The goal of the Physics secondary field is to provide students with a quantitative introduction to the workings of the physical world, including the mind-bending but increasingly technologically important mysteries of quantum mechanics. The hierarchical structure of the field of physics makes it difficult for secondary field students to explore with the breadth and depth required for further work in physics; but the applications of Newtonian mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and waves/optics are so ubiquitous and important, and the concepts of special relativity and quantum mechanics so strange and wonderful, that these courses are far more than simply "consumption" of knowledge. They are designed to transform the way students understand and interact with the physical world.

Requirements 4 half-courses

  1. One course in electricity and magnetism -- an introduction to electricity and magnetism, at the level of Physics 15b or higher, including a treatment of electric and magnetic fields in materials, and Maxwell's equations in differential form.

  2. One course in wave phenomena and/or optics -- an introduction to the physics and mathematics of wave phenomena from coupled oscillators to physical optics at the level of Physics 15c or higher.

  3. One course in quantum mechanics -- a serious introduction to quantum mechanics at the level of Physics 143a or higher -- including wave and matrix mechanics, Dirac notation, the operator treatment of angular momentum, the hydrogen atom, and time-independent perturbation theory.

  4. One additional physics course at the 100 level or higher, exploring an important field in physics. For this purpose, Applied Physics courses, and other 100-level courses that count as Physics courses for the Physics concentration may also be applied to the secondary field. Suggested courses include: Physics 181, Physics 125, Physics 143b, and Physics 210.

Other Information

  1. Physics courses taken at other institutions may be substituted for substantially equivalent Harvard courses with the permission of the head tutor.

  2. Pass/Fail: No more than one course may be taken Pass/Fail.

  3. Mathematics background at least at the level of Math 21a and 21b are prerequisites for many of the courses in this program.

  4. The prerequisite for Physics 15b is Physics 15a or 16, or the permission of the head tutor.

Advising Resources and Expectations

Secondary field students should meet with the assistant head tutor, David Morin (  to make sure that they can satisfy the secondary field requirements. Students will be included with Physics and Chemistry & Physics concentrators in appropriate department meetings and social events if they are making satisfactory progress. Upon completion of the secondary field requirements, the assistant head tutor will review and approve the final form printed from the secondary fields web tool, confirming that the requirements have been met. This signed form must be submitted to the Registrar's office.

We encourage students interested in physics as a secondary field to submit their secondary fields course plan to the department as soon as possible after they have chosen a primary concentration. We will make every effort to encourage students interested in the secondary field to contact us for advising conversations in their freshman year.