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The central mission of the undergraduate program in Physics is to teach students how Physicists measure, describe and explain natural phenomena through scientific investigation and critical thinking. Students learn concepts in Physics, quantitative methods for analyzing data and developing theoretical insights, computational, and experimental techniques for testing theoretical predictions and discovering new phenomena. The study of diverse applications as well as elegant theoretical formalisms reveals Physics to be an exciting and highly rewarding discipline that has important connections to other sciences, engineering disciplines, and societal goals.
The Department of Physics offers educational opportunities consistent with the broad principles of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The undergraduate program for students pursuing a bachelor's degree in Physics provides a solid and challenging education and prepares them to excel in diverse career paths in which independent thinking, analytical skills, and experimental skills are useful. These paths include graduate or professional school, industrial research, and education— not just in Physics, but in other scientific, engineering, social, and professional fields.
The department offers several options for students with varying interests. Students can also take a track in which they study basic Physics, math and chemistry in preparation to transfer to an engineering program at another institution. EIU students have gone on to enjoy success at many engineering programs, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and Missouri University of Science and Technology. The personal touch with small class sizes and individualized attention helps students succeed in whatever direction they choose after leaving EIU.
For non-majors taking introductory Physics as a part of their liberal arts requirements, the courses develop physical concepts and intuition along with the laboratory work and problem-solving skills required to succeed in their chosen course of study. Specific service courses for certain majors, as well as general education courses, both emphasize the core features of the Physicist's perspective of the natural world. A wide variety of topics covered in the introductory Physics courses help to develop a conceptual understanding of topics of general interest. All Physics courses encourage students to appreciate the relevance of Physics and integrate it in their everyday lives and in their future professions.
Why major or minor in Physics? Simple question, simple answer: because studying Physics helps you understand how the universe works. The laws of Physics, when you really look at them, are absolutely amazing. The more you learn about Physics, the more you come to see how seemingly unrelated phenomena in the universe can have remarkably similar explanations.
Learning the laws of Physics gives you an appreciation for many of the beautiful things that happen around you every day. What is a rainbow? Why is the sky blue? What is lightning? Physics can give you an understanding of the principles at work to create these phenomena. While you may be able to describe the colors in the sunset, an understanding of the reasons for those colors leads to a greater appreciation of the wonders of light and color.
The modern world around us has many applications of Physics. Television, computers, and cell phones are all based on applications of fundamental physical principles. In addition, you also learn about phenomena that you don't see everyday, but address some very fundamental questions: What is the nature of time and distance? How did the universe begin, and what is its ultimate fate? What really is matter and energy? What are the limits of what we truly can know about the universe? Would the earth fall out of its orbit if everyone in Asia jumped at precisely the same time?
The type of person that wants to study Physics has an interest in the inner workings of the universe. But there are practical aspects to the study of Physics. The skill set that a Physics major ends up with is useful and sought after in the job market. Whether you go to graduate school (in Physics, meteorology, medicine, mathematics, or law) or into a career position, you will have problem solving skills, laboratory techniques, knowledge of technical equipment, and an approach to problems that will help you succeed.
Physics majors enter the job market in computer science, engineering, sales, education, and a variety of other areas. They are successful in all of these areas because their skill set allows them to attack new challenges with confidence.