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Grand Valley State University    
2012-2013 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog 
  Sep 16, 2019
2012-2013 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Physics - Program Description

For additional information about opportunities your college offers, please refer to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences  section in this catalog.

Chair: Gipson. Professors: Estrada, Furton, Reynolds; Associate Professors: Ambrose,Gipson, Krcmar, Lenters, Majumdar, Oliver, Rakovic, Schnyders; Assistant Professors: Bolen, Vallery; Affiliates: Gasper, Oaster, Vreugdenhil.


Physicists are explorers of the physical universe. They seek to know and understand the fundamental behavior of nature, from elementary particles to the galaxies. Physicists must develop both experimental and analytical skills to carry out their search for a detailed description of the behavior of matter and energy.

The Physics Department offers a bachelor’s degree with a major in physics. This is a well-defined program of observation, experimentation, and theoretical study of the various phenomena of nature. A highlight of our program is the senior project, which requires each student to perform an independent research project in collaboration with a faculty mentor.

The department also offers a minor in physics and the option for secondary teacher certification with the major or minor. In addition, the College of Education in cooperation with the department of physics offers the M.Ed degree with an emphasis in physics.

The undergraduate physics curriculum requires careful planning because most courses in physics and the required cognates can be taken only in sequence. Students who expect to major or minor in physics should consult a faculty member of the Physics Department to plan their programs at the earliest opportunity, preferably before registration for their first term. It is especially important that transfer students meet with a department faculty advisor to evaluate previous work and plan an appropriate program of study.

Career Opportunities

Problem-solving skills mastered by the physics major make physics an excellent background for many professions in science or engineering, medicine or health-sciences, business or law. Employment opportunities for physics baccalaureates exist in education, industry, and research. Physics graduates are commonly employed in industry, private institutions and government, often working as part of a team of scientists and engineers. There is also an enormous need for properly prepared secondary school physics teachers.

Graduate School Opportunities

Physics majors traditionally pursue graduate studies in physics, medical physics, or engineering, but may also elect to pursue graduate studies in mathematics, chemistry or health-science fields. (Note: Physics majors intending to go to graduate school in physics should take MTH 227 and MTH 304 rather than the MTH 302 option  and should also take as many upper level physics electives as possible, particularly PHY 430, 440, and 450.)  Advanced degrees such as these lead to more responsible positions in research, health care or industry, as well as teaching opportunities in colleges and universities.

A physics degree is also an excellent background for further education in other professional fields. Medical and law schools are enthusiastic about well-prepared applicants who hold physics degrees. Physics graduates are also especially well-qualified to pursue advanced degrees in patent law or business, both of which offer excellent employment opportunities.

Participating Programs:

M.Ed. with emphasis in Physics

Student Organizations

Society of Physics Students (SPS): SPS is a national organization which exists to promote the study and enjoyment of physics. Our local chapter serves as the departmental physics club and is very active in both outreach and professional activities.

Honors Organization:

Sigma Pi Sigma: Sigma Pi Sigma is the national honor society of the SPS. Students who have 80 credits (with a minimum of one year at GVSU) may be elected to become Sigma Pi Sigma members based on academic achievement and service. An annual induction ceremony is held in April.

The following programs are available:

Bachelor of Science in Physics 

Physics Minor 

Master of Education Advanced Content Specialization in Physics