How does the universe work? What are atoms made of? While the first question is about the biggest of things, the second asks about the unimaginably small. Yet both questions fall under the scope of physics.
Physics majors seek to understand the laws that govern the universe. From gigantic stars trillions of miles away to the subatomic particles within our own bodies, physics takes on matter and energy in all its forms.
Physics is the scientific study of matter and energy. Topics covered include classical and modern theories, electricity and magnetism, and relativity.
“It's rewarding to do something that really does describe the world that you can see -- you just have to work really hard and get over a bunch of challenges to find it.”Sarah, senior, physics, Columbia University
Are You Ready To...?
- Conduct independent research
- Experiment in the lab
- Work with other physics students on difficult assignments
- Take a lot of math -- beyond calculus
- Struggle with complex concepts
It Helps To Be...
A person who likes learning how things work, especially in the natural world. If you like math, solving puzzles, and looking for logical solutions, this could be the major for you.
- Do the introductory courses include labs?
- How much access will you have to the computer labs?
- Is there a chapter of the Society of Physics Students on campus?
- Will you have the chance to complete your own research project?
- Will you get the chance to work on research projects with professors?
Did You Know?
Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity unites space, time, matter, and energy.
In an introductory physics course, you’ll learn about the basics of the science, including mechanics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics (the theory of heat). Mechanics deals with forces, energy, and the laws of motion. Quantum mechanics applies these laws to the particles that make up atoms.
In addition to lectures, you’ll attend labs where you’ll see physics in action and discussion sections where you’ll solve word problems with the rest of the class.