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Programs

Department Statement

Physics is the study of matter, motion, force, and energy – from the very small (quarks) to the very large (the universe), and every length scale in between, including the rich variety of phenomena we encounter in everyday life. Physics draws from and inspires developments in mathematics, and underlies the modern understanding (the “why”) of astronomy, chemistry, geophysics, engineering, and technology. During their studies, physics majors at Boise State University also have opportunities to do physics, by engaging in physics or astronomy research projects with faculty in the areas of nanoscience, biophysics, condensed-matter physics, computational physics and astronomy. In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of how the world works, physics majors develop skills of observation, analysis, model-building, and problem-solving that lead to success in a broad variety of careers in industry, government, law, education, and the professions, such as law and medicine.

The Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Physics at Boise State University is built around a core of physics, science, mathematics, and humanities courses that provide students with a broad and balanced foundation for additional coursework in advanced or applied physics, or for interdisciplinary emphasis areas. The following optional emphases are offered for the B.S. Physics degree: Applied Physics (nanomaterials), Biophysics (molecular and cellular), and Secondary Education (teaching).

About the Department

The Physics Degree and Emphases

The general physics track provides a thorough grounding in all areas of physics, preparing students for a variety of STEM careers or further studies in graduate school. The emphasis tracks add focus to the fundamental physics coursework by including specialized elective courses:

Applied Physics Emphasis

The applied physics emphasis incorporates coursework on the quantum behavior of solid matter, including semiconductors and superconductors, nanomaterials, and the physical characterization of material properties.

Astrophysics Emphasis

The astrophysics emphasis includes coursework in advanced astronomical topics, including planetary, stellar, and extragalactic astrophysics, cosmology, and observational labs.

Biophysics Emphasis

The biophysics emphasis focuses on the functionality of biological systems and incorporates coursework in molecular and cellular biophysics, soft matter, and biomedical research.

Secondary Education Emphasis

The secondary education emphasis incorporates coursework on pedagogy and gives students the opportunity to start teaching in their first semester. Scholarships and student loan forgiveness are available for graduates who go on to teach.

Research

NASA, NSF, and other government agencies and industry partners fund the large variety of research carried out in the Physics Department at Boise State University. This research addresses fundamental and applied questions in the most vital areas of physical science today: How does the human genome work and regulate cell function? How do electrons behave in low-dimensional, high-mobility quantum materials? How and where do planets form? What drives variability of active galactic nuclei to produce the most powerful astrophysical phenomena ever observed?

These research programs utilize state-of-the-art lab facilities and equipment on Boise State’s campus, as well as astronomical observatories off-campus and off the Earth. Physics majors are actively involved in research with our faculty, authoring scholarly articles and attending major scientific conferences to present their results. Our faculty specialize in the following areas:

Astrophysics

As the oldest science, astronomy studies the physics, chemistry, and evolution of celestial objects. Boise State’s astrophysicists explore the universe on planetary and extragalactic scales. Our active research programs involve monitoring and modeling of extrasolar planets and active galaxies, with observations from Boise State’s own Challis Observatory and NASA spacecraft, such as the Kepler mission and the Fermi Gamma Ray Telescope.

Biophysics

The field of biophysics explores the physical machinery of biological systems, and developments in biophysics catalyze progress in biology, bioengineering, drug discovery, clinical diagnostic, disease prevention, and advanced therapies. With active collaborations in the biology and chemistry departments, our biophysicists study the functionality and transport properties of proteins, with a focus on controlled drug delivery, and the interface between dynamical systems and thermodynamics in physical and biological systems. This research also supports the interdepartmental Biomolecular Sciences PhD program at Boise State.

Condensed-Matter and Solid-State Physics

The field of condensed matter and solid state physics investigates the quantum behavior and mechanical properties of solid matter. Research in this vein at Boise State focuses on the physics relevant to nanotechnology, and runs the gamut from computer modeling of ferromagnetic coupling in bulk- and nano- materials, to the development of nanostructures for electronic and optoelectronic applications, to the growth of thin semiconductor films by molecular beam epitaxy (MBE). Collaborations involve faculty and graduate students from the Materials Sciences and Engineering (MSE) Department and supports the interdepartmental MSE PhD program at Boise State.