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MIT Admissions


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MIT Undergraduate Departments
Department of Physics
Course 8
Programs Offered: Major, Double Major, Minor
Department Head: Peter Fisher
Department Headquarters: 4-304
Undergraduate Administrator: Catherine Modica
Undergraduate Office: 4-315
UROP Coordinator: Nergis Mavalvala

The Physics Department is in the School of Science. The physics major is known as Course 8.


Overview and History

The physics department has about 80 undergraduates per year.

8-Focused and 8-Flexible

There are two course tracks for physics majors at MIT: focused and flexible, which have slightly different class requirements. The focused option is designed to provide the best possible preparation for graduate study in physics. The flexible option is designed for students who wish to develop a strong background in the fundamentals of physics and then build on this foundation as they prepare for career paths that may not involve a graduate degree in physics. However, the 8-flexible track still requires coursework comparable to that of other universities and does not preclude the possibility of graduate school in physics. The class requirements between the 8-Focused and 8-Flexible options share the same basic core set of requirements and differ in their upper level coursework.

8-Focused Course Requirements

  • 8.03 Physics III (vibrations and waves)
  • 18.03 or 18.034 Differential Equations
  • 8.033 Relativity
  • 8.223 (IAP) Classical Mechanics II (Class of 2013 and later)
  • 8.04 Quantum Mechanics I
  • 8.044 Statistical Physics I
  • 8.05 Quantum Mechanics II
  • 8.06 CI-M Quantum Mechanics III
  • 8.13 CI-M Experimental Physics I
  • 8.14 Experimental Physics II
  • 8.ThU Thesis (12 units)

Restricted Electives
One subject given by the Mathematics Department beyond 18.03.
Two additional subjects given by the Physics Department beyond 8.02 including at least one of the following: 8.07, 8.08, 8.09.

8-Flexible Course Requirements

  • 8.03 Physics III (vibrations and waves)
  • 18.03 or 18.034 Differential Equations
  • 8.04 Quantum Mechanics I
  • 8.044 Statistical Physics I
  • and one of the following subjects:
  • 8.05 Quantum Mechanics II, or
  • 8.20 Introduction to Special Relativity, or
  • 8.033 Relativity
  • and one of the following subjects (Class of 2013 and later):
  • 8.223 (IAP) Classical Mechanics II, or
  • 8.21 Physics of Energy

and one of the following experimental experiences (subject to approval):

  • 8.13 CI-M Experimental Physics I
  • or a laboratory subject of similar intensity in another dept.
  • or an experimental research project or senior thesis
  • or an experimentally oriented summer externship

Restricted Electives
One additional subject given by the Physics Department beyond 8.02.
A three-subject focus group forming one coherent unit in some area, not necessarily physics, subject to the approval of the Department.

Examples of Focus Groups


  • 12.400 (3-0-9) The Solar System
  • 8.284 (3-0-9) Modern Astrophysics
  • 8.286 (3-0-9) The Early Universe
  • to satisfy the experimental requirement: 12.410J (2-4-6) Observational Techniques of Optical Astronomy


  • 7.03 (4-0-8) Genetics
  • 7.05 (5-0-7) General Biochemistry
  • 8.593J (formerly 8.515J) (4-0-8) Biological Physics
  • to satisfy the experimental requirement: 7.02 (2-8-5) Introduction to Experimental Biology

Computational Physics

  • 6.001 (5-3-7) Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs
  • 18.330 (3-0-9) Introduction to Numerical Analysis
  • 6.042J (5-0-7) Mathematics for Computer Science
  • to satisfy the experimental requirement: 8.13 (0-6-12) Experimental Physics I


  • 8.231 (4-0-8) Physics of Solids I
  • 6.152J (3-4-5) Microelectronics Processing Technology
  • 6.781 (3-0-9) Submicrometer and Nanometer Technology
  • to satisfy the experimental requirement: Summer externship at Lucent Technologies, Bell Laboratories

Philosophy of Science

  • 8.06 (formerly 8.059) (3-0-9) Quantum Physics III
  • 24.111 (3-0-9) Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics
  • 24.215 (3-0-9) Topics in the Philosophy of Science
  • to satisfy the experimental requirement: 8.13 (0-6-12) Experimental Physics I

History of Science

  • 8.286 (3-0-9) The Early Universe
  • STS.003 (3-0-9) The Rise of Modern Science
  • STS.023J (2-6-4) Historic Experimentation
  • to satisfy the experimental requirement: 8.13 (0-6-12) Experimental Physics I

Science Teaching

  • A relativity subject if not chosen under required subjects; otherwise, another core science subject beyond the GIRs
  • 8.299 (arranged) Physics Teaching
  • 11.124 (3-6-3) Introduction to Teaching and Learning Mathematics and Science
  • to satisfy the experimental requirement: 8.13 (0-6-12) Experimental Physics I


  • 14.01 (3-0-9) Principles of Microeconomics
  • 14.02 (3-0-9) Principles of Macroeconomics
  • 15.501 (3-0-9) Introduction to Financial and Management Accounting

Medicine or Law

  • A set of subjects comprising part of a pre-medical or pre-law program
  • We suggest that the student consult with premed and pre-law advisors

Lab Requirement

To satisfy the institute requirement of 12 units of lab credit, most physics majors take 8.13: Experimental Physics I, colloquially known as Junior Lab. In Junior Lab, students recreate defining experiments that resulted in major breakthroughs in the field, such as measuring the speed of light from the detection of muons, looking at emission lines of various elements to determine hyperfine splitting, or confirming the theory of dark matter by measuring the rotation of galaxies. Students perform four separate experiments over the course of one semester. Due to the fact that a successful completion of 8.13 also grants credit towards MIT's communication requirement, students are required to give a 15-minute presentation of each experiment and will receive feedback from communication instructors regarding their performance. Students are also required to submit a report for each experiment written in the same form and to the same level as a peer-reviewed journal article, for which they will also receive feedback in order to prepare them for paper publications in reputable science journals.

8.14, the continuation of 8.13, is required for all 8-focused physics majors and is an elective for 8-Flexible students. 8.14 is structured similarly to 8.13, but features different experiments.

Communication Requirement

8-Focused students will take 8.13 and 8.06: Quantum Physics III to fulfill their major communication requirement. 8-Flexible students often take 8.13, but are free to choose another class that fulfills their communication requirement from either the physics department or another department if together they form a natural part of the student's individual program.

Student Organizations in Physics

There are two student organizations for physics students at MIT. The SPS (society of physics students) hosts regular events, such as the Physics Rock Concert, and helps connect students with the larger SPS network. UWIP (undergraduate women in physics) hosts events as well, and has some useful resources on their website.

External Links