Physics & Astronomy

What makes physics & astronomy exciting?


Ever wonder about the science behind skipping rocks across a lake? Or how the whole rainbow is hidden in plain white light? Interested in exploring the Milky Way and beyond? We’ve got you covered. Physics is the study of matter and energy. Astronomy is the study of all objects beyond our world.

Watch our Hands-On video and step into an observatory to learn all about telescopes and the night sky.


Hands-On: West Mountain Observatory[/text]

What's cool about studying physics & astronomy at BYU?

As a BYU undergrad, you will have access to top-notch facilities and equipment including laser laboratories, atomic and magnetic force microscopes, and the campus supercomputer. Not only is our gear great, but our faculty and staff are as well. Professors and TAs will be available every step of the way to help guide you on your quest to become a physics expert.

The relationships you build here through mentored teaching and unsurpassed undergrad research are valuable resources that will be helpful throughout your life. At BYU, you’ll approach science in a way that is both spiritually strengthening and intellectually enlarging. You’ll address real scientific questions in the light of the Gospel.

“What we’re really doing in physics is problem solving and trying to understand how different things interact and work, and that’s pretty neat.”

–Dr. Kent Gee

Major and minor options

• Majors 

Applied Physics

Physics

Physics-Astronomy

Physics Teaching

Teaching Physical Science

• Minors

Astronomy

Physics

Physics Teaching

For more information on required classes for these majors and minors, please see the current undergraduate catalog. You can declare one of these majors or minors by visiting the Advisement Center.

Featured videos


Hands-on: West Mountain Observatory

Step into an observatory and learn all about telescopes and the night sky.

Hands-on: Anechoic Chamber

Experience hydrogen balloon explosions in the quietest room on campus.

 

What makes BYU physics & astronomy undergrad research unique?

Dr. Peter Roming, a research scientist at Penn State said, “BYU Physics and Astronomy students are undeniably some of the best prepared and most highly demanded graduates available.” This is largely because of the research opportunities available to our students, both as undergraduates and graduates. All students have the opportunity to learn from our 32-member faculty by participating in faculty-directed research programs. These programs are enhanced by outstanding facilities and instrumentation, including several anechoic and reverberation chambers, transmission electronic and atomic force microscopes, an X-ray diffractometer, and a new 0.9-m telescope at the West Mountain Observatory.

“I feel like physics comes alive when I do research.”

–Zephne Larsen, physics student

Research areas

Undergraduate students can do research in six areas. Specific project within these areas includes studying the auditory effects of explosions, rockets and launch vehicles, and practicing for mars expeditions.

• Acoustics

Students study the production, control, transmission, reception, and effects of sound. Acoustics contributes to the study of musical instruments, architectural spaces, noise control, ultrasound medical imaging, and seismology.

• Astronomy

Students study of celestial objects such as starts, planets, comets, and galaxies. This discipline includes researching any phenomena that originate outside the earth’s atmosphere including formation, development, and motion of celestial objects.

• Atomic, Molecular, & Optical

Students research light and matter interactions on an atomic and molecular level. All three areas, atomic, molecular, and optical, use similar methods and energy scales ad include both classical and quantum treatments.

• Condensed Matter

Students study of condensed phases of matter, namely, solids and liquids. This field has a large overlap with chemistry, and nanotechnology, and is closely related to atomic physics and biophysics.

• Plasma

Students research any material in which a sufficient density of free charges exists. Examples of matter in a plasma state include electrons in a metal and the gas in a fluorescent light bulb. It is involved in basic physics research, industrial plasma processing, controlled fusion experiments, and astrophysical plasma research.

• Theoretical & Mathematical

Students use analytic and numerical techniques to study fundamental problems in physics. This research is involved in discovering deeper structures and insights to natural processes by using mathematical reasoning and computation.

Facilities / Equipment

People come from all over to use BYU’s facilities and equipment. Some resources specific to the Physics & Astronomy Department include:

• Anechoic Chambers 

Large, echoless rooms used for studying the production and propagation of sound.

• Atomic and Magnetic Force Microscopes

Delicate instruments for studying microscopic electronic and magnetic properties of atoms in solids.

• Clean Room

A facility for growing and studying physical structures on the nanometer scale.

• Laser Laboratories

Houses various high power and short pulse lasers for studying atoms and electromagnetic radiation.

• Monochromator and Ellipsometer

Devices that allow measurements to be made of the way in which light interacts with matter, especially reflecting surfaces.

• Non-neutral Plasma Laboratory

Contains electromagnetic traps for confining and studying collections of charged particles.

• Royden G. Derrick Planetarium

Complete with full-dome graphics, the planetarium is used for teaching classes as well as for public shows.

• West Mountain Observatory

Located near Utah Lake, this facility houses 3 computer controlled telescopes  and instrumentation used  to view celestial objects and events.

What can I do with an undergraduate degree in physics or astronomy?

Physics touches many career categories. With an undergraduate degree in physics & astronomy, many job possibilities are open including:

•   Aerospace Engineer

•   High School Teacher

•   Medical Technologist

•   National Security Analyst

•   Nuclear Engineer

•   Product Development

How much money could I make?

With an undergraduate degree in physics & astronomy you could earn:

*Industry-wide estimate from: payscale.com/best-colleges/degrees.asp

What if I further my education past an undergraduate degree?

Many of our students go on to get advanced degrees and additional experience that broaden their career opportunities. BYU Physics & Astronomy alumni have found jobs in a variety of positions including working at:

• Apple

• ATK

• BYU Hawaii

• Moxtek

• MSI Photogenics

• Pacific Northwest National Lab

• Penn State University

• Starkey Laboratories

Talk with a professional

“Careers for someone who’s majoring in physics are pretty wide-ranging. Anything with a high-technology end result needs people that understand the basics. Physics majors do that. They know how to pick up the material and then drive to the application.”

–Ed Gholdston, Hamilton-Sundstrand, NASA

BYU- Beetles Hold Clues to Faster Computers

Beetles Hold Clues to Faster Computers

See a Brazilian beetle that holds secrets to faster computing in its scales.

BYU Students Make the News at Zero Gravity

BYU Students Make News at Zero Gravity

Get a taste of outer space with BYU students on NASA’s Vomit Comet.

Extreme Acoustics BYU Research Illustrates Power of Sound

Extreme Acoustics: BYU Research Illustrates the Power of Sound

Watch as sound waves defy gravity and shatter glass.

Hands On Anechoic Chamber

Hands-On: Anechoic Chamber

Experience hydrogen balloon explosions in the quietest room on campus.

Ping Pong Cannon

Ping Pong Cannon

Watch as Professor Stokes demonstrates the effects of pressure by using himself as a...