Department of Physics
Moulton Hall 311
Campus Box 4560
Normal, Il 61790-4560
Welcome to the Department of Physics.
The lack of graduate students opens up numerous opportunities for undergraduate students in research, employment, and scholarships. Students may apply for employment as research assistants, lab graders and proctors, computer programmers, and planetarium assistants, or they may apply to assist faculty in professional research in the areas of laser physics, nanoscience, space physics, nonlinear systems, and atomic, molecular and optical (AMO) physics. Faculty regularly obtain grants from major national agencies such as NSF, NASA, and DOE that support our undergraduate researchers with paid stipends.
Because physics is the study of the fundamental characteristics of matter and energy and the laws that govern their interactions, physics students gain an in-depth understanding of how much of the physical world works. Physics is the basis of all other sciences, and scientists in other disciplines often use knowledge discovered by physicists to study their own fields. Given this fundamental education, a major in physics can lead to a wealth of different careers—physics majors go on to medical school, law school, MBA programs, and careers in education, computer science, engineering, biology, astronomy, industry, government, and more. Physics is the “Swiss-Army knife” degree of science.
The Physics major at ISU features many unique aspects that make our program a great place to start your physics career. ISU Physics faculty hold Ph.D.’s from the nation’s top universities, including Princeton University and UCLA. Our faculty have often been honored by professional and academic physics societies, including the American Physical Society, the U.S. Dept. of Energy, and NASA. The Department has a 10:1 student to faculty ratio, and does not award graduate degrees. This means that all classes are taught by professors and undergraduate students receive all the faculty attention and support that they need.
The ISU Physics Department also features cutting-edge facilities and equipment, including 5 active research labs with equipment such as materials characterization and precision optical devices; an Advanced Lab with access to the machine shop and funds to construct your own design; a bank of high-speed specific Unix workstation computers and an X-Grid parallel supercomputer; and a scientific visualization lab with facilities for 3-dimensional stereovision modeling and data visualization. The Undergraduate Computational Science Laboratory was established with the generous support of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and has received two recent awards from the U.S. Department of Energy for making "superior contributions to the field of computational science education."
Beyond research and employment, the Department also presents extracurricular opportunities for student involvement. The ISU Physics Club owns a trebuchet, with which competitions are held and pumpkins are chucked, and conducts “Physics on the Road” outreach programs. Students may also learn how to present planetarium shows at the ISU Planetarium or join the ISU Solar Car Team, formed of twenty students from four departments at the University.
Discoveries of physics have revolutionized every part of modern life—we have physics to thank for MRIs, x-rays, the medical applications of lasers, high-speed levitated trains which rely on superconductors, the space program, developments in energy conservation, amusement parks, race cars, microwave ovens, CD players, and more. The physics students of today will continue to revolutionize the world and improve the quality of life tomorrow.
Physicists study everything—from the smallest particles of existence in high-energy physics to the largest, ever-expanding horizons of astrophysics, to the most complex interfaces of physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering. Physicists sometimes seem to live in the world of science fiction, studying and working with nanotechnology, lasers, superconductors, aerodynamics, solar power, and particle accelerators, but their work can be seen in everyday life, in objects we all take for granted.