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Why Study Physics?

Are you curious?

Do you wish to know the "how" and "why" behind the workings of the things around you?

Are you excited by the natural phenomena of daily experience:

  • gravity, light, stars, storms, earthquakes

and modern devices such as:

  • computers, lasers, rockets

Would you like to feel the joy:

  • of discovery
  • of contributing to the world's knowledge
  • of performing new experiments
  • of establishing fundamental theories?

If so, then maybe physics is for you!

Physics has the reputation of being a difficult subject to master, but like many challenging things in life, leads to many satisfying rewards. A degree in physics leaves one poised to enter many professions that include, but are not limited to, traditional physics. The discipline of physics teaches skills that are transferable to those professions. These transferable skills include: mathematical modeling, problem solving, designing experiments, interpretation of experimental data, reflecting on answers before trusting them, research experience, laboratory technique, and communication skills.

What is Physics?

Physics is the most basic and fundamental of all the sciences. Physicists want to REALLY understand how things work, in every detail and at the deepest level. This includes everything from elementary particles, to nuclei, atoms, molecules, macromolecules, living cells, solids, liquids, gases, plasmas, living organisms, the human brain, complex systems, supercomputers, the atmosphere, planets, stars, galaxies, and the universe itself.

Some of the main fields of physics include:

  • acoustics, astrophysics, atmospheric and space physics, atomic and molecular physics
  • biophysics, condensed matter physics, cryogenics, electrodynamics
  • fluid mechanics and aerodynamics, general relativity and other gravity theory
  • geophysics, medical physics, nuclear physics, optics and quantum optics, particle physics
  • plasma physics, quantum field theory, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics

Is physics important?

Physics is so basic a subject that there is scarcely a single area of modern life which is not affected by physics.

Physicists invented the transistor, which has led to the development of integrated circuits and computers. They invented nuclear energy and discovered superconductivity. They are the creators of Relativity Theory and Quantum Mechanics. Their theories explain gravitation, nuclear reactions, chemical reactions, energy transfers, light and radiation, the forms of matter, and all the processes and interactions that we witness every day. Physical theories are the basis of present scientific knowledge, and physicists are the scientists that develop physical theory.

For more information on important applications of physics for the benefit of society, try the AIP Physics Success Stories.

Are studies in physics for me?

If you enjoy learning and want to REALLY understand things (everything!), and you like mathematics or computers or experiments, then you should consider becoming a physicist. You will find the subject fascinating. The ideas themselves will motivate you to study, and learning will become an enjoyable adventure. However, like anything that is worth being proud of, it is also a lot of work, often alone with the ideas, and often as part of a dedicated team with professors, beginning students, advanced students, industrial collaborators, etc.

What training will I get?

The most famous scientists, such as Einstein, Feynman, and Newton, were physicists. Physicists are the most highly trained scientists, versed in mathematics, computer programming, and the design of complex instruments. As such, they are also the most versatile scientists, able to easily cross boundaries into other disciplines such as chemistry, biology, medicine, earth and planetary sciences, etc. There are biophysicists, geophysicists, astrophysicists, etc. When one has a deep understanding of nature, it is easy to apply that understanding to a variety of areas. When new applications and devices are developed, physicists and a knowledge of physics are usually required.

As further proof that there is significant demand for physicists in Canadian industry, our department offers a series of Co-operative Education programs, which will place students on work terms with employers as an integrated part of their undergraduate study program.

For more information on these programs, see our Co-op web site. You should also visit our Careers page.