Academics

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Physics

Program Details

The Department of Physics at Western Illinois University is committed to offering every student the opportunity to realize his or her potential in an environment dedicated to rewarding academic excellence. The department has a long tradition of faculty who are committed to teaching excellence while simultaneously involving their students in the excitement and challenges of faculty-mentored individualized and group research projects.

The department offers four-year programs in Standard Physics and Physics Teacher Certification, a flexible minor, a 3+2 (five-year) dual degree program in Engineering Physics and Engineering (field of student’s choice), and a Pre-Engineering program. Additionally, the department is one of the first to offer an accelerated five-year program whereby students can complete both the Bachelor of Science and the Master of Science degrees in Physics through an integrated curriculum. Students who intend to major in Physics are encouraged to take as much mathematics and science as possible in high school, especially the advanced courses.

Why Physics?

Physics plays a basic role in science, engineering, and technology. It deals with the physical world all around us at the most fundamental level, seeking to understand the energy transformations of physical processes and the forces that bind the most basic constituents of matter into more complex systems.

If you enjoy science and mathematics, are curious about the nature of things, and are fascinated by advances in technology, you will find the study of physics a challenging and rewarding way to pursue these interests. The study of physics will allow you to develop tangible, marketable skills such as logical thinking, problem solving, the application of mathematics and computers to physical phenomena, and the use of sophisticated measurement techniques. This is the type of training that many employers at top companies are looking for today.

Research Opportunities

The Department of Physics has research programs that span from very applied to very fundamental problems in experimental and theoretical physics. Current active areas of research in the department are in Experimental Condensed Matter Physics, Experimental and Theoretical Atomic-Molecular-Optical Physics, NanoScale Materials, Astrophysics, Superconductivity, and Magnetism.

Physics faculty are very committed to providing exciting and unique research opportunities for both undergraduates and graduates and to work with them on a one-on-one basis. Physics majors regularly present their results at University, regional, and national student research conferences. Students who carry out original research projects develop critical thinking skills and learn how to work independently as well as in teams. These are precisely the qualities that employers and graduate schools are looking for in applicants, and our majors have been very successful in securing good jobs after graduation or in continuing their education at prestigious graduate programs in physics as well as in engineering. They also often win prestigious national fellowships in their junior or senior years.

The RISE program in Physics is a unique opportunity for students (with a minimum 2.8 GPA) to increase their marketable skills for potential employers and be more career-ready at graduation. RISE students engage in faculty-mentored research on a continuous basis, develop their presentation and grant-writing skills, enhance their networking capabilities, and have special opportunities for involvement in internships and summer research experiences for undergraduates (REUs). There are a number of available scholarships uniquely available for RISE students on a competitive basis.

Student Activities

Physics students in the teacher licensure program participate in a number of activities through their program, including high school physics class visits, judging science fairs, coordinating events for Science Olympiad, and attending the WIU Secondary Science Education Conference and the Chemistry and Physics Demonstration Show. They are also highly encouraged to participate in professional organizations such as the Illinois Science Teachers Association, the National Science Teachers Association, and the American Association of Physics Teachers. In addition, students can participate in several departmental organizations such as the WIU National Science Teachers Association Student Chapter and the Society of Physics Students. Also, a wide variety of student activities and organizations are available to all Western students. Learn more at wiu.edu/osa.

Integrated Baccalaureate and Master’s Degree Program

An integrated baccalaureate and master’s degree program is available for the Bachelor of Science in Physics: Master of Science in Physics. An integrated degree program provides the opportunity for outstanding undergraduates to earn both degrees in five years. Please refer to the Graduate Studies catalog for details about the integrated program.

Department Minors

  • Physics

Additional Resources

Teacher and students in a class

Career Opportunities

Physicists contribute to a wide spectrum of professional activities in research laboratories, the engineering and computer science industry, government, education, medicine, and finance. Recent graduates of our program have found employment in fields such as physics research, physics education, industry research and development, computer applications, management, technical sales, nuclear medicine, aerospace engineering, and telecommunications. The demand for graduates trained in technical fields such as physics is currently very high and does not seem likely to fade in the near future. Physicists are currently among the best paid professionals in science and technology.

