Physics is the study of motion, matter, and energy. It is the most fundamental of sciences, and provides the essential underpinning for chemistry, biology, astronomy, and geology. Physicists probe the structure of atomic nuclei, study exotic states of matter that occur at ultra-low temperatures, and develop theories that predict the origin and destiny of the universe. Physics has practical applications to a wide variety of tasks such as fabricating very large scale integrated circuits, producing high efficiency solar cells, and developing nanomachines, high-power lasers, and scanners for imaging activity within the human brain. Fundamental research in physics has led to many important inventions, including the transistor, the computer, the flat panel display, and the cell phone.

The Physics Major begins with an emphasis on fundamentals in the basic sciences and mathematics to provide students with a broad foundation. Subsequent course work is designed to develop analytical and experimental abilities that allow students to solve problems involving the technical applications of physics. The curriculum includes courses on classical mechanics, modern physics, quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and thermodynamics. A strong liberal arts program rounds out the major and provides educational breadth. Two concentrations are offered: Physics and Applied Physics.

Learning Outcomes

Graduates will:

  • Obtain a solid background in experimental physics and basic theoretical physics and will be able to work in a variety of technological or problem-oriented fields.
  • Have the contemporary skills and knowledge necessary for entry-level positions in the field or for admission to graduate or professional schools.
  • Be able to apply a range of physical and mathematical tools to a diverse set of physical problems encountered in the real world. They will be able to use a variety of laboratory techniques, critically interpret experimental results, and design appropriate new experiments.
  • Have the ability to critically evaluate and solve a variety of physical problems, and to present their analysis and results to colleagues in both written and oral form.

Potential Occupations

Almost all Physics majors are able to find work after graduation in an occupation related to physics. Physicists find employment in industry in electronics, computers, medical technology, engineering-related fields, quality control, and sales. Others teach high school physics. Physics graduates possess excellent math skills that are useful in business and finance as well. Those earning graduate degrees can work in college teaching and at industrial, government, and academic research labs. Participation in undergraduate research is strongly encouraged since it enhances practical training and expands employment opportunities. Graduates who go on for advanced studies can attain more responsible positions with the possibility of rising to top professional levels.

Career opportunities include, but are not limited to: research physicist, health physicist, nuclear medical technologist, pollution control technician, environmental health technician, air pollution analyst, hydrologist, laser technician, high school physics teacher, scientific illustrator, crime laboratory analyst, patent examiner, quality control technician, spectroscopist, photo-optics technician, data processing systems analyst, computer programmer, motors and controls tester, engineering supplies sales representative, electronics and/or communications equipment representative, precision instruments sales representative, and technical writer.