undergraduates to study a variety of comprehensive analytical frameworks that have been developed to understand and justify political and economic structures, particularly constitutional democracy and the market system.
The major is intended to prepare its graduates for careers in public policy, public service, business and law. It also offers valuable preparation for graduate study in any of the participating disciplines.
Physics and Astronomy
Physics and astronomy are fundamental sciences aimed at discovering the basic principles that govern our universe. Physicists study the interplay between space, time, matter and energy. Complex behavior in nature is explained in terms of elementary relations between constituent elements and the forces that bind them. The phenomena examined by physicists occur over distances ranging from subatomic scale, as in nuclear and elementary particle physics, to human scale, as in condensed matter physics, to cosmic scale, as in astrophysics and cosmology. The subject matter of astronomy encompasses the entire physical universe beyond the earth: the solar system, stars, galaxies, galaxy clusters and superclusters, quasars and the large-scale structure of the universe. In both physics and astronomy, new instruments and technologies are revealing unexpected phenomena that present exciting scientific challenges.
The basic tools in physics and astronomy are mathematics and experimental investigation and observation of the world around us. The forte of a physicist or astronomer is the ability to analyze and reduce a complex problem to basic concepts. Learning to do this provides the major with an intellectual versatility that can serve well in a variety of future activities ranging from research and/or teaching in physics or astronomy and related sciences to careers in law, health, commerce, etc.
Political Science
The political science major is designed to explore systematic approaches to understanding politics. These include a wide range of topics, from American political institutions to the politics of various countries or world regions, the study of order and change in international relations, and ancient and modern political thought. These topics are addressed in courses typically classified under the four standard fields of American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. Students either declare a general major or a major with a concentration in one of the four subfields or in the area of political economy. In addition, students may select a world region for an area studies concentration or pursue specialized concentrations on particular topics (such as political leadership or
gender and politics), although these require the student to meet more substantial specific requirements. The major also has an honors program in which qualified seniors may write an honors thesis in order to be considered for departmental honors.
The psychology major provides an opportunity to study the principal areas of scientific psychology. It is designed to introduce students to contemporary understandings of how organisms perceive, learn, think and interact with one another, how they develop, how they are motivated and how, individually and as members of species, they may be compared with one another. The major program provides a balanced treatment of the central phenomena of the field, taking into account the particular methods of inquiry from which our knowledge is derived and the conceptual frameworks that organize the factual basis of the discipline.
At Penn, psychology may be studied as a scientific discipline in its own right or in conjunction with many other fields of inquiry, including cognitive science, biology, philosophy, linguistics, anthropology and sociology. The major program is designed to provide a coherent and integrated intellectual experience that can serve as a foundation for advanced graduate work or as a basis for careers in many fields. Many students who complete the psychology major at Penn go on to further training as scientists and scholars. Others undertake professional training in clinical, counseling, industrial or educational psychology, in the legal or medical professions, in schools of business, or enter directly into the workplace.
Religious Studies
Religion is a complex network of ideas and actions (ethical and ritual) that express a group’s sense of the ultimate meaning of life. The academic study of religion examines how the beliefs and values of contemporary and historical cultures shape and are shaped by societal factors, long-standing traditions, and distinctive forms of literary and artistic expression. Religion scholars ask not whether certain beliefs are true but what they mean to those who hold them to be true, how they came to have a particular form and content, and what impact they have on their intellectual and social environments.
Skill in close reading of texts and critical analysis of concepts and historical relationships are among the benefits of such study, which has been found helpful by many preparing for careers in law, medicine, journalism, international business and government, and which can be useful as a foundation for graduate work in many disciplines of the humanities and social sciences.