Core Curriculum Reform

TO: CALTECH COMMUNITY

 

FROM: OFFICERS OF THE FACULTY

Sossina Haile, Faculty Chair (Chair of the Faculty Board) John Dabiri, Vice-Chair of the Faculty (and of the Faculty Board) Fiona Cowie, Secretary of the Faculty (and of the Faculty Board)

 

SUBJECT: CORE CURRICULUM REFORM

DATE: 3/30/2012

 

On Monday, March 19th the Faculty Board voted to make important changes to the core curriculum requirements for a Caltech Bachelor's degree. This outcome follows an extensive period of campus-wide discussion and debate regarding how the core curriculum can best meet the needs of Caltech students. We would like to take this opportunity to alert you of those changes, with the particular aim of allowing the options, in consultation with the relevant constituencies, to redesign their degree requirements accordingly. This memo deals specifically with the changes in the math and physics requirements, which have particular relevance for defining option requirements. No other changes to the science requirements have been acted upon by the Faculty Board.

 

Math and Physics changes to the Core for students entering in fall 2013:

 

1. Reduce the requirement in mathematics to 27 units from the current 45 units. All students will be required to take Ma 1abc (Calculus of One and Several Variables and Linear Algebra). The requirement that students enroll in Ma 2ab is removed.

 

2. Reduce the requirement in physics to 27 units from the current 45 units. All students will be required to take Ph 1abc (Classical Mechanics and Electromagnetism). The requirement that students enroll in Ph 2ab is removed.

 

 

Anticipated changes to formerly core courses (earliest implementation: fall 2014):

 

With the removal of Ma 2 and Ph 2 from the core curriculum, oversight of these courses shifts from the Core Curriculum Steering Committee to the Curriculum Committee. As of yet, the Faculty Board has not acted to implement any specific changes to these courses. However, the following revisions have been discussed.

 

1. The mathematics faculty has proposed that the current Ma 2ab would be divided into two courses: Ma 2 (Differential Equations) and Ma 3 (Probability and Statistics). These courses would have Ma 1 as a prerequisite; Ma 2 would not be required for Ma 3.

 

2. The physics faculty has proposed that the current two-term Ph 2ab would be expanded to a three-term sequence Ph 2abc (Ph 2a Waves and Vibrations; Ph 2b Quantum Mechanics; Ph 2c Statistical Physics). It is possible Ph 2c, which could be taught so as not to rely on Ph 2b, would be renumbered to show that it is not formally part of the Ph 2 sequence. Ph 2a would remain a requirement for Statistical Physics.

 

 

It is anticipated that the vast majority of options will require students to enroll in math and physics beyond Ma 1abc and Ph 1abc. Thus, any concerns that the Caltech science education will become "less rigorous" are misplaced.

 

The Officers of the Faculty would like to take this opportunity to thank the many members of the community who have contributed to the discussion leading to the creation of the new Core. We will continue to seek input as we move forward. At this stage, the Officers are particularly interested to hear viewpoints on potential revisions to Ma 2 and Ph 2.