If you’re looking to carve yourself a rewarding career in the sciences, why not consider studying physics?
Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr and Stephen Hawking are just some of the giants in the field whose work has had a profound impact on improving our understanding of the world, inspiring many other scientists in their wake.
Physics is a stimulating area of study; an undergraduate or graduate degree in the field can open the door to a myriad of careers across a range of industries, be it in research, academia, business, IT or engineering, among others. Physicists can find employment in both private and government sectors and often work in offices or laboratories, depending on their role.
While popular culture such as TV series The Big Bang Theory may depict physics as a nerdy endeavor, the work and discoveries of professionals in the field have paved the way for improvements in our world, be it through the understanding of gravity, improving space flight, among many others.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of physicists will grow by 14 percent between 2016 and 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Modern physics will continue to be a driving force in the changes happening in the world today, calling for professionals in the field to tackle 21st century challenges and continue to evolve and meet future demands.
If you’re keen on becoming the physicists the world needs, here are four universities in the US and Canada worth considering:
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY (GWU)
This private research university is strategically located in Washington DC, in proximity to major organisations and research centres that act as a platform for internship and career opportunities post-graduation.
Faculty scholars at GWU’s Physics Department are among the nation’s top scientists and researchers, conducting research in a variety of areas including Astrophysics, Experimental Nuclear Physics and Experimental Biophysics.
The GWU Astrophysics Group strives to excel in high-energy astrophysics research, as well as to advance astronomy and astrophysics education, exploring matter and physics under the most extreme conditions by using world-class telescopes and NASA satellites.
GWU has one of the largest university-based nuclear physics groups in the nation. Projects extend from the university’s campuses to collaborations in Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, Germany’s Mainz Microtron Facility and Switzerland’s Paul Scherrer Institute. Experiments focus on the understanding strong interactions within the nuclear medium.
Biophysics applies the theories and methods of physics to understand how biological systems work. The GWU biophysics research lab brings together faculty, postdoctoral associates, graduate students and undergraduates to examine biophysics in theoretically and experimentally.
GWU’s Department of Physics undergraduate programmes include a BA or BS in Physics, BS in Astronomy and Astrophysics or a BS in Biophysics, while graduate students can choose from advanced electives including Quantum Field Theory, Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics.
This public university’s Department of Physics and Astronomy is renowned for the breadth and quality of its research. The faculty includes two Nobel Prize winners, three National Academy of Science members and twelve University Distinguished Professors.
The department prides itself on its research prowess, with many of its research areas covering a range of phenomena that humans are trying to understand. The department’s research groups also collaborate with other departments on campus, and with collaborators at the many US and international universities and labs.
Undergraduate students can choose from their BA in Physics or BSc in Physics. Those keen on pursuing an advanced degree in physics or who wish to gain employment as a professional physicist in an industrial setting may want to opt for the latter, which is more rigorous in its physics and mathematics course requirements.
Conversely, the BA curriculum allows students to explore other interests as it provides them with a strong foundation in physics and with the flexibility to choose from a large number of elective courses. Students can also customise their programme in preparation for a career in any science-related or science-required field, and can become directly involved in any of the active research programmes in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Meanwhile, graduate students have the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research in their area of choice. Graduates go on to carve themselves careers as professors, research staff at national laboratories, teachers in higher education or even in high paying jobs outside academia. To boot, nearly all graduate students are fully supported by teaching or research assistantships throughout their graduate career.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA IRVINE
This public university is located in the coastal city of Irvine, California. UCI was founded in 1965 and is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities.
Its physics undergraduate programmes under the Department of Physics and Astronomy include the Bachelor of Science degrees in Physics and Applied Physics. Students can choose to focus their area of study from several specialisations to give them an edge in graduate school or to develop for their future career. This includes Astrophysics, Business/Law, Engineering Physics, Biomedical Physics, Computational Physics, Philosophy of Physics and Physics Education.
Undergraduate students also have opportunities to engage in research or independent study under the direction of a faculty member.
The Department also offers a programme of graduate study leading to a PhD degree in Physics. The graduate course curriculum provides students with a foundation in fundamental physics and elective courses in a broad range of topical areas. Students will also conduct original research in diverse areas of experimental and theoretical physics and astrophysics, under the guidance of members of our departmental faculty.
The university also offers a graduate programme in Chemical and Materials Physics as a joint programme with the UCI Department of Chemistry. PhD graduates are well prepared for careers in scientific research, teaching and industry.
Research areas include Astrophysics, Biological Physics, Condensed Matter Physics, Medical Physics, Particle Physics and Plasma Physics.
Queen’s is a public university located in Ontario, Canada. Its Department of Physics is one of the country’s leading teaching and research institutes in Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy. Faculty include high-profile, world-class physicists who work on cutting-edge areas of theoretical, computational, applied and experimental physics.
At Queen’s, students have the chance to engage in international collaboration, as well as inter-disciplinary research with other departments within the university, in addition to working in state-of-the-art laboratories.
Their undergraduate programmes include Physics and Astronomy and Engineering Physics. In the former, students will study topics such as classical mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, advanced laboratory, relativity and quantum mechanics during their second and third year of studies. In their fourth year, students can take specialised courses in current, modern subjects such as nanoscience, medical physics, lasers, nuclear and particle physics, solid state physics and general relativity.
Conversely, the Engineering Physics programme allows students to apply the knowledge of fundamental physical principles underlying modern technology and processes. Students will study a strategic combination of math, physics and engineering courses from a chosen specialty area.
Graduate students can pursue MSc or MASc programs at Queen’s, or even a PhD in physics.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International
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