The quest to understand the world around us is one of the noblest of mankind’s many adventures. By discovering the basic laws of nature, the inherent desire to learn is satisfied, and the quality of life for all generations to follow may be enhanced.
Because Physics is the most fundamental of the sciences, it plays the central role in these efforts. Whether Albert Einstein in the 20th century or Isaac Newton in the 17th century is considered, physicists have always asked difficult questions and provided unique, unexpected and intellectually challenging answers. As a Physics major, a student is offered the opportunity to join this small but dedicated group of professional scientists.
With about 40 Physics majors and 16 permanent faculty members and several visiting professors in residence, our student-faculty ratio is excellent and is one of the greatest strengths of the program. The capstone research experience has been a tradition in the Department of Physics and Astronomy for decades, and undergraduate Physics majors routinely participate in cutting-edge research while working one-on-one with Physics faculty.
All faculty are expected to maintain active research programs, and through such activity, professors are able to effectively convey state-of-the-art knowledge that prepares students to fully participate in today’s working environments.
Faculty members are conducting research sponsored by NASA, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Office of Naval Research and the U.S. Department of Defense.
Advanced courses include mathematical physics, optics, atomic physics, theoretical mechanics, quantum mechanics, astrophysics, solid state physics, electromagnetic theory, nuclear physics, plasma physics and many other topics. This variety allows flexibility in designing a plan of study.
Physicists are employed in a wide variety of industrial, government and educational settings. For example, industries focusing on medical research, semiconductors, lasers, optics, software development, environmental cleanup and communications hire physicists because of their broad knowledge of many areas of technology. Government agencies such as NASA, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy also provide excellent career opportunities. Many of the jobs in physics involve fundamental research while others cross disciplines and involve the management of technology, the start-up of companies, and even investment and stock market analysis. Career paths for physicists include secondary education, medical school, patent law, forensics, health physics, environmental engineering, journalism, government policy and business management.
Sample Course Schedules
Wondering what your typical day might be like? We used students’ real course schedules to create these examples.
Freshman YearCHEM 115 Fundamentals of Chemistry PHYS 199 Physics Orientation MATH 155 Calculus 1 ASTR 106 Descriptive Astronomy WVUE 191 First Year Seminar
Senior YearPHYS 496 Senior Thesis:Capstone PHYS 341 Advanced Physics Laboratory PHYS 461 Thermodynamics/Statistical Mech PHYS 452 Quantum Mechanics 2 PHYS 497 Research
By the Numbers
Facts and figures that make this major unique:
- WVU has a long-standing and thriving partnership with the Green Bank Observatory in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope is the world’s largest fully steerable telescope.
- The WVU Planetarium and Observatory in White Hall presents free, professionally created shows about our universe.
English Proficiency Requirements
All applicants whose first language is not English must provide proof of English language proficiency. WVU accepts either the TOEFL or the IELTS for this purpose. Learn more about our English language proficiency requirements.
WVU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.