
Experimental Methods in Physical Sciences (YSC2246)
Physical Chemistry (YSC2225)
3 General Physics (YSC1213)
● 2x Advanced chemistry electives or math courses
Statistical Thermodynamics (YSC3224)
Inorganic Chemistry with Lab (YSC3228)
● Advanced chemistry elective
4 Capstone (YSC4101)
Seminar (YSC4209)
● Advanced chemistry elective
Capstone (YSC4101)
Seminar (YSC4209)
● Advanced chemistry elective

Chemistry Pathway (Later Start, Minimum Requirements):

Year Semester 1 Semester 2
1 ● 4x Common Curriculum ● 3x Common Curriculum
2 ● 2x Common Curriculum Calculus (YSC1216 or MA1102R)
General Chemistry (YSC1207)
3 Accelerated Organic Chemistry (YSC2224)
Organic Chemistry Lab (YSC2222)
General Physics (YSC1213)
Physical Chemistry (YSC2225)
Statistical Thermodynamics (YSC3224)
● Advanced chemistry elective
4 Capstone (YSC4101)
Seminar (YSC4209)
Capstone (YSC4101)
Seminar (YSC4209)

Physics Pathway (Early Start):

Year Semester 1 Semester 2
1 ● 4x Common Curriculum ● 3x Common Curriculum
Calculus (YSC1216 or MA1102R)
2 ● 2x Common Curriculum
General Physics (YSC1213)
Mathematical Methods for Physical Sciences (YSC2205)
Classical Mechanics (YSC2203)
General Chemistry (YSC1207)
Either Experimental Methods for Physical Sciences (YSC2246) or Computational Methods for Physical Sciences (YSC2237)
3 Electrodynamics (YSC3211)
Quantum Mechanics (YSC3209)
● Advanced physics elective or math course
Statistical Thermodynamics (YSC3224)
Either Experimental Methods for Physical Sciences (YSC2246) or Computational Methods for Physical Sciences (YSC2237)
Experimental Physics Lab (YSC3213)
4 Capstone (YSC4101)
Seminar (YSC4209)
● Advanced physics elective
Capstone (YSC4101)
Seminar (YSC4209)
● Advanced physics elective

Physics Pathway (Later Start, Minimum Requirements):

Year Semester 1 Semester 2
1 ● 4x Common Curriculum ● 3x Common Curriculum
2 ● 2x Common Curriculum Calculus (YSC1216 or MA1102R)
General Chemistry (YSC1207)
3 General Physics (YSC1213)
Mathematical Methods for Physical Sciences (YSC2205)
Classical Mechanics (YSC2203)
Statistical Thermodynamics (YSC3224)
Experimental Methods for Physical Sciences (YSC2246)
4 Capstone (YSC4101)
Seminar (YSC4209)
Electrodynamics (YSC3211) and/or Quantum Mechanics (YSC3209)
Capstone (YSC4101)
Seminar (YSC4209)

Physical Sciences Pathway (Early Start):

Year Semester 1 Semester 2
1 ● 4x Common Curriculum ● 3x Common Curriculum
Calculus (YSC1216 or MA1102R)
2 ● 2x Common Curriculum
General Physics (YSC1213)
Mathematical Methods for Physical Sciences (YSC2205)
General Chemistry (YSC1207)
Either Experimental Methods for Physical Sciences (YSC2246) or Computational Methods for Physical Sciences (YSC2237)
Classical Mechanics (YSC2203)
3 Accelerated Organic Chemistry (YSC2224)
Organic Chemistry Lab (YSC2222)
● Either Electrodynamics (YSC3211) or Quantum Mechanics (YSC3209)
Statistical Thermodynamics (YSC3224)
Either Experimental Methods for Physical Sciences (YSC2246) or Computational Methods for Physical Sciences (YSC2237)
Either Physical Chemistry (YSC2225) or Inorganic Chemistry with Lab (YSC3228)
4 Capstone (YSC4101)
Seminar (YSC4209)
● Advanced chemistry or physics elective
Capstone (YSC4101)
Seminar (YSC4209)
● Advanced chemistry or physics elective

Physical Sciences Pathway (Later Start, Minimum Requirements):

Year Semester 1 Semester 2
1 ● 4x Common Curriculum ● 3x Common Curriculum
2 ● 2x Common Curriculum Calculus (YSC1216 or MA1102R)
General Chemistry (YSC1207)
3 General Physics (YSC1213)
Accelerated Organic Chemistry (YSC2224)
Organic Chemistry Lab (YSC2222)
Classical Mechanics (YSC2203)
Statistical Thermodynamics (YSC3224)
Either Experimental Methods for Physical Sciences (YSC2246) or Computational Methods for Physical Sciences (YSC2237)
4 Capstone (YSC4101)
Seminar (YSC4209)
Capstone (YSC4101)
Seminar (YSC4209)

 

Physical Sciences Minor

Students minoring in Physical Sciences must complete 25MCs (5 courses) chosen from among the list of courses that count toward the major. Note that, the Introductory Electives for Non-Majors listed on the Courses Offered page which do not count toward the major also do not count toward the minor.