If your primary interest is in basic research or in university teaching, you should plan on pursuing the doctoral (Ph.D.) degree in Physics. In this case, you should definitely consider Western’s accelerated five-year program whereby students can complete both the Bachelor of Science and the Master of Science degrees in Physics through an integrated curriculum. This will best enable you to enter a nationally ranked physics doctoral program of your choice both well-prepared and in a timely fashion.

Teaching Opportunities

The vast majority of our students begin their teaching careers upon graduation while a few opt for other related careers. In addition to careers in teaching at public and private schools, graduates are also sought as corporate trainers; education specialists in nontraditional settings such as theme parks, museums, and labs; tutors; online teachers; as well as other positions needing an individual who possesses excellent people skills, ability to educate others, and a strong content background.

PHYSICS (PHYS)

Please refer to the undergraduate catalog for detailed program information and course requirements.

100 Physics for Society. (4) (General Education/ Natural Sciences) A survey course in Physics that introduces basic principles and applications in the modern world. Uses algebra at the high school level. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab. IAI: P1 901L.

101 Introduction to Astronomy. (3) (General Education/ Natural Sciences) A basic introduction to modern astronomy, examining the physical principles of telescopes, gravity, radiation and atoms, the solar system, stars, galaxies, and cosmology. No Physics or Mathematical background beyond high school algebra and physical science is assumed. No prerequisites. IAI: P1 906.

Applied Physics (114, 115) is a one-year sequence which stresses basic concepts and applications to practical problems. Designed for the non-science major, it satisfies the general requirements for a laboratory science.

114, 115 Applied Physics. (4 each) (General Education/ Natural Sciences) Includes mechanics with hydrostatics and hydrodynamics; heat and thermodynamics; wave motion and optics; D.C. electricity, magnetic induction, and A.C. electricity. Assumes that students have a knowledge of high school algebra and trigonometry. Recommended, but not required, to take the course in sequence. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

General Physics (124, 125) is a non-calculus general Physics sequence designed to meet the needs of all science majors who do not plan to take the Physics 211–214 sequence.

124, 125 General Physics. (5 each) A two-semester introduction to basic ideas and experimental methods in such areas as mechanics and the conservation laws; wave motion and sound; heat and temperature; electricity and magnetism; light and optics; atomic and nuclear Physics. Assumes that students have a knowledge of high school algebra and trigonometry.

The course must be taken in sequence. 3 hrs. lect.; 1 hr. discussion; 2 hrs. lab.

150 Energy and the Environment. (4) (General Education/ Natural Sciences) (Global Issues) An introductory course concerned with the global and international topics of energy conversion, air and land pollution, and alternative energy sources. Uses algebra at the high school level. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

182 (Cross-listed with GEOG 182) Integrated Science II. (4) (General Education/Natural Sciences) A laboratory course in interdisciplinary science with an emphasis on the Earth’s place in the physical universe. Topics address the nature of matter and energy and their impact on the Earth’s weather and climate. (Integrated Science I is BIOL/GEOL 181) Not open to students with credit in GEOG 182. Prerequisite: MATH 100. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

University Physics (211, 212, 213, and 214) is a calculus-based general Physics sequence designed for science and Pre-Engineering majors.

211 University Physics I. (4) (General Education/ Natural Sciences) Motion, Newton’s laws, forces, momentum, energy, work, rotation, and simple harmonic motion. Prerequisite or Corequisite: MATH 133. 3 hrs. lect.; 1 hr. discussion; 2 hrs. lab. IAI: PHY 911.

212 University Physics II. (4) Kinetic theory, thermodynamics, wave motion, sound, optics. Prerequisite: PHYS 211. Prerequisite or Corequisite: MATH 134. 3 hrs. lect.; 1 hr. discussion; 2 hrs. lab. IAI: EGR 913; PHY 913.

