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.
At The University of Iowa, one of the nation's top public universities, physics and astronomy students are taught in small classes by professors who are the leading researchers in their fields. An undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy is the "liberal arts technical degree," giving students a broad-based science education that enables immediate employment after graduation or enrollment in a variety of graduate programs.