College: Arts and Sciences
Physicists are concerned with a broad range of natural phenomena, extending from the submicroscopic world of elementary particles to the vast reaches of the cosmos and the origins of the universe, from the simplest of everyday activities to the behavior of matter at the furthest extremes in energy, temperature, distance and time.
The defining characteristic of physics is the quest for the underlying logic—the theoretical structure that unifies and explains all the different phenomena that we study experimentally. Both the experiments themselves and the theoretical work that goes on at the same time are motivated primarily by this quest. As a by-product of this quest, physicists have pioneered many of the basic ideas on which our modern technology rests. Such developments as transistors, lasers and perhaps someday fusion energy all come directly from research in physics.
The Department of Physics wants to become involved with students as soon as they know that they intend to become physics majors, which can be as early as their first arrival at Ohio State. Those who intend to major in physics or are interested in exploring that option should schedule a visit at physics.osu.edu/request-visit.
A student who is interested in majoring in physics should consider carefully whether to choose a program in the College of Arts and Sciences (Bachelor of Science in Physics) or in the College of Engineering (Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics). The courses of study are very similar and prepare students for a variety of outcomes including graduate school in physics, astronomy, math or engineering; professional school; and employment as engineers, programmers, teachers, technicians and scientists.
Students pursuing a BS in physics can choose from among four options ranging from a rigorous preparation for graduate study in physics to a more flexible option for students who wish to combine a core of physics courses with courses in other areas. In addition to the technical electives unique to each option, all physics majors must complete the core physics and math requirements.
Students choose one of the following options based on what they want to do after they finish their undergraduate work:
- Advanced Physics is designed for students who wish to pursue an advanced physics degree; this option provides an excellent preparation for graduate school in physics, mathematics or astronomy.
- Applied Physics prepares students to begin a full-time job after graduation or to enroll in a graduate program outside of physics including engineering, law, business, journalism, chemistry and biology.
- Life Sciences is designed for those intending to attend medical school; this option satisfies all of the medical school admission requirements when combined with the required physics and math courses in the physics core curriculum.
- Physics Teaching was created for those seeking secondary level certification in physics (e.g., to be a high school teacher); this option has been designed to satisfy the College of Education Master of Education (physics certification) curriculum.
Physics and engineering physics majors have recently participated in study abroad programs in Germany, Switzerland, England, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Ireland and Canada.
Students have internship opportunities in various fields, including at Johns-Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, NASA, Microsoft, Boeing, Cook Nuclear Plant, Fermilab, Jet Propulsion Lab, SETI Institute, General Electric, IBM, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy, Mayo Clinic, Northrop Grumman, PNC Bank, Wells Fargo, and Air Force bases.
The Department of Physics encourages all of its students to become involved in research with a faculty member on one of many active research programs. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about and become involved in cutting edge physics research and discoveries. Areas of research include astrophysics, nuclear and elementary particle physics, solid state physics, biophysics, laser physics, superconductivity, and low temperature physics. In addition, undergraduate physics student organizations have many activities, including hosting guest physicists who speak about their research.
Student organizations of interest to physics majors include Sigma Pi Sigma (the physics honorary society), Society of Physics Students and the Society for Women in Physics.
Recent graduates of the physics program have gone on to study physics, engineering and astronomy at top universities such as Cornell University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Cambridge, University of Pennsylvania, University of Oxford, University of Hawaii and University of Chicago.
Graduates of the physics program have a variety of careers open to them. As workers in basic research, physicists may help expand the frontiers of the knowledge of the physical universe; as teachers in high schools, colleges or universities, they may help to transmit to others knowledge and appreciation of that universe and of scientific methods of investigating and understanding it. In an industrial laboratory or government agency, physicists may deal with the application of fundamental knowledge to the development of solutions for a wide range of practical problems, or they may be managers of large scientific or technical programs. In collaboration with colleagues in other disciplines, physicists may help attack problems spanning a number of important areas, many of which—such as energy usage, radiation hazards and environmental issues—are of current public concern.
Learn more at physics.osu.edu/ug-careers.
Recent graduates in physics have been employed at salaries in the range of $60,000 to $95,000 with the average at $72,000.
- Provide students with the opportunity to master the fundamental areas of physics: classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics and thermodynamics.
- Allow students to develop problem-solving skills and the ability to analyze physical systems and to understand the theoretical framework that applies to them.
- Provide students with a basic mastery of experimental science, including an understanding of data reduction and error analysis.
- Teach students to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.
- Provide students with the opportunity to develop a basic knowledge of and facility with computing.
- 12 Goldwater Scholarship recipients in the past 10 years
- 11 National Science Foundation Fellowship recipients in the past 10 years
- 2007 Rhodes Scholar
- 2011 and 2015 Churchill Scholars
- Two 2009 Gates-Cambridge Scholarship Finalists
- Fulbright Scholars in 2010 and 2013
- 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place winners of the Denman Research Forum
Interested in a career in the STEM fields?
Check out the STEM Pathway to discover the many majors Ohio State offers that can lead to a career in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.