College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Physics

Welcome to the IPFW Department of Physics!

Quick Links: Department Description, What is Physics?, Why Major in Physics?, Physics Careers

The IPFW Department of Physics

The IPFW Department of Physics is a relatively small department with seven full time faculty members. With small size we have the distinct advantage of a unified vision of the educational experience for our students – a shared concern for deep learning by our students. Our students experience small class sizes which means that the faculty know the students very well we can make certain that they succeed. The department and students form a close knit community.

Students at laser table

But the IPFW Department of Physics is large enough to be able to offer a significant number of physics electives for our students, a critical part of physics education. We are also large enough to have good research facilities and to have active research programs involving our students.  

The IPFW Physics Department offers a number of different degrees and concentrations.  We offer a Bachelor of Science in Physics.  There are two concentrations available under the B.S. in Physics.  A concentration allows a student to pursue a degree with a slightly different focus than the "straight" or "regular" physics degree.  These concentrations are Optoelectronics and Photonics, and Biomedical Physics.

We also have a dual degree program with the department of engineering: Dual Electrical Engineering and Physics.  This degree program, while challenging allows the student to complete both a B.S. in Physics and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering.

We have a Bachelor of Science in Physics Teaching which results in certification of students to teach physics in high school.   

Finally, we have two minors: a Minor in Astronomy and a Minor in Physics

While visiting our web page, please take time to take a look around.  There is the Physics Zoo which shows images, movies, and explanations of our hallway and a virtual tour of our hall.  There is the research page describing the Physics Research in our department.  There are Physics Demonstrations which show many of the demos we do in lectures.  There is Innovation which describes a number of the many innovative approaches we are taking to education.  There is Laboratory (remember that Physics is an Experimental Science) which has images of our various laboratories and description of the activities and philosophy.  

What is Physics?

Physics is an incredible science. We all experience the effects described by physics such as the light we see to the sounds we hear to the forces (such as weight) we experience. Physics describes motion and collisions. If you want to understand energy, you need to understand physics.

Physics is a very rigorous subject. As a physicist, you must be able to use complex mathematics (calculus was invented for physics). A physicist is not simply a mathematician, but uses mathematics to describe physical phenomena.  A physicist must be able to interpret the mathematics physically, must be able to explain their observations.  A physicist must be able to devise (invent) experimental investigations to test ideas for physical validity, interpret experimental results, figure out how to wrest understanding from nature. Physics, perhaps, has the most philosophical underpinnings of any science (think quantum mechanics and cosmology).

Physics is the only science that spans everything from the amazingly small subatomic particles to the unbelievably large universe! Physics is a science which spans the seemingly esoteric to the very applied. Physics provides the background, explanation and understanding for biology, chemistry, and engineering.

Unfortunately, many people believe that physics is unpractical. This is wrong. The underlying technology of cell phones, computers, tablets, all integrated circuits was created by physicists. Physicists created the image sensors used in cameras, and the fundamental methods of magnetic storage in hard drives. Physicists invented the LASER. Medical technologies such as MRI were pioneered by Physicists. Most important is that Physics endeavors to understand which allows progress.

Why Major in Physics?

There are many reasons why one might want to major in physics. First, physics is just plain fun. But why physics over engineering or chemistry or biology or English or Math? That, in part, depends upon your outlook. Physics is really interested in how atoms, the world, the universe function. It asks fundamental questions and strives to discover the answers to those questions. Physics is also very practical with an applied side, but nothing is rote learning in physics. You must understand. You don't just have some magic equation, or just need to memorize some odd thing or other. Physics is not about simply following rules. Rather, physics is about discovering and understanding the rules.

Physics heavily emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving skills. These skills are both “manipulative” (think laboratory) and cognitive (thinking). For this reason, studying physics often translates into higher test scores on the GRE, LSAT and MCAT. As such, a Physics degree can be a path to many careers.

If you are wanting to know more about how “things” work rather than being told, if you want to discover how “things” work and then make use of that, then physics is the right major for you.   If you like to build equipment (like lasers, like detectors, like new valve system) and then use that equipment in a research investigation, then be a Physics Major.  


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