The Physics Department does not require a specific hardware platform or operating system for incoming physics majors. Whether your preference at the outset is for a laptop or desktop, or Windows, Mac, or Linux operating system, this is not a critical decision in your path as a physics major. Your preferences may evolve over time. During your time in the Department, you can expect to encounter different software packages, operating systems, and hardware platforms.
The Swenson College of Science and Engineering identifies what kind of computing resources are expected.
Physics Department Resources
Introductory labs are equipped with Windows-based PCs. Software used in those labs is also available for download to registered students from our Physics Courseware web server.
Upper division labs and our computational physics lab room have computers running chiefly a mixture of Windows and Linux operating systems. Research labs also use a mixture of Windows and Linux platforms. These computers are variously equipped with commercial software packages (e.g. Mathematica, MATLAB, LabVIEW) through University site licenses for University-owned computers, and a suite of standard office software. Some are also outfitted with other open-source software, including programming languages and development tools to write and compile our own code (usually C++ and occasionally Fortran) to accomplish homework assignments and research analyses. These choices are not always determined by personal preference; some work requires a very specific platform to run the required software.
Campus Wireless and Laptops
The campus wireless network is reliable and covers virtually everywhere on campus so laptop users can readily connect to computing resources as needed.