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Wheaton College Physics Students in lab
Physics
Wheaton College Physics Student working in lab
Physics
Dr Darren Craig with Wheaton College Physics Students
Physics
Wheaton College Physics Students Writing on Glass Board in Meyer Science Center
Physics

Why Study Physics?

There is no other major that dives as deeply into the complexities of the natural world. You’ll learn about the fundamental processes that take place in nature and the ways matter and energy interact. And you’ll develop rigorous and highly transferable problem-solving skills that draw on analytical thinking, computer modeling, and hands-on experimental skills. Ultimately, you’ll learn how to serve others by applying scientific knowledge to meet the practical needs of individuals, businesses, and communities.

 

5
major tracks
6
full-time faculty
10-15
graduates per year
Rak and colleagues at UofI
Wheaton Grad Involved in Discovery of New Form of Matter

Mindy Rak (Physics '13), with a team of physicists at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

 

Why Study Physics at Wheaton?

Wheaton College offers a unique curriculum for physics majors which has been carefully crafted and informed by physics education research, and designed to capture your attention from your first year. In combination with Wheaton’s Christ at the Core curriculum, you will experience a challenging whole-person education that will prepare you for a wide range of careers or postgraduate study.

Physics majors at Wheaton enjoy robust learner-centered experiences that draw on the unique ways of knowing common to our discipline from a genuinely Christian liberal arts perspective. The study of matter, energy, and their interactions provides fertile ground for enhanced worship of the Creator and for collaborative theoretical, experimental, and computational learning and research among faculty and students in a strong and supportive community. You will have the opportunity to grow in your love and worship of God by engaging with His good creation and preparing for a life of service to the church and society.

Work full-time for 10 weeks on a research project with a Wheaton College faculty member during the summer or join faculty research groups part-time during the school year. In the last five years, eight students have co-authored peer-reviewed articles with Wheaton physics faculty.

Recent projects have been in the areas of Astrophysics, Materials Science, Medical Physics, Particle Physics, Plasma Physics, Philosophy of Science, and Solid State Physics.

Wheaton students may also do research in partnership with scientists at nearby Fermilab or Argonne National Lab.

The Departmental Honors Program is available to physics majors who maintain a 3.70 GPA in the major, and an overall GPA of 3.50. Successful completion of the program will result in a Departmental Honors designation on the student’s transcript. Students must submit an application including a research proposal to the department at least one year prior to graduation. See the department chair for details.

  • Society of Physics Students (SPS): student club open to anyone with an interest in physics. Seeks to foster community among those with a common interest of physics beyond that attained in the classroom. Wheaton's chapter of SPS has been recognized multiple times as an Outstanding Chapter by the National SPS Organization.
  • Department teaching assistant: learn, serve, and make money, all at the same time!
  • Astronomical Observatory: our observatory houses a 24" Planewave telescope with scientific grade accessories and several smaller 8-16" telescopes.
  • Global & Experiential Learning – semester study abroad programs, summer study abroad programs, spring break co-curricular trips
  • The Robotics Club provides a place for students in physics, engineering, and computer science to work together in teams on a variety of practical and fun projects.

Studying physics at Wheaton will prepare you well for going on to graduate school, physics teaching, industrial careers, and a variety of other jobs that utilize the analytical and problem-solving abilities of physicists and engineers.

Our group of graduating physics majors regularly scores above the 70th percentile nationally each year on the ETS Physics Major Field Test.

What Will I Learn?

There are five distinct tracks within the physics major, including some that offer the possibility to cross disciplinary boundaries and specialize in another field beyond physics.

  • The Bachelor of Science in Physics provides a broad preparation in theoretical, computational, and experimental physics. It will prepare you for a wide range of careers where problem-solving and analytical thinking are valued. It is also the appropriate preparation for graduate work in physics.
  • The Bachelor of Arts in Physics has fewer required credit hours of study than the Bachelor of Science option and can offer you increased time to pursue other academic interests.
  • The Bachelor of Science in Physics with Secondary Education is a popular program designed to train you for licensure as a high school physics teacher.
  • The Bachelor of Science in Physics: Applied Physics combines a core physics curriculum with additional engineering coursework. This track is well suited if you want to go on to work in engineering or a related field following your physics training.
  • The Bachelor of Science in Physics: Geophysics combines a core physics curriculum with additional coursework in geology. It is a good option for those interested in resource exploration, international development, or civil engineering.

 Students in any major can complete a Physics minor by taking 20 hours of select upper-level physics courses.

Consult the course catalog for full listing of current courses available in this field.

Possible Careers for Physicists

Studying physics at Wheaton will prepare you well for going on to graduate school, physics teaching, industrial careers, and a variety of other jobs that utilize the analytical and problem-solving abilities of physicists. 

If you are interested in working in the private sector as a physicist or engineer, there are many options available. The Center for Vocation and Career will be happy to partner with you in exploring the many options available to you. You will find physicists and engineers everywhere:

 

  • Aerospace
  • Astronomy
  • Computer science
  • Energy
  • Engineering
  • Environmental science
  • Finance
  • Military
  • Research
  • Technical writing
  • Transportation

A physics degree opens the door to many professions for which you need more training, such as law, public policy, and education. Recent alumni have pursued the following advanced degrees:

  • Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Physics (Ph.D.)
  • Master of Science in Physics (M.S.)
  • Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.)
  • Master of Science in Engineering (M.S.)
  • Purdue University
  • UCLA
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Maryland, College Park
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Vanderbilt University
The summer research experience was one of, if not the best, part of my Wheaton physics experience. I loved getting to know the professors personally by both going to their houses for dinner as well as through the lunchtime article discussions. I cannot emphasize enough the value of this program. — John Ginn '15
I enjoyed the opportunity to study physics at Wheaton, learning about the complexity of the world God has created and how one can be a scientist for the glory of God. Physics at Wheaton also helped develop my determination and adaptability as a learner, and this has served me well as I have transitioned into medical school. — Ryan Stegink '09
My degree in physics was a tremendous help to me in so many areas! I managed the huge Mission Control Center for NASA in Houston, responsible for its operation and maintenance. You can choose the type of thing you would like to do, and as a physicist, you can do it. — Dick Holt '56