Carnegie Mellon University

Department of Physics

Mellon College of Science

Program learning outcomes

Specific statements of what students should be able to do as a result of the department's curricular and co-curricular experiences have been developed for Physics majors and other majors taking one or more courses in the Physics Department.

Our most important outcome for all our students is that they enthusiastically engage in learning what is known about our world and develop a passion for participating in pushing the bounds of our knowledge even further.

Learning Outcomes for non-Physics Majors

All students should be able to: 

  • Explain how physics applies to phenomena in the world around them.

Students in physics courses that provide the foundation for later courses in their disciplines should additionally be able to: 

  • Recognize how and when physics methods and principles can help address problems in their major and then apply those methods and principles to solve problems in the majors.

Learning Outcomes for Physics Majors

Physicists are renowned for the power of their problem-solving capabilities. Great emphasis and effort is spent providing students with tools and methods to approach and solve increasingly challenging problems. We hope that these challenges will not only broaden and deepen students' skills but will amplify their drive to participate in discovery.

Essential Science and Mathematical Skills
Students should be able to solve complex and diverse problems by: 
  • recognizing universal physical laws relevant to the problem,
  • applying the relevant laws to the problem,
  • applying mathematical and computational techniques,
  • using experimental, computational, and/or theoretical methods, and
  • evaluating the limitations of their solutions.
Success in just about any environment also requires attention to professional and interpersonal skills reflected in the outcomes below. These skills balance, complement, and strengthen student core science and mathematical skills.

Core Professional Skills
Students should be able to: 
  • Critically assess their current state of knowledge and expertise, and develop, implement, and refine a plan to acquire new knowledge for specific scientific goals and in pursuit of new intellectual interests
  • Communicate effectively via oral, visual, and written formats to diverse STEM audiences.
  • Use the appropriate tools and requisite media literacy to acquire, assess, and analyze data and information from diverse sources.
Other Global Professional Skills
Students should be able to: 
  • Articulate how one's own developing skills in science and technology can be increasingly used in constructive community service or engagement that recognizes the potential impact on local and global issues, including environmental impact and sustainability.
  • Participate effectively in multidisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary teams.