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.