A Caltech education requires not just the depth of an option (major), but also considerable breadth in basic science, humanities, and social science. Caltech’s core curriculum prepares students for the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary research in science and technology and positions Caltech graduates for leadership roles in academia and industry. Significant study in the humanities and social sciences is an important component of Caltech’s core curriculum, giving our alumni the ability to navigate the societal, political, and economic factors that influence (and are influenced by) their work.
Caltech's core curriculum for the class entering in fall 2013 will include the following requirements. Additional terms of mathematics and physics may be required by specific Options.
- three terms (27 units) of mathematics
Ma 1 abc: Calculus of One and Several Variables and Linear Algebra. Review of calculus. Complex numbers, Taylor polynomials, infinite series. Comprehensive presentation of linear algebra. Derivatives of vector functions, multiple integrals, line and path integrals, theorems of Green and Stokes.
- three terms (27 units) of physics
Ph 1 abc: Classical Mechanics and Electromagnetism. Newtonian mechanics, electricity and magnetism, special relativity. Emphasis on physical insight and problem solving.
- two terms (15 units) of chemistry
Ch 1 ab: General Chemistry. Lectures and recitations dealing with the principles of chemistry.
- one term (9 units) of biology
a topical course introducing a variety of tools and concepts of modern biology. May be fulfilled with:
Bi 1: Principles of Biology OR
Bi 1 x. The Great Ideas of Biology: An Introduction through Experimentation OR
Bi 8. Introduction to Molecular Biology: Organization and
Expression of Genetic Information.
- one term (9 units) freshman menu course
menu courses include astronomy, geology, energy science, environmental science and engineering, or information science.
- two terms (12 units) of introductory lab courses
freshman chem lab, plus one other lab chosen from offerings in applied physics, biology, chemistry, engineering, or physics.
- one term (3 units) of scientific writing
students research, write, and revise a 3,000-word paper on a science or engineering topic, which is then published in an online journal established for that purpose. Students work with a faculty mentor on the content of the paper and receive editorial guidance from science writing instructors.
- twelve terms (108 units) of humanities courses
two terms of Freshman Humanities, two terms of introductory social-science, two terms of advanced humanities, two terms of advanced social-science. The remaining four courses may be chosen from any of the humanities or social-science offerings. Three writing intensive courses must be taken on grades.
- three terms (9 units) Physical Education
this requirement may be satisfied entirely or in part by participation in intercollegiate athletics, or successful completion of physical-education class course work. All grades are issued pass/fail.
Placement exams are offered during the summer before enrollment in mathematics, physics, and writing to assure appropriate placement within courses in these disciplines.
In addition to the required core classes, freshmen are encouraged to participate in freshman seminar classes. Caltech offers a series of freshman seminars in which 10 to 15 freshmen and a faculty member explore in depth an exciting topic in the lab, around a table, or in the field. There are several offerings on a wide range of topics, including biomechanics, the Large HadronCollider, and the physics of music.