Physics program

MUndergrad major mUndergrad minor TTeaching/Certification GGraduate program

Are you curious about how things work?

From wind energy to computer chips, physics concepts are at work in the technology we use every day. Even the GPS in your phone wouldn’t work without Einstein’s famous Theory of General Relativity. A degree in physics provides robust quantitative, analytical, and experimental skills to prepare for futures in hi-tech jobs, medical fields, engineering, and a wide variety of graduate school programs. If you are curious and enjoy problem solving, physics may be the perfect fit for you.

UWL's Physics Department is a nationally-recognized leader in physics education and one of the largest undergraduate physics programs in Wisconsin. Students experience a quality physics education in a supportive community with many opportunities to work closely with faculty on undergraduate research projects.

What is Physics?

Physicists study and uncover the fundamental rules of why and how things work, from quarks to galaxies. Physicists have uncovered some really weird and unexpected things about nature. But applying these principles of physics has transformed the way we interact with the world. Physics concepts are in action all around us — in computer chips, headphones, air bags, and many other everyday devices. It has also made a major impact in healthcare with medical diagnostics and treatments like MRIs and radiation therapy.

In the UW-L Physics program, the McNair Scholars Program and Dr. Shelly Lesher prepared me for graduate school. While the McNair Scholar program provided workshops to understanding the graduate school process, Dr. Lesher provided the experience I gained from working alongside her that assured my decision to become a nuclear physicist.

Xavier James

Physics degree jobs

UWL’s diverse physics program makes graduates highly sought after in modern industries where physics and engineering are applied. In addition, many UWL physics graduates are accepted into top graduate degree programs where they can pursue a master’s or doctoral degree. Learn more about the career paths of 50 different physicists on The American Physical Society website. 

Career examples

  • Engineering physicists
  • Research physicists (government or private industry)
  • Space scientist
  • Science policy
  • Radiation safety officer
  • High school science teacher (with teacher certification)
  • Planetarium director
  • Technical writer

Further education

  • Physics
  • Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Astrophysics
  • Optical science
  • Medical physics
  • Mathematics
  • Computer science

What distinguishes UWL's Physics program?

Successful history awarding degrees

UWL has one of the largest undergraduate physics programs in Wisconsin. And the program also has a national reputation for awarding physics degrees. In 2020, UW-La Crosse was ranked No. 1 nationally in awarding physics bachelor’s degrees, according to the American Physical Society. The department is consistently ranked among the top. 

Nationally-recognized leader in undergraduate physics education
Emphasis on undergraduate research experience

The Physics Department places an emphasis on student involvement in undergraduate research. This research contributes to the sense of community throughout the department. Research projects are available in astrophysics, biomechanics, biophysics, computational physics, quantum optics, material science, nuclear physics, solid-state physics and physics education.

Annual visit from a Nobel-winning physicist

The Physics Department annually hosts a physicist who has won the Nobel Prize as part of a Distinguished Lecture Series in Physics. The laureates meet and interact with students, faculty and staff, along with giving a public lecture and physics seminar related to their unique discovery. The department has hosted Nobel laureate nearly every year since 2000, thanks to the generosity of members of the La Crosse Community.

Student involvement opportunities

The department’s chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) routinely receives Outstanding Chapter Award from the national SPS office. Additionally, the department sponsors a chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma (the physics honor society), a Physics Club, and a Women in Physics Club.

Faculty are active in research and bring diverse backgrounds and interests

Faculty are actively engaged in research in a variety of fields and involve undergraduate students in their research endeavors. The Physics Department faculty have received more than $2 million dollars in external funding from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and other external agencies to support faculty and student research activities in the last six years. 

State-of-the-art equipment, facility

The Physics Department has all of its experimental facilities in UWL's modern science labs building, the Prairie Springs Science Center. The use of high-tech research equipment and laboratories prepare students for the skills required in the modern world as all faculty labs are available for student research. Students also have access to a multidisciplinary radiation center.

Scholarship and other award opportunities

Scholarship opportunities are available for students majoring in physics or physics/engineering. Physics students have also received a number of awards, fellowships, and scholarships based on their academic performance and ability to excel in research, including nationally competitive awards.

Areas of study

Sample courses