A woman stands in front of a blackboard instructing a class
Professor Ashley Carter leads an "Introductory Physics II: Electromagnetism and Optics" during Family Weekend.

The Physics Major

Physics is the study of the natural world emphasizing an understanding of phenomena in terms of fundamental interactions and basic laws. As such, physics underlies all of the natural sciences and pervades contemporary approaches to the study of the universe (astronomy and astrophysics), living systems (biophysics and neuroscience), chemistry (chemical physics), and earth systems (geophysics and environmental science). In addition, the relationship of physics to mathematics is deep, complex and rich. To reflect the broad range of activities pursued by people with training in physics, the department has developed a curriculum that provides a background in the fundamentals of physics while allowing some flexibility, particularly at the upper level, for students’ interests in astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, geology, mathematics and neuroscience. 

The core physics program provides a course of study for those who are interested in physics as a liberal arts major, with career plans in diverse fields such as engineering, law, medicine, business and education. The department also provides a number of upper-level electives to deepen the background of those students intending to pursue careers in physics and closely related technical fields. 

Careers for Physics Majors

Many of our majors go on to some of the best graduate programs in physics and related areas, sometimes after a year of teaching or travel. Others choose to pursue further education in engineering, law, medicine or business, while yet others opt for employment after their graduation. (Here are more details on what some recent majors have done after graduation.)

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