Foundations - Physical Sciences

The physical sciences seek to explore and explain the structure and processes of the physical universe. They seek to understand the fundamental workings of nature, from the behavior of atoms to the functioning of the galaxies. Study of the history, methodologies, concepts, and applications of the physical sciences assists you in becoming scientifically literate. Each course in this category is a broad introduction to one or more of the physical sciences. Courses contribute to the development of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and help you apply an understanding of scientific thinking to your own life and career.

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Explain methodologies physical scientists use to explore and understand the physical universe.
  2. Explain ways in which physical scientists use observations and theory to explain and predict the structure and processes of the physical universe.
  3. Explain fundamental concepts, principles, and issues of the physical sciences.
  4. Skill Outcome #1:
    • Written communication: Write effectively for multiple purposes and audiences; or
    • Quantitative literacy: Work effectively with numerical data.
  5. Skill Outcome #2
    • Oral communication: Effectively prepare and deliver a formal oral presentation; or
    • Problem solving: Design and evaluate an approach to answer an open-ended question or achieve a desired goal.


One course, either the Life Science OR the Physical Science course must contain a lab.


CHM 102 — Chemistry and Society
A survey of some of the many ways in which chemistry is involved with people’s day-to-day existence. This course is not applicable to a chemistry major or minor. Skills: problem solving, quantitative literacy

GEO 100 — Environmental Geology
The relationship between people and their physical geological environment. Topics include geologic hazards, hydrology and human health, mineral and energy resources, and land use planning. Primarily for nonscience majors; not for geology or earth science majors. Lectures and field trips. Skills: problem solving, quantitative literacy

GEO 103 — Oceans
Scientific investigation of the oceans and interactions among ocean, atmosphere, and lithosphere. Introduction to the chemistry of seawater, physics of water movement, coastal processes, geological oceanography, changes in the oceanic system through geologic time, and the role of oceans in earth’s geologic evolution. Lectures and field trips included. Skills: problem solving, quantitative literacy

GEO 105 — Living with the Great Lakes
Introduction to earth science using the Great Lakes as a theme and Lake Michigan as a natural laboratory. Review of the lakes’ geologic setting, origin, and history; climatology and lake levels; physical processes including erosion; water chemistry as a function of geology; human interactions with the lakes. Lectures and field trips. Skills: problem solving, quantitative literacy



CHM 109 — Introductory Chemistry
An introductory study of general chemistry that presents the basic chemical principles and their applications. Designed for general education and students in programs that require a chemistry background but not the rigor of a full year of general chemistry. Does not count toward a chemistry major. Credits: 4. Skills: problem solving, quantitative literacy

CHM 115 — Principles of Chemistry I
First semester of the two-semester general chemistry sequence for the sciences. Concepts of atomic structure, development of the principles of modern chemistry, connections between atomic/molecular structure and observed behavior. Students continuing with CHM 116 should take MTH 122, 124 or 125 concurrently with CHM 115. Prerequisites: high school chemistry and (MTH 110, or equivalent by placement or exam)
Credits: 4. Skills: problem solving, quantitative literacy

CHM 201 — Introduction to Chemical Sciences
Introduction to chemical sciences emphasizing the descriptive approach. Lectures, demonstrations, discussions, experiments, and assignments illustrate concepts for PK-6 teaching. Classroom visits or curriculum/teaching projects arranged for PK-6 teaching students. Other students write a paper or complete other projects as a course requirement. Skills: problem solving, written communication

GEO 111 — Exploring the Earth
Introduction to the study of earth materials and processes, including minerals, rocks, mineral deposits, weathering, erosion, volcanism, and mountain building. Lectures, laboratory, and field trips. Credits: 4. Skills: problem solving, quantitative literacy

NRM 140 — The Climatic Factor
A study of the atmosphere, broad aspects of weather and climate, microclimatology, and the geography of climate and effects on terrain, vegetation, and people. Not applicable for the NRM major electives. Credits: 4. Skills: oral communication, written communication

PHY 105 — Descriptive Astronomy
A general survey of astronomy topics including: the motion of celestial objects, light and telescopes, information about the solar system, its formation, and stellar evolution. The class includes lecture, laboratory, and night observations. Skills: problem solving, quantitative literacy

PHY 201 — Inquiry: The Mechanical and Thermal World
Course stresses understanding physical science to allow one to explain concepts to others, whomever the audience. Focus is on the development of fundamental concepts, reasoning, and critical-thinking skills through discovery learning and Socratic dialogue in the laboratory setting. Topics include mass, volume, density, buoyancy, heat, temperature, and electric circuits. Ideal for students preparing for careers in education. Credits: 4. skills: problem solving, quantitative literacy

PHY 220 — General Physics I
The first half of a two-semester noncalculus sequence with a laboratory; recommended for life science majors. Topics include kinematics, vectors, Newtonian mechanics, gravity, work, conservation of energy, and momentum, fluids, and properties of matter. Prerequisites: MTH 122 and MTH 123.  Credits: 5. Skills: problem solving, quantitative literacy

PHY 230 — Principles of Physics I
The first course in a two-semester calculus-based sequence for students of science, mathematics, and engineering, with a laboratory. Topics include vectors, kinematics, dynamics, work, conservation of energy, linear and angular momentum, gravitation, mechanical waves and oscillations, and sound. Prerequisite: MTH 201 (MTH 202 is recommended as a corequisite). Credits: 5. Skills: problem solving, quantitative literacy 

SCI 226 — Integrated Physical Science for PK–3 Teachers
Course promotes mastery of physical and earth science concepts necessary to teach PK-3 science. Through inquiry and discussions students develop reasoning and thinking skills. The course focuses on science teaching and learning that is connected to the other science disciplines. Prerequisite: MTH 126 (can be taken concurrently). Skills: problem solving, quantitative literacy

Page last modified February 23, 2022