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What is Physics?

Physics is the most basic science, its laws describing force and motion, electricity, magnetism, light, heat, waves, the quantum world, and the nature of time, space, and gravity. In describing the fundamental principles of the world around us, physics has provided the keys to some of the world's most widely used technological developments. Fiber-optical communications, global positioning systems, compact discs, computers, and special polymers used in clothing for extreme conditions are among the advances fostered by physics research. Physicists have helped drive medical advances in technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound. Physicists play a special role in developing alternate energy sources, such as solar, wind, and nuclear power, and in developing energy-efficient technologies.

These advances have been made because physicists and astronomers are problem solvers who design and use powerful instruments to explore everything from the tiniest particle to the ends of the universe. For instance, powerful particle accelerators examine the fundamental building blocks of matter, helping us understand how the universe began. Scanning-tunneling microscopes and ultrafast lasers probe novel materials and processes. Optical, X-ray, and radio telescopes look outward to the galactic center and at the phenomena of the cosmos.

For more information on available degrees, please choose one of the undergraduate degree options below or contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies from our Undergraduate Advising page.

153

Undergraduate Physics and Astronomy Majors

3600

Students taught in Introductory Courses per year (2015-2019)

Student Experience for Physics Undergrads

Nearly all undergraduates get involved with faculty research during the academic year. These experiences can be really productive; many students from our program publish papers in journals by the time they graduate.

BA in Astronomy

The Bachelor of Arts in astronomy is designed for students who wish to build considerable knowledge in astronomy but do not plan a research-oriented career in the field. It is appropriate for students planning careers in secondary school science teaching or science-related administration.

Learning Outcomes

Astronomy majors will be able to:

  • demonstrate understanding of the fundamental concepts in astrophysics such as gravity, the nature of light, the physical characteristics of matter, and the motions of astronomical objects in the night sky;
  • demonstrate proficiency in each of the major areas of astronomy—cosmology, galaxies, accretion and compact objects, the life cycle, and properties of stars and solar system science;
  • show a working knowledge of a broad array of astrophysical phenomena that are based upon fundamental concepts; and
  • gain familiarity with astronomical observations, instrumentation, computational methods, and software.

Want to get started?

Learn more about the program, including courses, curriculum, and requirements here.

BA in Physics

The Bachelor of Arts in physics is designed for students who wish to build a foundation of knowledge in physics but do not plan a research-oriented career in the discipline. The program also is good preparation for students interested in secondary school science teaching.

Learning Outcomes

Physics majors will be able to:

  • demonstrate competency in applying the basic laws of physics in classical and quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and statistical physics;
  • solve complex, real-world problems using the principles of physics; and
  • demonstrate competency in using basic instrumentation and in analyzing the data obtained.

Want to get started?

Learn more about the program, including courses, curriculum, and requirements here.

BS in Applied Physics

The Bachelor of Science in applied physics is intended primarily for students interested in a broad program of study in physics combined with a significant concentration of courses in a field that has immediate application to industry. The degree provides a foundation for a wide range of employment opportunities in high-technology industries, including research and development, product design and testing, sales, and quality control.

Learning Outcomes

Applied physics majors will be able to:

  • demonstrate competency in applying the basic laws of physics in classical and quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and statistical physics;
  • solve complex, real-world problems using the principles of physics; and
  • demonstrate competency in using basic instrumentation and in analyzing the data obtained.

Want to get started?

Learn more about the program, including courses, curriculum, and requirements here.

BS in Astronomy

The Bachelor of Science in astronomy provides balanced and integrated coursework in astronomy, mathematics, and physics that prepares students for graduate studies in astronomy, astrophysics, or related science disciplines.

Learning Outcomes

Astronomy majors will be able to:

  • demonstrate understanding of the fundamental concepts in astrophysics such as gravity, the nature of light, the physical characteristics of matter, and the motions of astronomical objects in the night sky;
  • demonstrate proficiency in each of the major areas of astronomy—cosmology, galaxies, accretion and compact objects, the life cycle, and properties of stars and solar system science;
  • show a working knowledge of a broad array of astrophysical phenomena that are based upon fundamental concepts; and
  • gain familiarity with astronomical observations, instrumentation, computational methods, and software.

Want to get started?

Learn more about the program, including courses, curriculum, and requirements here.

BS in Physics

The Bachelor of Science in physics provides balanced and integrated coursework in physics and mathematics that prepares students for graduate studies in physics and related science disciplines.

Learning Outcomes

Physics majors will be able to:

  • demonstrate competency in applying the basic laws of physics in classical and quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and statistical physics;
  • solve complex, real-world problems using the principles of physics; and
  • demonstrate competency in using basic instrumentation and in analyzing the data obtained.

Want to get started?

Learn more about the program, including courses, curriculum, and requirements here.

Minor in Astronomy

The minor in astronomy provides introductory coursework in astronomy, mathematics, and physics that prepares students for further studies in astronomy, astrophysics, or related science disciplines.

Learning Outcomes

Students are expected to:

  • demonstrate understanding of the fundamental concepts in astrophysics such as gravity, the nature of light, the physical characteristics of matter, and the motions of astronomical objects in the night sky; and
  • gain familiarity with astronomical observations, instrumentation, computational methods, and software.

Want to get started?

Learn more about the program, including courses, curriculum, and requirements here.

Minor in Physics

The minor in physics provides introductory coursework in physics and mathematics that prepares students for further studies in physics and related science disciplines.

Learning Outcomes

Students are expected to:

  • demonstrate competency in applying the basic laws of physics in classical and quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and statistical physics; and
  • demonstrate competency in using basic instrumentation and in analyzing the data obtained.

Want to get started?

Learn more about the program, including courses, curriculum, and requirements here.