- Offered as:
- Specialization track in Physics and Astronomy
Computational physics, an option in the physics major, prepares students to analyze data and perform experiments that are otherwise unfeasible using high-powered computers.
Computation is an integral part of modern science. Computational physicists are skilled in physical system modeling and applications programming. Today, high-powered computers perform experiments that were previously impossible. Computers compile and analyze data and are becoming the standard medium for information storage and retrieval with the advent of scientific bulletin boards, electronic journals, CD-ROM databases, and the Web.
Physics is the most basic natural science and considers physical systems ranging in size from nuclei, to atoms, to the cosmos. It is an extremely broad field, with many sub-fields. Understanding the forces and laws that underpin the interactions of matter and energy form a major part of the discipline. Applying this understanding to other sciences and technology offers numerous opportunities for the well-trained physicist.
- Strengths of the Program
- Prepare for a rewarding, well-paid career in high technology.
- Study in the computer-equipped lounge in the Webster Physical Sciences Building available solely for physics majors.
- You can join a math, science, and engineering community residence hall at WSU Pullman—share classes with your neighbors, study together, get free tutoring, and use the hall’s computer lab.
- Enroll in Honors Physics, an accelerated version of introductory physics.
- Interact with other departments through our interdisciplinary research centers.
- Pursue a variety of attractive research opportunities through the college internship program.
- Earn a highly marketable degree. Physics majors have a strong record of employment.
- Learn from internationally recognized researchers in computer science and computational physics.
- Requirements and core courses
PHYSICS CORE COURSES
These are usually taken in the first and second years of study.
Math 171, 172 & 273-Calculus I & II & III
Phys 201 & 202-Physics for Scientists and Engineers I & II
or 205 & 206-Honors Physics
Chem 105 & 106-Principles of Chemistry I & II
or 115 & 116-Honors Chemistry
Math 220-Introductory Linear Algebra
Phys 303-Modern Physics I
Biological Science courses
Cpt S 121-- Program Design and Development
Cpt S 122-Data Structures
Cpt S 330--Numerical Computing
EE 214--Design of Logic Circuits
Math 315-Differential Equations
Phys 330-Thermal Physics
Engl 402-Technical/Professional Writing
COMPUTATIONAL PHYSICS OPTION
Cpt S 224-Programming Tools
Cpt S 322-Software Engineering Principles
Approved Computer Science Electives
E E 314-Microprocessor Systems
Phys 304-Modern Physics II
Phys 341 & 342-Electricity and Magnetism I & II
Approved Math courses
Math 216-Discrete Structures
400-level Computer Science electives
Phys 450-Introduction to Quantum Mechanics
Phys 490-Undergraduate Thesis
Cpt S 499-Special Problems
Phys 415-Quantum Physics Laboratory
Phys 463-Introduction to Solid State Physics
Note: See the WSU Catalog (http://www.catalog.wsu.edu/Pullman) for degree requirements and talk with your academic advisor about planning and scheduling your courses. All students must meet requirements as outlined in the catalog in order to graduate.
- More study options in the physics major
The other physics options are:
- Computational Physics
- Continuum Physics
- Environmental Physics
- Instrumentation Physics
- Materials Physics
- Mathematical Physics
- Optics and Electronics
- Standard Physics
- Physics Education
- Facilities and technology
The physics department operates the Jewett Observatory, with the second largest refracting telescope in the state of Washington, and the WSU planetarium. A computer laboratory with a wide variety of computers and terminals is available to all physics majors.
The research and teaching facilities at WSU include a wide variety of lasers, which produce nanosecond to femtosecond pulses at a variety of wavelengths. Ultrahigh vacuum systems equipped with mass spectrometers, particle detectors, and spectrometers are available for the study of surfaces. Gas guns are employed to study shock waves in liquids and solids.
Many atomic-scale surface structures are probed with scanning tunneling microscopes. Nanometer scale structures are produced and studied with scanning force microscopes. Available elsewhere on campus are Auger and photoelectron spectrometers, ESR and NMR spectrometers, transmission and scanning electron microscopes, and a nuclear reactor.
- Scholarships and financial aid
For physics students
Physics scholarships include the Paul and Dian Bender Freshman Physics Scholarship, the Claire May Band Freshman Physics Scholarship (for women), the Physics Transfer Student Scholarship, the Paul Anderson Award for Excellence in Physics, the Edward E. Donaldson Surface Science Scholarship, the George Duvall Scholarship in Shock Compression Science, and the Physics Textbook Scholarship.
For information contact the physics department at 509-335-1698.
For all students
A variety of state, federal, and university-sponsored programs are available to help students with educational costs. Washington State University awards millions of dollars in financial aid and scholarships to students every year based on financial need, academic merit, or a combination of the two.
Students should complete the Washington State University general scholarship application and the FAFSA to ensure their eligibility for the widest range of scholarships and need-based financial aid.
For information or to apply for financial aid and scholarships from WSU, see the Scholarships and Finances section of the WSU website.
- Campus organizations and activities
The Physics Club brings students together to watch films, visit laboratories, and do experiments.
The club's annual Pumpkin Drop has become a popular event, drawing hundreds of spectators from WSU and the Pullman community to watch physics in action as pumpkins plummet to their doom from the top of 12-story Webster Hall.
- Careers in computational physics
Students with the computational physics option often find careers as software engineers and systems analysts.
Physics majors are also employed by the entertainment industry to develop sophisticated and realistic games and special effects.
Physics majors have an unusual amount of experience with problem solving and modeling. These skills play an important role in software development for the control of scientific and medical equipment, locating and characterizing oil deposits, and optimizing investment plans in the finance and insurance industries. The ability of physics majors to create and evaluate models (are the physics right?), as opposed to algorithms (is the math right?), is an enormous advantage in the modeling process.