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Why Study Physics?

Physics is the study of the mechanical Universe. It is the basic science that underlies all the natural sciences. It is a search for the basic rules of the behavior of matter and energy on every scale: from the interaction of subatomic particles, to the motion of every day objects, to the evolution of galaxies and the Universe itself. Physics consists of many fields, including particle and nuclear physics, atomic and molecular spectroscopy, optics, solid-state physics, biological and medical physics, computational physics, acoustics, astrophysics and cosmology.

Discoveries by physicists, like quantum phenomena and the theory of the Big Bang, have literally transformed our view of the natural world. Inventions like the transistor and the laser have fueled the modern technological revolution. We can look forward to even more exhilirating breakthroughs in the future - a future that holds exciting opportunities for the physics students of today.

How can you tell if Physics is for you?

Are you the kind of person who is curious about how mechanical or electrical devices work? Are you good at mathematics or with computers? Are you eager to discover new concepts and see how they can be applied to real world problems? If so, there is a good chance that physics will challenge and excite you - and that our Physics programs at UMD will be right for you.

What do Physicists do?

Physicists work in a wide variety of professions in science, technology, and education. Physicists can conduct basic research at a university or a national laboratory, or applied research in an industrial or commercial setting. Experimental physicists usually work in a lab and seek to test hypotheses and theories, to make discoveries of new phenomena, or to develop new applications of ideas. Theoretical physicists use mathematics to develop explanations of experimental data, formulate new theories, and make new predictions. Recently, a third branch of physics has emerged, computational physics, in which high-performance computers are used to do calculations which cannot be done analytically, or to simulate experiments that are difficult or impossible to perform in a laboratory. Physicists also communicate their ideas, either by presenting scientific papers, writing patents, developing software, or by teaching at the university and high school levels.

Graduate of the UMD Physics programs can

  • Understand the basics and advanced concepts of classical and modern physics.
  • Understand and be able to use high-level mathematics to solve physics problems.
  • Compete successfully for graduate schools and/or jobs, and perform well therein.
  • Make careful and accurate measurements using many different kinds of equipment and correctly analyze and interpret experimental data.
  • Use symbolic and numerical computer software to solve physics problems, and to acquire, plot, and analyze data.
  • Effectively communicate their findings and thoughts in conventional scientific style, both in writing and orally.
  • Communicate scientific and technical concepts to non-scientific audiences.
  • Draw upon their math and physics experience to identify, formulate, analyze and solve a wide variety of real-world problems.
  • Apply deductive reasoning, the scientific method, and other methods and principles of physics to a broad range of problems in other areas.

Career Opportunities

If you chose to seek employment immediately after earning your bachelors degree in physics, the UMD program prepares you for a wide variety of positions. The diverse nature of our program makes our graduates highly sought after in modern industries. Other oppotunities include research and design positions, quality control and product testing, mathematical and computer modeling, and sales of technical equipment.

Physicists are also playing a significant role in medical instrumentation and and health care delivery. They are needed to operate a multitude of clinical equipment found in hospitals, or to assist in the diagnosis and treatments of patients using nuclear radiation, x-ray, magnetic resonance imaging, and ultrasound techniques.

Physicists and engineers can often be found working side by side. Because UMD physics majors are highly trained in experimental techniques, mathematical analysis and computation, they have the knowledge base and flexibility to meet numerous career challenges. Some common job titles that UMD graduates hold include:

  • Data Analyst
  • Medical Physicist
  • Product Development Specialist
  • Research Physicist
  • Sensor Design/Optical Engineer
  • Sales and Electrical Engineer
  • Management Consulting Associate
  • Professor of Physics

With long-term career development or an advanced degree, you could become a:

  • University professor
  • Research astronomer
  • Computer and electronics engineer
  • Medical physicist
  • Plant manager
  • Government administrator

Graduate Studies

The Physics Department offers an M.S. in Physics. Some of our faculty participate in the Water Resouces Science Graduate Program. We also have a cooperative agreement with the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and some of our faculty participate in their PhD programs in Physics and Astrophysics. Many of the graduates from our B.S. program also get accepted into other excellent graduate programs across the country. Starting with a physics degree from UMD, you may decide to pursue a master's or doctorate in physics, astronomy, metallurgy, engineering, chemistry, mathematics, philosophy, medicine, law, environmental policy, energy, or computer science.

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The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
Last modified on 08/08/14 08:42 AM
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