Undergraduate Program

The intellectual value of Physics as a science can hardly be overstated. Physics is concerned with the most fundamental questions one can ask about the physical world: What is it, ultimately, made of? What rules govern its behavior? How do simple laws of nature lead to diverse phenomena?

Photo of an undergraduate physics student

Physicists address more practical matters as well: the understanding of magnetic materials and semiconductors and optics which was pioneered by physicists in the 20th century made possible the development of computers and communications networks thanks to which you can read this webpage today. Physicists are not limited to studying only certain kinds of questions that fall within the traditional domain of physics: they work with biologists and biochemists to explore cells and viruses; they work with atmospheric scientists in sensing the properties of the upper atmosphere; they work with chemists in finding new materials for diverse applications. Of course they also continue to study atoms and subnuclear particles and other more traditional physics topics, but what characterizes a “physicist’s approach” to any problem are precise and innovative experimental techniques and detailed theoretical analyses.

The value of a Physics degree in the marketplace is also an important matter: if you’re going to work as hard as an Engineering student, shouldn’t you be rewarded commensurately? It must be admitted that students of Physics do not have a clearly laid out career path in the same way as Engineering majors, but that is because an undergraduate degree in Physics can serve as a launching point for diverse career trajectories. The American Institute of Physics has been collecting data concerning the experiences of Physics graduates, and they have issued a series of reports (such as the 2012 initial employment report and Physics Bachelor’s one year later) which you might find interesting.

The American Institute of Physics 2014 edition of GradSchoolShopper.com has been released online.

What do CSU Physics majors do after graduating?

  • Some go on to advanced study in Physics. Our majors are prepared for the most rigorous graduate programs; recent students have entered Physics Ph.D. programs at Cambridge, Yale, University of Maryland and University of California, among others.
  • Some go on to advanced study in other fields, such as Engineering, Atmospheric Science, and Medical Physics. Our colleagues in the Engineering College are generally very happy to take on students with undergraduate Physics degrees as graduate students; if you want to work on the leading edge in almost any area of technology a bachelor’s in Physics offers a sound foundation on which to build.
  • Students who have gone directly into the workforce have been hired by companies such as Agilent, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon.

A strength of the Colorado State University Physics Department is a friendly and informal relationship between students and faculty. The undergraduate study room and the Society of Physics Students bring together students with a common interest in physics. Physics majors often become involved in research and the Little Shop of Physics. We hope that every physics student will get to know many of the faculty members and consult with them freely to understand concepts both inside and outside of the normal curriculum, and to plan for future employment or for graduate studies.

A distinguishing feature of our undergraduate curriculum is an emphasis on laboratory work. There are six courses which either have a laboratory component or are which entirely laboratory-based: the two introductory courses, Electronics, Modern Physics Lab, Optics and Waves, and Advanced Physics Lab.

Physics majors are strongly encouraged to participate in research. Many majors work on a research project at CSU as part of the curriculum, during a summer job, or through the Work-Study Program. This is arranged by mutual agreement of the student and faculty member and is usually initiated by the student. There are many opportunities for research at other institutions during summers, thanks to the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation. There are even opportunities abroad, such as those available through the German Academic Exchange Service.