Physics & Astronomy

Physics and Astronomy Department
Hagen Hall 307, (218) 477-2141
Steve Lindaas
Faculty: Juan Cabanela, Matthew Craig, Richard Lahti, Ananda Shastri, Linda Winkler

The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers three degrees: a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, Bachelor’s degree in Physics Education, and a Bachelor's degree in Physics Engineering. The Bachelor’s degree in Physics may be further enhanced with an emphasis in astrophysics, emphasis in business, or an emphasis in medical physics. In addition, the department supports a minor in physics, a minor in medical physics and a minor in astronomy. Students interested in engineering may also pursue a dual degree in physics and engineering. The Department of Physics and Astronomy also coordinates the Bachelor's degree in Sustainability. This degree has six emphases in environmental science, business, construction management, operations management, energy science, and environmental policy.

Bachelor's Degree in Physics
The physics major prepares students for a wide variety of careers from science and engineering to finance and healthcare. Our students develop a skill set that is extremely valuable in a wide variety of jobs. The physics major also prepares students for further study in a graduate or professional school.

The major strengths of the physics program include:

  • student-centered focus on teaching & learning;
  • an emphasis on active learning using computers as tools for data collection, analysis, computation & modeling;
  • opportunities for undergraduate research;
  • involvement of students in outreach program and an award winning physics club.

The sequential nature of the physics curriculum, and the necessity to coordinate physics courses with courses taken in other departments make it imperative that a student considering a major or minor in physics or astronomy consult a member of the Department of Physics and Astronomy early in their career.

Bachelor’s Degree in Physics Education
This degree prepares the student to be certified to teach high-school physics in Minnesota. The program combines physics courses for the major with education courses needed for licensure. A student with this degree is strongly encouraged to also take a broad education in life science and earth science to obtain general science licensure in grades 5 through 8.

Bachelor's Degree in Engineering Physics
This degree is designed for students who are curious about and want an applied understanding of how the natural world works. The major develops mathematical, modeling, computational, and lab skills applicable to a wide variety of engineering related careers. The major is also good preparation for graduate school in engineering and related fields.

Engineering/Physics Dual Degree
Students have the option of obtaining a dual degree in physics (from MSUM) and engineering by completing the engineering curriculum at a university of their choice. The student completes the core physics and liberal arts and sciences curriculum requirements in their first three years at MSUM. The student then completes a final two years at a university completing coursework in their chosen engineering field. It is expected students in the dual degree program will obtain both a physics and engineering degree in five years. The dual degree advisor will work with individual students to ensure requirements are met for both programs.

Bachelor's Degree in Sustainability
The Sustainability program is designed to give students an understanding of the need for long-term sustainable practices in our lifestyles and economy. The six areas of emphasis will prepare the student with a background that will allow them to enter the new green economy. The Bachelor’s degree in Sustainability is enhanced by emphases in business, construction management, energy science, environmental policy, environmental science, or operations management.

As more and more companies adopt practices to decrease operating costs while also reducing their impact on the environment, they hire sustainability coordinators to manage these tasks. The future outlook for these positions looks bright as companies seek to maintain strong commitments to the environment and employ strategies to increase their economic competitiveness.

Green jobs involve all aspects of employment in renewable energy or sustainability efforts. According to the US Bureau of Lab Statistics, green jobs are either:

  • jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.
  • jobs in which workers' duties involve making their establishment's production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.

The number of industries that offer green employment opportunities are diverse and job titles do not always contain "sustainability". Green jobs offer wages that run approximately 13% higher than the average job in the US.

Bachelor's Degree in Physics-Emphasis in Astrophysics
This program requires completion of a minimum of 120 credits and prepares the student for graduate work in astrophysics. In addition to the core physics courses, the students take advanced astronomy courses in place of physics.

Bachelor's Degree in Physics-Emphasis in Business
This program requires completion of a minimum of 120 credits and prepares the physics student for a career in industry. In addition to physics courses, the student takes additional courses in finance, management, and marketing.

Bachelor's Degree in Physics-Emphasis in Medical Physics
This program requires completion of a minimum of 120 credits and is a program for students interested in medical physics, a branch of applied physics that utilizes physics concepts and methods in the treatment and diagnosis of human disease. A medical physics emphasis also serves students interested in biophysics, bioengineering and the technological aspects of biotechnology.

Minor in Astronomy
The minor in astronomy curriculum is designed for students who have an interest in astronomy and earth sciences. A student pursuing a minor in astronomy must have a solid mathematical foundation in algebra and trigonometry.

Minor in Physics
This minor is designed for the student who wants to have a strong resume in physical science, and is pursuing a closely allied major such as mathematics, chemistry, or computer science. A student pursuing a physics minor must have a solid mathematical foundation in algebra, trigonometry, and calculus.

Minor in Medical Physics
The minor in medical physics is a program designed for students in biosciences and chemistry related fields, who are looking for additional expertise in a branch of applied physics that utilizes physics concepts and methods in the treatment and diagnosis of human disease.