Wilkes University


Wilkes University student looks through a microscope in a physics lab.

Why a B.A. in Physics? Physics is the quest to explore the forces shaping our universe.

The study of physics strikes at the heart of how the world really works by attempting to answer some of the most fundamental questions:

  • What is the structure of the universe?
  • When did it begin?
  • What happened during the first three seconds after the Big Bang?

On a more practical level, the study of physics allows one to understand the intricacies of everyday devices such as infrared thermometers and blood pressure monitors.

The Wilkes University bachelor of arts degree in physics builds critical thinking skills and the ability to formulate hypotheses necessary to answer these questions. The program offers a comprehensive curriculum, establishing a solid theoretical foundation upon which a detailed understanding of physics is built. Hands-on laboratory experience connects theory to real-world applications, strengthening a student’s ability to formulate and test hypotheses and develop physical intuition. A wide variety of concentrations can place students in an excellent position to fulfill a number of different professional career goals.

Program Overview

Our B.A. in physics program blends the study of physics with the University’s liberal arts tradition. A flexible, two-track curriculum allows a student to steer his or her degree toward specific areas of interest in either applied sciences or education. Electives can be chosen from a broad range of courses in the sciences, engineering disciplines or educational curriculum. A solid mix of studies in the humanities and social sciences builds effective leadership and communication skills from which one can launch a professional career in numerous fields, including science or teaching, or pursue graduate studies.

Applied Science Track

Highly flexible and interdisciplinary, the applied science track provides the quantitative tools and mathematical skills necessary to seek a mechanistic description of all natural phenomena. When combined with other sciences (chemistry, biology, environmental sciences, engineering, or math), the degree prepares a student to work on high-impact, interdisciplinary problems in which a diverse skill set and broad understanding of physical science is crucial. If a student can speak the language of physics in combination with other scientific disciplines, such as biology or chemistry, they find themselves uniquely positioned to analyze and solve many emerging challenges facing the world. For example, thermodynamics, quantum and classical mechanics, and solid-state physics can be applied to basic biological processes such as protein folding or cellular motility or chemical processes such as catalysis or solubility. Additionally, one can combine physics with programs such as engineering management to build credentials for a career in science and technology management.

Education Track

The education track is designed for those seeking a career in secondary education as a physics instructor, a position in high demand. The curriculum builds skill sets essential for learning the art of teaching physics at the high school level. This includes not only basic Newtonian physics (common for high school physics courses) but also providing an introduction to modern physics topics such as nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, solid-state physics and relativity. By presenting these traditionally advanced branches of physics in a topical and intuitive manner, teachers will be able to illustrate the importance of physics for our modern, technology-driven society. This program offers 12 credits for student teaching.

In additional to electronic and atomic force microscopes, the physics program offers computational resources for simulation and theoretical work. Instructors with extensive research experience provide state-of-the-art instrumentation for use in undergraduate research. Through faculty research labs and interdepartmental facilities, the program offers:

  • Fluorescence confocal microscopes,
  • Computational clusters,
  • Scanning electron microscope and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy,
  • Atomic force microscope,
  • 400-megahertz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer,
  • High-pressure liquid chromatography and electrospray ionization mass spectrometer.

The interdisciplinary nature of the curriculum also offers hands-on research experience using our engineering laboratories, including fluid and aerodynamics (wind tunnel), mechatronics and robotics, nanofabrication and others.

  • The degree offers excellent preparation for medicine, dentistry, optometry and other professional schools.
  • The rigorous yet flexible curriculum is ideal for those seeking to enroll in graduate school.
  • A multidisciplinary education leaves a student well-poised for high-profile, collaborative research. For example, a physicist with a good understanding of biological research can collaborate more effectively with biologists and more efficiently apply their physical intuition to a joint project.
  • The education track positions students for a profession as a physics instructor, a teaching position in high demand. In addition, our program aims to equip the next generation of physics teachers with the skills needed to explain modern physics (such as relativity, quantum physics, and nuclear physics) in an intuitive and assessable way.

Physics core requirements for the B.A. degree are:

Freshman and sophomore years
  • General Physics I, II and III
  • Calculus I, Calculus II, Differential Equations, Multivariable Calculus
  • Introductory Chemistry (1 semester)
  • Associated Labs 
Junior and senior years
  • Thermodynamics
  • Electricity and Magnetism
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Classical Mechanics
Senior Projects

Combination program requirements (courses in an area of concentration) and physics electives can be selected from any physics, mathematics, biology, chemistry, engineering or environmental science course of 200 level or higher.

In their senior year, students begin a two-semester research project. With departmental approval, students pursuing double majors can potentially combine their senior projects into one interdisciplinary research project. For example, a biology and physics double-major could pursue a senior project in biophysics. A chemistry and physics double major can research a chemical physics project. An engineering and physics major could design and build an apparatus for subsequent physics experiments.

In their junior year, students are strongly advised to pursue summer research off-campus through the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program or similar state, federal and private programs.

  • Teaching careers in high-demand STEM fields, particularly physics
  • Employment in materials science, scientific instruments, advanced electronics, lasers and microwave devices, audio, computing and telecommunications equipment
  • Research for government agencies, including Department of Agriculture, National Institutes of Health, NASA and other federal government and national or private laboratories
  • Employment in medicine and other professional health fields
  • Advanced education in graduate school for preparation as a professional scientist in academia, industry, or government laboratories
  • Product development and sales careers