Physics Honours

Physics Honours is a rigorous six-semester programme designed to train students to become scientists. A five-semester sequence in mathematical physics supports courses in classical mechanics, electromagnetic theory, thermodynamics, optics, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and solid-state physics. Theory courses are reinforced by labs. Physics is complemented by pure mathematics, electronics, and chemistry.

What makes the physics experience at St Stephen’s special, over and above the syllabus (the same in all of Delhi University), are – 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. Theory courses offer us the opportunity to explore the combination of mathematical and intuitive thinking that is physics. Lab courses include the usual physics experiments, and, in addition, electronics, microprocessors, and numerical methods.  Students are encouraged not just to perform experiments but also to connect them with theory, to carry out error analysis, and sometimes to design them. Students use required projects to explore areas outside the curriculum but neighbouring it. Teachers and students alike work hard and think hard. And yet, there is an atmosphere of joyful camaraderie in the department. 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. In keeping with Stephanian tradition physics students get a lot of personal attention from teachers, an important source of encouragement and guidance.

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!).

The Stephanian physics experience reaches beyond the College into the research institutes – IISc, IMSc, HRI, SINP, JNCASR, and others – where many of our students get a taste of real science through summer projects.

At the end of three years at St Stephen’s our better students have a roundedness and solidity that most fresh graduates do not. A significant fraction of our students do PhDs at places like IISc, TIFR, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Oxford 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 join BSc (Hons) Physics needs to have done physics, chemistry, and mathematics at the higher secondary level. Familiarity with differentiation and integration is required, as all first-year courses are calculus-based.


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