physics

Why Study Physics?Physics Image

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 everyday objects, to the evolution of galaxies. Physics consists of many sub-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 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 exhilarating breakthroughs in the future - a future that holds exciting opportunities for the physics students of today.  The American Institute of Physics hosts the Statistical Research Center, which provides important information about the employment of physics degree-holders.  Visit Who is Hiring Physics Bachelors? and Latest Employment Data for Physicists for more information.

How Can You Tell if Physics or Engineering 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 or engineering will challenge and excite you - and that one of our programs at UW-La Crosse 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 hypotheses. Recently, a third branch of physics has emerged, computational physics, in which high-performance computers are used to do calculations which can not 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.

Graduates of the UW-L Physics program can:

  • Understand basic 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 & principles of physics to a broad range of problems in other areas.

What Do Engineers Do?

Engineering offers a wide range of exciting opportunities for students who are curious about the way things work and who want to use their talents to make the world a better place. Engineers are inventors and problem-solvers. They use science and technology to find faster, better, and cheaper ways of doing things. They take ideas and raw materials and design machinery and systems that increase efficiency and productivity. They develop new products to simplify household tasks. They find new energy sources and ways to the protect the environment. Almost everything we use today has been designed and produced by engineers.

Career Opportunities

If you choose to seek employment immediately after earning your baccalaureate degree in physics, the UW-L program prepares you for a wide variety of positions. The diverse nature of our program makes UW-L graduates highly sought after in modern industries where applied physics and engineering physics are employed. Other opportunities 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 health care delivery. They are needed to operate a multitude of clinical equipment found in hospitals, or
to assist in the diagnosis and treatment 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 UW-L 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 UW-L graduates currently hold include:
- research physicist (in government and private industry)
- engineering physicist
- planetarium director
- computer programmer
- space scientist
- optical engineer
- research and development specialist
- high school physics teacher

With long term career development or an advanced degree, you could become a:
- university professor
- research astronomer
- computer and electronics engineer
- health physicist
- plant manager
- government administrator

Graduate Studies

Many UW-L graduates are accepted into top-notch graduate degree programs. Starting with a physics degree from UW-La Crosse, you may decide to pursue a master's or doctorate in physics, metallurgy, engineering, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, medicine, law, environmental policy, energy, or computer science.