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College of Science


Physics is the study of matter and energy and of the fundamental forces of nature that govern the interactions between particles. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena, from quarks to black holes, from individual atoms to the many-body systems of superconductors. It is the foundation of all the physical sciences. The knowledge and problem-solving skills acquired by physics graduates enable them to pursue careers in a wide range of scientific and professional disciplines.

A bachelor of science degree from the Department of Physics prepares students to investigate a variety of problems in physics, chemistry, biology and engineering. The basic core courses, supplemented by courses relevant to each specialized major option, provide a broad scientific education that prepares students for entry into many careers as well as for graduate schools in physics, engineering, other sciences and for professions such as law, medicine and finance.

A master’s degree is desirable for research, advancement in secondary-school teaching in Indiana and for many positions in government or industry. The Ph.D. degree is required for advancement at a university and higher-level positions in research in several areas.

The undergraduate program in Purdue’s Department of Physics prepares students for participation in the frontiers of discovery in nanotechnology, condensed matter, nuclear physics, high energy particle physics, astronomy, biophysics, medical physics and other branches of physics.

The Department of Physics emphasizes undergraduate research as an integral part of the learning experience that reinforces and amplifies skills acquired in the classroom. A seminar class "Introduction to Current Physics and Forefront Research” is offered in the first semester to introduce first-year students to research. The class serves to familiarize students with research being carried out currently in the department and prepares them to become involved in undergraduate research as early as their second semester at Purdue.

In their sophomore year, students are encouraged to enroll in a one-credit-hour seminar class that helps them explore different careers in physics. It offers an opportunity for students to meet with alumni and professors in the Department of Physics and to learn valuable career development skills from these experiences.

The Department of Physics offers a bachelor of science with a major in physics with different specializations. A physics/math double major is also available to physics majors by taking additional courses in math.

A bachelor’s degree in physics prepares students to pursue careers in an extraordinary variety of areas, including technical and managerial careers in industry and basic research in universities, industrial laboratories and national laboratories. The general problem-solving skills developed in physics studies serve students well not only in careers in physics but also in careers in other sciences, engineering, law, medicine, management, finance and government.

Some examples of careers chosen by physics majors include teacher, doctor, research scientist, lawyer, physician, architect, technical salesperson, electrical engineer, aeronautical engineer, astronaut, geophysicist, software designer, technical analyst, reliability engineer and process engineer.

The most recent information on careers can be found at www.physics.purdue.edu/career.

The following courses are required of all bachelor of science physics majors. In meeting these requirements, candidates will also automatically fulfill the College of Science graduation requirements. The core courses taken by all physics majors provide a solid foundation in classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, waves and optics, quantum mechanics, thermal and statistical physics, modern physics, relativity, electronics and computational physics. Advanced laboratory choices are available.