Undergraduate Programs We Offer
Physics is foundational and touches many other disciplines. Quantitative problem solving and instrumentation skills are in demand across all sciences and all economies. Our undergraduates go on to a wide variety of careers at companies, national labs and research universities, and teaching institutions. They are data scientists, lead engineering teams, design software solutions, pursue advanced degrees in physics and other fields. Of ten recent graduating cohorts: 60% did a research project or internship; 25% were double-majors; 65% graduated in four years or less (90% in five); 40% did an interdisciplinary project, double-major, or an advanced degree in a graduate program in a second discipline; and 50% started their career with their Bachelor’s degree(s).
We offer three majors and two minors
Physics B.S. the traditional core physics courses plus electives.
Physics B.A. the more flexible major, plus optional CS and business subplans.
Engineering Physics B.S.E.P. interdisciplinary combination of physics, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.
Minors in Physics and Astronomy for other majors (Also, consider the B.A.)
Seven interesting minors for physics majors that require five or fewer additional courses.
These sample plans show many paths you can take through the major.
Its easy to satisfy your multiple interests and graduate in four years. The requirements for the major allow students plenty of extra electives and courses for your minor: 8 for the B.S. and 14 for the B.A.
A list of middle and upper level courses including those that are on the every-other-year cycle.
A physics major is a gateway to a wide variety of careers in science and technology. Our foundational courses expand your conceptual and quantitative skills will give you a wide range of opportunities. Laboratory and methods courses provide experience with real world problems, advanced instrumentation, and specialty data analysis techniques.
In addition to courses, you should plan to do a meaningful research project, 60% of our students do. Our award-winning physics professors work on topics in Limnology and Oceanography; Particle and Nuclear Physics; Condensed and Soft-matter Physics; and Astrophysics and Cosmology. Recent physics students also did research projects Biochemistry, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Science. Funding during the summer or academic year is available for most projects.
Because of our department size, the atmosphere for majors is similar to a small college. But our research opportunities are cutting-edge, world-class, well funded, and opportunities are as good as a much larger research institution.
You can use your 8-14 courses and maximize your physics electives if you like. We have 12 active elective courses for undergraduates, most offered every-other-year. Or you can expand into electives in your minor or a second major. 25% of students in 10 recent cohorts were double majors, including Chemistry, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Science, Geology, Biology, English, Linguistics, Philosophy, French, and of course Math.
After graduation, half our students start their careers, a quarter go to a graduate program in physics, and another quarter to graduate programs in Oceanography, Geology, Data Science, Biology, Materials Science, Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Nuclear Engineering, Radiological Health, and Math.
Specific examples of the next career steps for recent physics majors:
- Working on Ph.D. in Bioinformatics, and another working for a vaccine maker.
- Data Science for a global consulting agency Postdoctoral researcher in oceanography at an Ivy League school Radiation Oncology and Diagnostic Imaging (one at the MD level, one as a tech intern)
- Software engineer for a regional supercomputer company
- Quality engineer for a regional medical device company Software, GIS, and analytics for regional electric utility
- Nuclear power plant operator Engineer lead for a regional diverse engineering company
- Electrical Engineer for a regional environmental consulting company
- Postdoctoral researcher using Machine Learning to find Supersymmetry in CERN data
- Software engineer for a global, name-brand internet company
- Back-end analyst for a patent law form
- Bonus: one Chef! one Guitar Player! one Farmer (=high tech small business owner)!
Student Learning Outcomes
The Department established four broad program outcomes for our undergraduate physics majors (Physics B.S. and Physics B.A.) as part of the campus-wide assessment plan. These are:
Comprehension: Students will know and be able to explain the core physics concepts and their mathematical expressions.
Application: Students will be able to apply the laws of physics to new situations, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Execution: Students will be able to design, set-up, and carry out an experiment, using models, analytical techniques, or laboratory equipment.
Communication: Students will be able to communicate scientific ideas to technical and non-technical audiences.
- Presentation: Students can effectively communicate physics ideas in the form of a presentation.
As required by Title IX, the University does not discriminate on the basis of sex in any of its education programs or activities, including in admissions and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX can be directed to the University’s Title IX Coordinators or to the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights. Please see the University of Minnesota’s Title IX Statement and the University’s policy for information about: (1) how to contact the Title IX Coordinators on the University’s campuses; (2) how to report or file a formal complaint of sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, sexual assault, stalking or relationship violence; and (3) the University’s procedures for responding to reports and formal complaints.