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 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.
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.
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."
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
- Laboratory Technician
- Technical Consultant
- Research and Development Scientist
- Physics Teacher
- Optical Medical Devices Designer
- Satellite Data Analyst
- Science Writer
- Industrial Hygienist
- Secondary Education Teacher