213 University Physics III. (4) Electrostatics, electric fields, D.C. circuits, magnetism, A.C. circuits, and introduction to basic electronic devices. Prerequisite: PHYS 211. Prerequisite or Corequisite: MATH 134. 3 hrs. lect.; 1 hr. discussion; 2 hrs. lab. IAI: PHY 912.

214 University Physics IV. (3) Relativity, blackbody radiation, atomic structure and spectra, introduction to quantum mechanics, selected topics from nuclear and solid state Physics. Prerequisites: PHYS 212 and 213, or 125. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

310 Statics. (3) Basic concepts of statics with engineering applications including rigid bodies, simple structures, flexible cables, beams, friction, virtual work. Not available to students who are currently enrolled in or have completed ENGR 211. Prerequisite: PHYS 211.

311 Classical Mechanics. (3) Basic concepts of dynamics including Newton’s laws, energy, momentum, rigid body dynamics, oscillators, Lagrange’s method, central forces, accelerated coordinate systems. Prerequisite: PHYS 211. Prerequisite or Corequisite: MATH 333.

354 Thermodynamics. (3) Concept of temperature; the first, second, and third laws of thermodynamics; applications to gases; change of state; kinetic theory; and applications to simple models of familiar situations. Prerequisites: PHYS 212 and MATH 333.

367 (Formerly PHYS 467) Mathematical Methods of Physics I. (3) Vector analysis, matrices, determinants, infinite series, applications of differential equations, numerical solutions. Prerequisites or Corequisites: PHYS 214, MATH 333, or consent of instructor.

410 Computational Methods. (3) Applications of FORTRAN and/or MATHEMATICA to programming of numerical and analytical calculations, data fitting, simulation of physical problems, and individualized work on problems chosen from the student’s field of interest. Prerequisites: basic knowledge of FORTRAN, one year of general Physics, one year of calculus, or consent of instructor.

420 (Formerly PHYS 320) Electricity and Magnetism I. (3) Electrostatics, magnetostatics, electromagnetic induction, introduction to Maxwell’s equations. Prerequisites: PHYS 213 and MATH 333.

421 Electricity and Magnetism II. (3) Maxwell’s equations, plane EM waves in infinite media, reflection and refraction of EM waves, guided EM waves, radiation of EM waves, relativistic treatment of electricity and magnetism. Prerequisite: PHYS 420.

427 Advanced Electronics. (3) Electronic measurement fundamentals, passive circuit elements, analog electronics (op amps, transducers, noise reduction), digital electronics (logic gates, flip flops, counters, combinational and sequential circuitry), D/A and A/D conversion, data acquisition techniques. Prerequisite: PHYS 115 or 125 or 213. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

428 Applied Optics. (4) Geometrical optics, diffraction, interferometry, polarization, laser construction, optical materials, holography. Modern optical techniques and instrumentation are emphasized. Prerequisite: PHYS 125 or 212. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

430 Introductory Quantum Mechanics I. (3) Atomic nature of matter, introduction to quantum mechanics including Schroedinger equation. Prerequisite: PHYS 214 and MATH 333.

431 Introductory Quantum Mechanics II. (3) Spin, fine structure, atomic spectroscopy, perturbation theory, applications. Prerequisite: PHYS 430.

461 Astrophysics I. (3) Introduces basic concepts and tools in modern astrophysics, including celestial mechanics, spectroscopy, and telescopes. Provides a comprehensive description of stellar astrophysics. The physical processes and observational characteristics of stars in hydrostatic equilibrium, including our sun, are analyzed. Prerequisite: PHYS 214 or permission of the instructor.

462 Astrophysics II. (3) An overview of galactic and extragalactic astrophysics. The Milky Way galaxy is studied in detail, including dark matter and stellar evolution. Other galaxies, the large scale properties of the universe, and cosmology are discussed. Prerequisite: PHYS 461 or permission of the instructor.

