The aim of physicists is to discover the most fundamental principles of nature. Their tools are mathematics and experiment. The physical world as we perceive it is very complex, yet the principles of Physics are inherently simple. A physicist's forte is the ability to analyze a problem, reduce its complexity, and arrive at an understanding of the underlying patterns of nature in terms of simple relationships among constituent elements. Learning to do this gives Physics majors an intellectual versatility that can serve them well in a variety of future activities ranging from research and teaching in Physics or related sciences to careers in law, the health professions, and high-technology companies.
Astronomy, as a physical science, has made astounding progress in recent decades. Space-based observatories vie with ground-based telescopes in exploring a host of new phenomena, some now well understood, some still puzzling, such as quasars, pulsars, black holes, solar and stellar neutrinos, close-up views of the planets, immense sheets of galaxies, the missing mass in the universe, and the big bang fireball. Now, on the threshold of a new century, Astronomy promises to be one of the most vibrant of all scientific disciplines. Astronomy was taught at Penn well before the formal founding of a department a hundred years ago. Today, in a newly combined Department of Physics and Astronomy, Penn enjoys an international reputation as the world's premier center for research on neutrinos from the sun.
The links to the left describe Penn efforts in the major branches of physical experiment and theory. Explore them to find out more about the culture of research that is shared by undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, faculty, and occasionally even high school students.