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At St Stephen’s College, as part of the four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP) introduced in Delhi University in July 2013, physics is offered as a primary discipline (DC1), a secondary discipline (DC II), and as applied courses (ACs).

The DC1 track – which replaces the three-year BSc (Hons) – provides a strong foundation in physics. Mathematical physics, traditionally the strength of Physics Honours, remains strong in the new programme. Classical mechanics, electromagnetic theory, thermodynamics, optics, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, solid-state physics, and electronics are taught at a level comparable to that in good undergraduate programmes throughout the world. There continues to be a lot of lab time. In addition, there are opportunities in semesters 7 and 8 for students to engage in research. In other words, those who choose physics as DC1 are trained for careers in physics teaching and research.

The physics courses offered in the DC II track – open from the second year and only to those who have chosen something other than physics as DC I – provides enough of an introduction to the subject for those who take them to get a good idea of the physicist’s view of the world. Though less wide-ranging and intensive than DC I physics, the DC II courses are rigorous enough for a student who does all six of them to qualify for admission to a master’s degree in the subject. To be able to cope with DC II physics courses, a student should have done calculus-based physics and mathematics at the high school (plus 2) level.

The Applied Courses in physics are open to students from all disciplines from the second year and are technically less demanding.

Students who choose the DC I physics track get the full Stephanian physics experience. What makes this experience special, over and above the syllabus and course structure (the same in all of Delhi University), is – the dedication of its teachers, the quality of its students, and the unique atmosphere of the college. At their best our teachers require their students to learn honestly, think independently, recognize quality, and develop the confidence to create rather than merely reproduce. And our students, at their best, keep their teachers and one another on their toes. The quality of the students and the atmosphere of the college give teachers the freedom to go beyond the confines of the syllabus. Though the pressure of tests and projects cannot be denied, it is not relentless – there is time enough for discussion and dreaming, for participation in extra-curricular activities, and for fun and fellowship.

Outside the classroom we have the Physics Society. It organizes the annual Popli Memorial Lecture Series by a distinguished scientist. It has a problem-solving club, and once a year we have the Popli Memorial Aptitude test. There is the annual Meera Memorial Paper-presentation Competition for students. The Society runs a forum called the Feynman Club at which students, old students, and visitors present ideas and discoveries in physics. It has an Astronomy Club, which uses a couple of small telescopes to gaze at stars. It organizes trips to national labs and observatories (and hill stations!).

Physics at St Stephen’s reaches beyond the College into the research institutes – IISc, IMSc, HRI, SINP, JNCASR, NCRA, TIFR and others – where many of our students do summer projects requiring exploration and discovery beyond the curriculum. The research component in the fourth year of the FYUP is intended to make such open-ended discovery a part of every student’s college experience.

We believe that the best physics graduates from St Stephen’s have a roundedness, a solidity, and an openness to possibilities that most fresh graduates elsewhere may lack. A significant fraction of our students do PhDs at places like IISc, TIFR, Harvard, Yale, Stony Brook, Cornell, and Cambridge, and go on to become scientists. The analytical skills learnt by our students prove useful also to those who move into fields like Computer Science, Engineering, Geophysics, Economics, and Finance.

A student wishing to do DC I physics needs to have done physics, chemistry, and mathematics at the higher secondary (plus 2) level. Familiarity with differentiation and integration is required, as all first-year courses are calculus-based. 

 


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