Physics & Astronomy
Physics is the study of the fundamental nature of everything!
Physics students develop excellent critical thinking and problem-solving skills. An undergraduate physics degree is a springboard to careers in engineering, systems analysis, financial analysis, management, national security, medical research, education, and journalism. Many physics majors pursue graduate study in physics, medicine, law, or astronomy.
Experimental and theoretical physicists are people who enjoy understanding how things work, from the very large (e.g., the structure of the universe) to the very small (e.g., atoms, nuclei, quarks, and even smaller structures).
The department offers a major and a minor in Physics. Students planning to major in Physics should consult with a member of the department as early as possible in their college careers. Students interested in Pre-Engineering should consult with a pre-engineering advisor as early as possible.
Department faculty members are actively involved in research. Our students have opportunities to work with faculty doing research in nuclear physics, high energy gamma ray astrophysics, applied physics engineering, optics, and computational quantum mechanics. Recent students have also done off-campus research in conjunction with members of the department at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. The Oak Ridge Science Semester program enables students to spend a semester working under the guidance of an ORNL staff member. Recently, students have participated in off campus research programs at the National Radio Observatory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Kitt Peak National Observatory and Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.
The department is housed in the Julian Science and Mathematics Center. We offer innovative integrated classrooms and labs, a dedicated physics computer lab, research laboratories, and fully equipped metal and wood machine shops. Departmental spaces also include a darkroom and a physics student lounge/study room.
The department sponsors an active Society of Physics Students. Students meet regularly for visiting lecturers, trips to conferences, special club projects, and social events. A local chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma, the physics honor society, hosts annual receptions for the induction of new student members.
The department operates historic McKim Observatory. McKim contains many of its original instruments, including a 9.5-inch Clark refractor telescope and a Fauth and Co. meridian transit telescope. McKim is also well equipped with modern instruments, including five Celestron 8-inch and one Celestron 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, an SBIG ST-6 CCD camera, a webcam, equipment for astrophotography, and a spectrometer. McKim is used for astronomy labs, public open houses and events, and student research projects.