CEP approves physics optionBy Mathews M. Cherian
The Committee on Educational Policy and the Committee on Curricula have approved an electrical engineering option for the Department of Physics, according to Alan J. Lazarus '53, academic officer of undergraduate physics.
The physics department has labelled the program VIII-A. It offers the new option in cooperation with the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).
The committees approved the program on an experimental basis, Lazarus said. They will re-evaluate the program after two or three years to see whether or not it is successful.
Students who complete the VIII-A program will receive the degree of Bachelor of Science in Physics and a letter from both the physics and EECS departments that certify successful completion of the program.
The VIII-A program can be completed within the normal 360 units required for the S. B. degree, Lazarus said. The degree will require five subjects in addition to the subjects in the regular physics program: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (6.001), Circuits and Electronics (6.002), Signals and Systems (6.003), Electronic Devices and Circuits (6.012) and Electromagnetism II (8.07).
Students will use all but nine of their elective units to complete the program without exceeding 360 units, Lazarus said.
Students can sign up for the program anytime. "You don't have to embark on a program," Lazarus said. "You won't lose anything if you change your mind." The VIII-A program is simply a "structured way to spend elective units," Lazarus continued. "There is no obligation."
The program suits experimental physics majors particularly well, in addition to students who plan to enter industry, according to Lazarus.
He hopes the program will attract students who have a basic interest in physics but tend not to major in the department because they feel the field offers fewer employment opportunities.
President Paul E. Gray '54 conducted a symposium last year on EECS overcrowding. Several students at that symposium said they would have majored in physics if they had thought jobs were available for graduates with a S. B. in physics, according to Lazarus. These comments played a major role in the creation of the VIII-A program.
The VIII-A program will "assure students who are interested in physics that they won't be taking an economic penalty," Lazarus said. "I guess part of it is to assure their parents also."
But Lazarus pointed out that the fear that physics majors have few job opportunities is completely unfounded. A survey of the Class of 1984 revealed that the median salary of a graduate with an S. B. in physics is equivalent to that of a graduate with an S. B. in electrical engineering.
As long as doubts about physics exist, though, the VIII-A program will reduce barriers for anyone who feels they might be interested in that field. "It will allow them to float between departments to get a feel of what they're like," Lazarus said.