USNA | Physics

The Discipline and the Major

Physics is the study of the natural laws that govern matter and energy. The ideas of physics are at the heart of all pure sciences, applied science, and engineering disciplines. Since the modern Navy and Marine Corps rely heavily on technology, physics is extremely relevant to a career in either and provides great flexibility in career choices afterward.

All physics majors begin by selecting physics and then specialize by choosing one of three tracks during their 2/C year: physics, applied physics, or astrophysics. Sophomore year is dedicated to foundational material on kinematics, mechanics, electromagnetism, heat, light, and sound. Junior year revisits these topics with increased sophistication and introduces quantum mechanical phenomena and mathematical methods for physicists. During first class year, majors take electives of their choosing. Physics track majors take advanced quantum mechanics, thermal physics, and choose from acoustics, condensed matter, optics, photonics, or nuclear physics. Astrophysics track majors take astronomy, astrophysics, and observational astrophysics. Applied track majors generally take electives from engineering or the other sciences. Regardless of track, physics majors develop rational, analytical approaches to defining and solving problems which range from the small scales found in the nucleus of an atom to the large scales found in the galaxies of the universe.

Opportunities

All physics majors are encouraged to participate in research in their field of interest. The department has active on-site and off-site research programs in acoustics, astrophysics, condensed matter, photonics, and nuclear physics.

Physics is a highly versatile undergraduate degree. With it, a successful student can pursue graduate education in nearly any academic field.

A physics degree opens the door to any service assignment. In the past five years, the most popular service selections have been naval aviation, nuclear propulsion, and Marine Corps. The fundamental nature of the major’s subject matter gives students a solid foundation regardless of service assignment.

Considerations for those who might be interested in this major

Successful physics majors have a strong work ethic and develop proficiency in mathematics. Since physics is based on observation and measurement, it is necessary for students to become skilled in the use of laboratory equipment and the debugging of computer programs as well as the analysis required in the laboratory in their classroom work. Complex and intricate homework begins in the junior year. Teamwork is encouraged through the use of nicely-equipped student office and conference areas. Day and evening assistance by the faculty is readily available.

Physics Department Site

 
Majors

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