What is Physics?

Physics is "the fundamental science." Astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, and engineering all apply the principles of physics to specific problems. Almost all areas of modern technology involve the applications of physics—and undergraduate study in this field provides a solid foundation for further work and study in physics, astronomy, and engineering.

Physics Degree(s)

Chemistry/Physics—Secondary, BAE

Degree Type: Teaching Endorsement

Western's programs in Secondary Education are designed to prepare thoughtful, knowledgeable, and effective middle and secondary school teachers for a diverse society. Learning to teach Chemistry and Physics occurs through a variety of means: the study of a wide range of chemistry and physics, an extended internship, and continual experiences as a student, learner, and problem solver.


Chemistry Program Coordinators,
chemistry@wwu.edu | 360-650-3070

Andrew Boudreaux, Physics Education Advisor
Andrew.Boudreaux@wwu.edu | 360-650-7383

Physics, BS

A Physics BS degree can open a variety of doors for jobs in high-tech industries, government labs, and as preparation for graduate school. Many graduates have found the skills acquired in our degree program have prepared them for further academic studies in physics, astronomy, engineering, patent law, medical physics, medicine, and education, to name a few.


Sara Lavender, Department Manager
Sara.Lavender@wwu.edu | 360-650-3818

Physics/ Mathematics — Secondary Education, BAE

Degree Type: Teaching Endorsement

This program offers formal clinical preparation in education, an extended internship, and continual experiences as a student, learner, and problem solver in mathematics and physics. Combined with the professional preparation program in secondary education, this degree prepares students to teach mathematics and physics for middle and high school.


Jessica Cohen, Associate Professor
cohenj3@wwu.edu | 360-650-3830

Janna Cecka, Secondary Education Department Manager
WCE.Advising@wwu.edu | 360-650-3347

Physics at Western

Physics majors at Western Washington University have a wealth of opportunities available to them to participate in meaningful hands-on research and teaching experiences. Such opportunities include working as laboratory teaching assistants for lower division classes. In addition, active research programs in astronomy, theoretical and experimental condensed matter physics, and physics education research actively recruit students, providing them the opportunity to participate in cutting edge research.

Students in Western's Secondary Education program learn how to teach within a mathematical and science context and conduct thorough studies of mathematics and physics. This program offers formal clinical preparation in education, an extended internship, and continual experiences as a student, learner, and problem solver in mathematics and physics. Students in the program focus on expanding their personal understanding of mathematics and physics and capitalize on the opportunities available to tutor pre-college students, assist in classrooms, and obtain a position as a practicum student or novice teacher in their internship.

The Physics/Mathematics - Secondary Education major must be accompanied by the professional preparation program in Secondary Education offered through Woodring College of Education.

Western’s Physics & Astronomy Department is part of the College of Science and Engineering.

Explore Courses

PHYS 190 – Exploring Physics and Astronomy

PHYS 322 – Fundamentals of Electronics

PHYS 350 – Engineering Thermodynamics

PHYS 400 – Directed Independent Study

Hands-on-Experience and Internships

Students wishing to stay involved with the Mathematics and Physics community have the opportunity to immerse themselves in extracurricular activities that often pertain to teaching as well as mathematics and science. Opportunities beyond the Physics classroom include teaching assistant (TA) positions, research assistantships, and professional seminars.

Teaching Assistants

Physics Teaching Assistants (TAs) assist professors in principally two ways: lab assistance and grading. Duties for lab TAs may include attending weekly training meetings, running lab sessions, and grading lab reports. Students are paid an hourly rate based on experience with the department. Students often find that they have a much deeper understanding of physics after being a TA. One of the favorite benefits to being a TA is having a key to the student study space, affectionately called "The Zoo."


Active research programs in astronomy, theoretical and experimental condensed-matter physics, and physics education actively recruit undergraduate students, allowing them to participate in cutting-edge research. Students are also welcome—and encouraged—to approach faculty individually and inquire about research opportunities.


Physics Department Seminars include colloquia and conferences put on by faculty and field scholars, which all students are invited to attend.  

The Math Center

Student stay involved with mathematics by working in the Math Center (staffed by undergraduate Math Fellows, it is a great place to get help with homework, meet other students, and form study groups), join the Putnam Exam group, or participate in the Math Modeling Competition or the Kryptos Cryptography Competition.

"The Department of Physics and Astronomy's faculty are focused on the undergraduate experience. We provide many opportunities for students, from original research with faculty to teaching assistantships to helping mentor peers as a Learning Assistant. Students leave our program prepared for graduate school or a variety of professional careers."

Brad Johnson


What can you do with Physics?

Recent Physics graduates have found positions in a variety of fields including software development, optoelectronics, engineering, failure analysis, and education, among many others. The skills acquired in Western’s Physics program have prepared students for further academic studies in Physics, Astronomy, Engineering, Patent Law, Medical Physics, Medicine, and Education.

Employers of Recent Western Graduates:

  • Peace Health Laboratories: Lab Assistant 
  • Systems Interface, Inc.: Engineering Technical Support
  • Wireless Applications Corporation: Design Engineering Assistant

Western graduates who pursue graduate studies are doing so at such schools as: 

  • Edmonds Community College: Nuclear Medicine
  • University of Oregon: Applied Physics
  • University of Washington: Electrical and Electronics Engineering

Physics careers

  • Astronomer
  • Seismologist
  • Laboratory Technician
  • Geophysicist
  • Technical Consultant
  • Research and Development Scientist
  • Physics Teacher
  • Optical Medical Devices Designer
  • Satellite Data Analyst
  • Science Writer
  • Engineer
  • Industrial Hygienist
  • Secondary Education Teacher

Start Your Career at Western