Why Physics?

Linking the mysteries of science with everyday life

Scientists cannot hope to understand the universe without first comprehending physics. Elon’s physics program offers one of the most versatile and broadly applicable majors because it is interdisciplinary and gives students impressive skills that are valuable in any career or field of graduate study.

Elon’s physics curriculum includes study of the social sciences and humanities, as well as other sciences, mathematics, computer science and engineering. The scholarly interests of physics faculty are also interdisciplinary, spanning the spectrum of physics disciplines. Students pursue research into the mysteries of deep space and the subatomic world as well as the physics of everyday objects. Graduates succeed in business, engineering and other careers because of the intellectual rigor they experience while studying the profound and engaging material of physics.

Whether it is through research, lab work or the Physics Club, physics has become not only something I experience in the class, but an everyday experience.

Daniel Glass ’11

Dynamic Curriculum

Elon offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in physics, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in astronomy and astrophysics, a dual-degree in physics engineering, and minors in physics and astronomy. The strength of the program lies in small class sizes and the close mentoring relationships that develop between physics faculty and students. The department’s faculty are effective and innovative instructors who incorporate varied teaching techniques and technologies into the classroom to enhance understanding.

I know from personal experience that Elon physics prepares its students for success by providing opportunities for genuine research experience and outstanding mentorship, the value of which should never go overlooked.

Ali Deatsch ’13

The major course of study begins with a three-semester sequence of courses, ranging from mechanics through electricity to basic nuclear physics and particle theory. Building on this base, students select courses in the advanced theory of electromagnetic phenomena, the mysterious world of quantum mechanics and a range of other topical courses, including classical mechanics, circuit design, thermodynamics and astrophysics.

Matt Sears '18 works with students and Jeremy Hohertz, Instructor in Physics

Learning through research

Research is a vital part of Elon’s physics program. Like internships, lab research opportunities help students develop important professional skills and give them the chance to experience life as a scientist.

Junior physics majors take a year-long Research Methods course that focuses on experiment design, data analysis and the presentation of scientific information. Physics and astrophysics majors are also asked to do at least one semester of independent research. This experience has led the physics program to success in placing students at research sites nationwide through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, as well as other national lab and research institution programs.

Physics majors have conducted research at the University of California at Davis, Boston College, Bucknell University, University of Rochester, the University of Iowa, Brookhaven National Labs, and Space Telescope Science Institute, among other major institutions.

Recent student research projects include:

  • Investigations of electrons in different alloys of nickel and manganese
  • Simulations of galaxies with active supermassive black holes
  • Atomic imaging of the surface of materials
  • Using magnetic forces to deliver cancer treatments
  • Study of the chaotic behavior of granular materials
  • Exploring new perturbative techniques in quantum field theory.

Expert faculty

Elon’s outstanding physics and astronomy faculty have a broad array of scholarly interests and expertise, including nanotechnology, computational theory, engineering, astronomy and environmental studies. Physics faculty actively pursue research in astrophysics, chaos theory, particle theory, quantum gravity, the physics of crystals and solids, physics teaching and engineering. They also have secured grants to enhance the physics curriculum from the National Science Foundation and NASA, among others. Faculty members routinely lead study abroad courses, including topics such as the astronomy of ancient civilizations and scientific history of England.

The physics and astronomy faculty are incredibly supportive, whether you’re seeking help on a gnarly homework problem or an advisor for a two-year thesis project. I’m so grateful for the physics professors’ excellent teaching and mentorship during my years at Elon, and continuing friendship.

Maria Temming ’16

Special opportunities

Academically talented students who plan to major in physics, astrophysics, or astronomy are encouraged to apply for the Elon College Fellows and the Honors Fellows programs. Fellows receive scholarship support and study abroad grants, and participate in special courses and travel opportunities. Visit the Elon Fellows programs website for more information.

Our majors are encouraged to present their research findings at Elon’s annual Spring Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF). Students may also join the Society of Physics Students and become eligible for the national physics honor society, national awards and grants. Several Elon students have participated in GlaxoSmithKline’s Women in Science program, which offers scholarships and mentoring opportunities between female students and experienced female scientists.

After graduation

Because the study of physics and astronomy trains the mind for general problem solving, a degree in these fields is highly prized among college degrees. Employers in every field that requires critical thinking and problem solving seek out physics and astronomy majors. Elon graduates have gone on to successful careers in technology, business, finance and education, to name a few.

Many of our physics majors pursue graduate study in a variety of physics specialties. Elon graduates have pursued careers in astrophysics, particle physics, condensed matter physics, and theoretical physics as well as science writing and the philosophy of science. A degree in physics or astronomy opens the door to a world of interesting career options.