- Offered as:
Biophysics, an option within the physics major, focuses on fundamental understandings of molecular processes in biological phenomena. New technological advances in measurement and observation have expanded the role of physicists in this interesting field.
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
- Learn from internationally recognized researchers in biochemistry and physics.
- Earn a degree that is highly marketable. Physics majors have a strong record of employment.
- Prepare for a rewarding, well-paid career in the growing biotechnology industry.
- 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.
- Study in a computer-equipped lounge in the Webster Physical Sciences building reserved solely for physics majors.
- Interact with other departments through our interdisciplinary research centers.
- Enroll in Honors Physics, an accelerated version of introductory physics.
- Pursue a variety of attractive research opportunities through the college internship program.
- Study options
Physics is a broad field with many highly specialized sub-fields. The physics major offers several options that let you focus on what interests you the most. You can choose from these emphasis options at WSU:
- Computational Physics
- Continuum Physics
- Environmental Physics
- Instrumentation Physics
- Materials Physics
- Mathematical Physics
- Optics and Electronics
- Physics Education
- Standard Physics
- Requirements and core courses
Physics core courses
First- and second-year courses for all physics majors:
-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 Math 315
-Differential Equations Phys 330
-Thermal Physics Engl 402
Biophysics core courses
-BioS 103 & 104
-Introductory Biology I & II Chem 340, 341, 342 & 343
-Organic Chemistry I & II, Lab Approved Math courses Phys 304
-Modern Physics II Phys 320
-Mechanics Phys 341 & 342
-Electricity and Magnetism I & II MBios 303 & 304
-Introductory Biochemistry & Lab MBios 413
-General Biochemistry MBios 465
-Principles of Biophysical Chemistry Phys 410
-Electronics Phys 415
-Quantum Physics Laboratory Phys 450
-Introduction to Quantum Mechanics MBios 499
-Special Problems Phys 461
-Intro to Atomic and Molecular Physics Phys 463
-Introduction to Solid State Physics Phys 490
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.
- 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.
- Facilities and technology
The physics research and teaching facilities at WSU include a wide variety of lasers that 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.
The physics department operates the Jewett Observatory (which contains 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.
- Campus organizations and activities
The Physics Club brings students together to watch films, visit laboratories, and do experiments.
The club also produces the annual Pumpkin Drop event, which draws hundreds of WSU students and community members together to contemplate the laws of motion and enjoy the spectacular demise of pumpkins (and the occasional mascot effigy from an opposing football team) dropped from the 12th floor of Webster Hall.
Careers open to students with the biophysics option include technical positions in biological research and the emerging biotechnology industry.
The development of drugs, biomimetic materials (synthetic materials inspired by biological structures), and self-replicating structures all require skills acquired during the study of biophysics. Many techniques for DNA sequencing, protein structure determination, neural function, and medical imaging (X-rays, CAT scans, MRI, and PET) make extensive use of physical principles. Graduates in the biophysics option can make significant contributions to organizations and companies that use this equipment.
Related career options include sales and training for equipment manufacturers and users. The biophysics option is an excellent alternative path to professional study in medicine and law, as well as graduate study in physics and related fields.