Students in the physics program will explore the four core principles of physics: mechanics, electricity and magnetism, statistical mechanics, and quantum mechanics. Physics and Engineering students encounter various disciplines through small introductory classes before choosing a field. Unlike in many physics programs, students at TLU begin their lab experience their very first semester. Physics majors end their university career with an independent research project assisted by faculty in the department.
The core physics principles of mechanics, electricity and magnetism, statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics form the basis for several fields of science, industry, engineering and education.
Our physics students gain valuable hands-on lab experience from the first year, spearhead independent research projects, and branch out to other universities offering summer Research Experience for Undergraduates. Students have the opportunity to work in teams to design and engineer autonomous robots. Advanced software such as MATLAB™ and virtual test instrumentation program LabVIEW™ are available to students as well. They learn experimental techniques using the tools of their trade, such as digital data acquisition and analysis, analog and digital electronic test equipment, and nuclear counting and spectroscopy instrumentation.
In our advanced lab courses, students work on projects in pairs, learning experimental techniques. In these labs students get to work with radiation, create single photon diffraction, analyze chaotic oscillations, measure the speed of light, and much more.
Students in their final year work on an independent research project for their senior capstone. This work uses many physics classes to produce a piece of scientific research. Recent projects include building and analyzing a baseball air cannon, measuring coefficient of restitution of baseball bats and golf clubs, and analyzing the dynamics of a golf swing.
Students also can do summer research with faculty at TLU. The summer leading to their senior year, students are encouraged to take part in REU’s (Research Experience for Undergraduates) at universities outside of TLU. Recently, TLU students have worked at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Duke University, University of Florida, MIT-Haystack Observatory, and more.
Careers in Physics
Excelling in physics requires development and expertise in a very broad skill set. Combined with the liberal arts education at TLU, the physics department provides graduates with a highly employable blend of skills, such as problem solving, computer programming, experimental design, technical writing, oral presentations, independent research, and teamwork. Many professions rely on these skills, which is why they are the very foundation of the physics curriculum. The American Institute of Physics reports that in 2008, a survey of starting salaries offered by campus recruiters to students graduating with a bachelor's in physics ranged from $40,000 to $64,000.
Here is a small sampling of the kind of careers physics majors might pursue upon completing their bachelor's (statistics from the AIP website):
- Academia: As of 2007, about 35% of students with bachelor's in physics go into graduate school in physics or astronomy. For most physics graduate programs, schools pay tuition plus a stipend (actual numbers can be found at gradschoolshopper.com). In return, students are expected to research and/or be a teaching assistant. A master's in physics typically takes two to three years, while a Ph.D. in physics takes about five to six years.
- Medical School: Students with a degree in physics routinely score higher than biology majors on the MCAT, the entrance exam for medical school. Students wishing to go to medical school with a physics degree are strongly urged to at least also minor in biology.
- Engineering: This is the largest field of employment for physics majors. The problem solving skills developed through coursework in physics are highly sought after in this field.
- Consulting: Many companies hire consultants to assist in solving problems with their company. The development of problem solving for a physics major makes this an ideal match.
- Law: Physics majors are continually the top-scoring major on the LSAT, the entrance exam to law school. Many companies hire physicists to be expert witnesses when scientific information needs to be explained to a jury.
- Teaching: There is a need for high school physics teachers. In 2009, only 35% of high school physics teachers have a degree in physics or physics education. Increasing the number of high school teachers with an interest in physics will increase the morale, perception and prestige of the field.
Society of Physics Students (SPS)
While we do work hard here in the physics department, we also play hard. We have multiple activities going on every semester. We have Wii parties every other week. We have at least one big picnic every year. We do a liquid nitrogen ice cream social every semester. We also have the Annual Physics Can Roll.
Last year we started an outreach project where we helped Luling Junior High students learn some robotics. SPS students mentored 12 students on how to program, build, and test robots to follow multiple mazes.
We also have our induction dinner in the spring for students inducted to Sigma Pi Sigma, SPS’s national physics honor society.
National members of SPS (and Sigma Pi Sigma) are eligible for scholarships. Wako Bungula ‘13 was awarded a scholarship from SPS for the 2012-2013 school year. Talitha Muehlbrad ‘11 and Curtis Lee ’11 were awarded Sigma Pi Sigma honors awards in the 2010-2011 school year.
Physics Events & Guest Speakers
The Physics of Football
Discover the science of bone-crunching hits, soaring field goals, and awe-inspiring passes with Tim Gay, professor of physics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
"From Science Fiction to Reality" with Dr. Herman Batelaan, theoretical physicist
What is the current status of teleportation, faster than light phenomena, and gravitational shielding? Quantum teleportation, lightning effects such as “Elves”, and levitating frogs have all been in the news, and are effects that are actually observed. They are also related to the ideas that make such science fiction series as Star Trek work. But are the observed effects really related to their science fiction counterparts, or is this all just smart marketing? And what is the current status of the research? The answers are perhaps even more surprising than the fiction.
Listen to the lecture on iTunes U.
Major in Physics for a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree
Major in Physics for a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree
Major in Applied Science for a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) dual degree in Applied Science & Engineering
Minor in Physics
Minor in Business of Science
Assoc. Professor, Department Chair
Visiting Asst. Prof, Physics
Why Physics at TLU?
Physics and Engineering students encounter various disciplines through small introductory classes before choosing a field. Hands-on experience is acquired with engineering concepts, software, and laboratory tools. Pre-engineering students participate in team projects in engineering design of autonomous robots using the physics shop and computer labs; engineering computation and analysis using MATLAB™ and virtual test instrumentation using LabView™; commercial software packages widely used in modern engineering and applied science. Physics labs introduce students to digital data acquisition and analysis, analog and digital electronic test equipment, and nuclear counting and spectroscopy instrumentation.