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WIU Named to List of Largest Master's Degree Granting Physics Departments

May 8, 2014

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MACOMB, IL – The Western Illinois University Department of Physics has been named to the list of largest physics master's degree granting departments in the United States by the American Institute of Physics (AIP).

WIU was named to the list with 25 other universities from across the nation, with an annual average of six master's degrees in physics awarded each year. Those 25 schools are responsible for 66 percent of all master's degrees in physics awarded each year in the United States.

The list includes schools that awarded an average of between five and 12 master's degrees each year between 2010-2012. The list includes only departments whose highest physics degree available is a master's degree.

WIU Physics Chair Mark Boley said making the list is a positive reflection of the department that can be used to market Western to potential students.

"This is a great honor for our department and a reflection of the dedicated commitment and hard work of our faculty on behalf of our wonderful students," Boley said. "This designation indicates a program that is vibrant and growing in its appeal to students and this should also help us continue to see stronger students applying to our physics master's program. It is also an encouragement and testimony to the hard work of our faculty in graduate recruitment and graduate retention and demonstrates their commitment to our students."

The AIP Statistical Research Center collects and reports statistics on all U.S. physics programs, and follows the demographics and trends of the physical sciences community.

WIU sends its graduation statistics to AIP each year, as well as program and enrollment numbers.

"Our graduate program numbers have continued to rise in the past five years, and our average annual graduate program enrollment in physics has grown from 15 to 36 students throughout this time period," Boley said.

The WIU program is unique in the Midwest in the area of atomic, molecular and optical (AMO) physics.

"WIU's physics program has research opportunities in all of theoretical, computational and experimental AMO physics for all of our upper-level undergraduate and graduate students, as well as cutting-edge research opportunities in experimental condensed matter physics and radio astronomy," Boley said. "Our small class sizes and the individual attention given to students as most of them get involved in faculty-mentored research projects, as well as the opportunities to publish with faculty and present at prestigious conferences nationwide, opens many doors for our students."

Boley explained that a master's degree in physics is an important bridging experience between undergraduate work and moving on to a doctoral degree. Studying for a master's degree allows students to gain valuable research, presentation and writing skills before moving on to more intensive requirements. He said it also gives students an opportunity to gain more in-depth knowledge that will make them more marketable to potential industrial employers or to high schools or community colleges as instructors.

For more information on the WIU physics program, visit

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