Undergraduate Info

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Associate Chair for Undergraduate Affairs
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Email: masao@sas.upenn.edu

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At Penn, the curriculum for undergraduate Physics majors, which includes extensive laboratory experience, is based on faculty strengths in many fields: Condensed Matter Physics, Medical Physics, Elementary Particle Physics, Cosmology, Astrophysics, Biophysics, Nanoscience, String Theory and other fields. Undergraduate teaching is linked to faculty research efforts and many undergraduates participate in research.

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.

Studying Physics leads to understanding ideas that changed our view of the universe. The mechanics of Kepler and Newton placed us in the solar system; Maxwell's unified theory of electricity, magnetism, and optics underlies much of our industrial civilization; relativity and quantum mechanics changed our view of space, time, and the nature of knowledge itself.

Today we continue to ask the hard questions: what are the ultimate constituents of matter? How do these constituents interact via simple laws to produce the world that we see? We hope you will join us in this pursuit.

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