- Offered as:
- Specialization track in Physics and Astronomy
Environmental physics, an option in the physics major, is the application of principles of physics to problems in the natural and man-made environment. It covers such things as the development of sensors and "green" materials, interaction of sunlight with airborne particulates, energy conservation, and disposal and storage of radioactive wastes. 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
- 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.
- Earn a degree that is highly marketable. Physics majors have a strong record of employment.
- Study in the computer-equipped lounge available solely for physics majors.
- Interact with other departments through our interdisciplinary research centers.
- Enroll in Honors Physics, an accelerated version of introductory physics.
- Address neglected physical aspects of environmental issues.
- Study with internationally recognized researchers in environmental science and physics.
- Pursue a variety of attractive research opportunities through the college internship program.
- Requirements and core courses
Bachelor of science in physics degree
In addition to the core and option classes listed below, students must complete general education, college, and department requirements as well as approved science and degree electives as outlined in the General Catalog in order to graduate. Students should consult the catalog and their advisor for course planning.
PHYSICS CORE COURSES (First and Second Year)
Math 171, 172 & 273-Calculus I & II & III
ES/RP 101--Environment and Human Life
BIOS 103 & 104--Introductory Biology I & II
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 Engl402-Technical/Professional Writing
ENVIRONMENTAL PHYSICS OPTION
Bio S 372-General Ecology Phys 304-Modern Physics II Phys 320-Mechanics Phys 341 & 342-Electricity and Magnetism I & II
Chem 340-Organic Chemistry I ES/RP 335-Environmental
Policy Phys 415-Quantum Physics Laboratory
ES/RP 404-The Ecosystem
ES/RP 444-Environmental Assessment ES/RP 499-Special Problems Approved Math courses
Phys 450-Introduction to Quantum Mechanics
Phys 490-Undergraduate Thesis ES/RP 445-Hazardous Waste Management
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.
- Scholarships and financial aid
For environmental 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.Physics majors also may qualify for a variety of federal, state, and University-sponsored loan and scholarship programs.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 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, with the 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.
- Career options
Careers open to those with the environmental physics option include technical positions related to remote sensing, air quality monitoring and control, atmospheric modeling, and the study of climate and weather. Engineering positions related to energy conservation, disposal and storage of hazardous wastes (especially radioactive wastes), and remediation of contaminated air, water, and soil are also open to graduates with the environmental physics option.