Physics research has fundamentally changed our world. Advances in technology, such as transistors, lasers and microwaves, all resulted from physics research. In the last 100 years, there has been a steady stream of devices from physics laboratories to applications in industry, medicine, and everyday life. Beyond practical applications, however, physics gives us tools to see and explore aspects of the world around us that are invisible to our ordinary senses. In essence, the study of physics is an exploration of the universe in which we all live.
From condensed matter to high energy physics, from the quest for the Higgs boson subatomic particle to being appointed to the White House Office of Science and Technology, our faculty are involved in some of the most advanced – and historically significant – research and policy matters affecting the field. Whether you want to study nanophysics or contemplate the origins of the universe, our professors have the experience and expertise to take you from the classroom to the laboratory and beyond.
We have active research programs in many areas, nearly all of which involve our students. Faculty study and create new materials for applications in engineering, energy, computing and medicine both on campus and at nearby Argonne National Laboratory. Faculty are also studying the basic buildingblocks of matter both at nearby Fermilab and at the Large Hadron Collider the world’s premier high-energy accelerator in Switzerland. Faculty are also paving the way for the next generation of particle accelerators and detectors in research work done at the Northern Illinois Center for Accelerator and Detector Development.
The Department of Physics maintains an Observatory in Davis Hall on campus. The Observatory is open for free telescope viewing whenever NIU is in session and also when significant events occur, such as the Transit of Venus, which was part of our 2012 “Summer Under the Stars” series. From the Andromeda Galaxy to the rings of Saturn, we’ve always got a great – and ever-changing – show planned!
We present a number of fun and educational events each year, including being a major presence at the ever-popular Haunted Physics Lab, part of STEM Fest held in late October. Other outreach activities include QuarkNet, which involves high school teachers and their students in research, and the Frontier Physics Road Show, which takes physics demonstrations to students in kindergarten through high school, bringing physics concepts to life and inspiring future scientists.
Because physics emphasizes practical applications as well as problem-solving and abstract thinking, graduates are highly sought-after for careers in medicine, engineering, chemistry, ecology and the military.
They work in laboratories, orbit the Earth, explore ocean depths, and develop instruments to diagnose and treat disease. Physicist were instrumental in scores of pivotal discoveries and inventions: X-rays; DNA’s double helix structure; the electron microscope; wireless communications; cleaner and more efficient fuels, lasers; PET, MRI and CT scans; and the World Wide Web.
According to the American Institute of Physics, graduates with bachelor’s degrees often find careers in education, engineering, medical, military and science fields or enroll in graduate programs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012), growth in federal spending for research will increase the need for physicists at colleges, universities, and national laboratories.
— Stephen R. Boona,undergraduate student
— Timothy Maxwell, Ph.D. student
We offer the B.S. degree in physics with an emphasis in professional physics, applied physics, or physics secondary education (teacher certification). Our students enjoy traditional classroom instruction as well as courses that are fully conducted in the laboratory. All undergraduate physics majors also complete a capstone research project as part of their degree, and there are myriad other opportunities to conduct research with our award-winning faculty.
Department of Physics
202 La Tourette Hall
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115
Ph: (815) 753-1772
Fax: (815) 753-8565
Have a question?
Email us: AskPhysics@niu.edu