468 Mathematical Methods of Physics II. (3) Complex variables, orthogonal functions, special functions, general solution of partial differential equations in Physics. Fourier series and Fourier integrals. Prerequisite: PHYS 367.

470 Modern Experimental Physics. (2) Laboratory experiments illustrating both the development of modern physics and modern experimental systems techniques. Experiments cover a range of topics. Prerequisite: PHYS 214.

476 Special Topics in Physics. (1–4, repeatable with no maximum) Lecture course in topics of current interest, to be announced in the class schedule. Topics based on the student’s previous training and interests. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

477 Special Problems in Experimental and Theoretical Physics. (1–4, repeatable with no maximum) Individualized study of any phase of Physics not otherwise covered. Opportunity for undergraduates to engage in experimental or theoretical research under staff supervision. Prerequisite: consent of the instructor.

478 Physics Internship. (1–12) A one-semester on-the-job experience in an industrial facility or a research laboratory. Prerequisite: consent of department chairperson and PHYS 477.

490 Seminar. (2) Reading, discussion, and criticism of selected topics. Oral presentation and formal paper on a chosen topic. Writing Instruction in the Disciplines (WID) course. Prerequisite: ENG 280.

491 Honor Thesis. (1–3, not repeatable) A Physics thesis prepared by an Honors student under the direction of one or more members of the Physics Department. Prerequisite: Honors major in Physics and junior or senior standing.

(Education)

239 Pre-Teacher Education Program Admittance. (0, repeatable with no maximum) Students pursuing teacher licensure are required to take this course in the semester they plan to be fully accepted in the Teacher Education Program (TEP). Students must meet established departmental criteria for admittance to TEP. Graded S/U.

339 Pre-Student Teaching Clearance. (0) Students pursuing teacher licensure are required to take this course prior to their student teaching semester. Students must meet established criteria for departmental clearance to student teach. Prerequisites: Full admittance to the Teacher Education Program (TEP). Graded S/U.

439 Methods of Teaching Secondary Science. (3) Study of secondary teaching methods (Grades 6–12) from the standpoints of theory and practice, curriculum objectives and standard implementation, materials, and evaluation and assessment. Included are demonstrations, discussions, lectures, classroom participation, and field observations. Prerequisites: BIOL/GEOL 181 or GEOG/PHYS 182, BIOL 281, and EIS 301 (all with C grade or better). Corequisite: EIS 303.

469 Pre-Licensure Clearance. (0) Students pursuing teacher licensure are required to take this course in the semester they student teach. Students must meet criteria established by the department in order to be recommended for licensure. Prerequisite: departmental clearance to student teach. Corequisite: Student Teaching (STCH). Graded S/U

480 Student Teaching See STCH 480.

482 (Cross-listed with BIOL 482 and CHEM 482) Science in Context. (3) Interdisciplinary course for science majors in which students explore science through inquiry, the unifying principles of science, and the role of social contexts and ethics in science. Writing Instruction in the Disciplines (WID) course. Not open to students with credit in BIOL 482 or CHEM 482. Prerequisites: senior standing in one of the following science majors—Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geology, or Meteorology; ENG 280; or permission of instructor.

Contact Information

Department of Physics

Dr. Mark Boley, Chairperson
Email: MS-Boley@wiu.edu
Location: Currens Hall 422
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455-1390
Phone: (309) 298-1462

Physics Website

Physics Directory

College of Arts & Sciences (CAS)

Dr. Susan Martinelli-Fernandez, Dean
Email: Martinelli-Fernandez@wiu.edu
CAS Email: cas@wiu.edu
Location: Morgan Hall 114
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455-1390
Phone: (309) 298-1828

CAS Website

Physics Advising

Jennifer Sandrik-Rubio
Currens Hall 303
Phone: (309) 298-3620
Email: JL-Sandrik@wiu.edu

Currens Hall