Physics at High Point University


As you contemplate where you would like to attend college, it is worth asking yourself whether the goals and values of the programs you are considering line up with your own personal goals and values.

To help you make your decision, we describe below the values that have guided the development of the HPU physics program, and we list the goals that we have set for our majors. We hope that these ideas resonate with you, and that you will choose to be a part of HPU Physics.

When you graduate, you will have the skills, passion, and confidence of a scientist.

Specifically, our program's values are:

  1. Bulletundergraduate research with faculty and summer research programs.

  2. Bulletexperimental, mathematical, and computational skills

  3. Bulletcommunication skills

  4. Bulletcareer preparation

  5. Bulletleadership

  6. Bulleta modern curriculum that introduces 20th Century physics starting in the first year

1.  Undergraduate Research

As faculty members, we are here to invest in you. Your success is the return on our investment. When you succeed, we succeed. One of the ways that we invest in you is through undergraduate research. Together, we plan research projects, collect and analyze data, apply physical laws to solve problems, and build computational models.

Our goal is to involve you in the research process because the experience and skills you obtain will make you more competitive for graduate school and industry. But more than experience and skills, you will gain confidence as a scientist.

Each physics course required for physics majors requires a short research project, the results of which will be presented as a poster, an oral presentation, or a written paper. You will also conduct at least one extended research project which can be computational, experimental, or theoretical in nature. This could be done at HPU, or as part of a summer REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program at another institution.

2.  Scientific skills

Through your classes, laboratory experiences, and research projects you will develop a scientific skill set that will make you attractive to graduate schools and employers in a wide variety of fields. Specifically, you will develop expertise in:

  1. experimental design and data analysis including uncertainty and error, visualization, graphical analysis and curve fitting, spreadsheets, and statistics

  2. problem solving and analytical reasoning

  3. electronics and instrumentation

  4. computational modeling

  5. computer programming in multiple languages including Python, Java, MATLAB, and LabView

  6. preparation of scientific articles, proposals, and posters using LaTeX

3.  Communication skills

Throughout your undergraduate career, you will have numerous opportunities to develop both written and oral communications skills.

You will create scientific posters and written reports using LaTex, a document preparation system widely used by mathematicians, scientists, and engineers.

You will also have the opportunity to give oral presentations in physics classes, at departmental seminars, at undergraduate research symposiums, and at professional conferences such as APS (American Physical Society), AAPT (American Association of Physics Teachers), or AAS (American Astronomical Society).

4.  Career preparation

Upon graduation you will be well-prepared for a wide variety of pursuits. If you choose graduate school, an undergraduate degree in physics is excellent preparation for graduate studies in a number of fields including astronomy, earth and atmospheric science, biophysics, mathematics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and nuclear engineering, to name just a few.

If you are looking to enter the workforce right after graduation, your degree will open up a range of possibilities. Physics graduates work in such diverse fields as engineering, computer or information systems, medical technology, technical writing, finance, and education.

Depending on your interests, you may want to consider double-majoring while at HPU. For example, if you want to go into biophysics, you should take courses in general chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and general biology, for example. If you want to go into high-performance computing or do computational physics, consider double-majoring in computer science. If theory is your thing, then double major in mathematics.

Graduate school in physics is NOT your only option. You should consider master's programs in engineering and technology, a career as a computer programmer or engineer, a career in high school teaching, or a Ph.D. in astronomy, for example. Your skillset will open up the possibilities to numerous options.

For those wishing to go to graduate school in physics, our program will prepare you with the skills needed for independent research.

5.  Mentoring and leadership

As faculty, we are your mentors, helping to teach you and guide you in your journey. As an upper-level student (in your junior and senior years), you are expected to mentor and teach incoming freshmen and sophomores.

Wherever you go, you will likely be a leader. You might teach (even in graduate school) or lead a project team. To help prepare you as a leader, you will be asked to be a laboratory teaching assistant or tutor. In this capacity, you will learn how to guide, lead, and mentor others.

6.  A modern curriculum

Physics before 1905 is generally referred to as classical physics. Physics after 1905 is considered modern physics. Classical physics such as Newton's laws, thermodynamics, and Maxwell's equations are useful and correct (within limits). However, Einstein's relativity changed our notions of space and time and quantum mechanics changed our notion of determinism. Along with these revolutions, came the ability to describe light and matter as both a particle and wave, energy quantization, four-dimensional spacetime, and the limits on uncertainty.

It is modern physics that leads scientists to investigate the expansion of the Universe and dark energy, the creation of black holes from stellar collapse, and the existence of quarks, the basic building blocks of protons and neutrons. From the very first physics course you take as a freshman, you will be exposed to the concepts of modern physics. This includes ideas from Einsteins theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and atomic and nuclear physics.

In addition to modern topics, our curriculum makes extensive use of a modern tool, the computer. Computer modeling is an integral part of contemporary science and engineering, and it allows one to solve highly complex problems that could never be done by hand. While many physics programs offer a course in computational physics, we have chosen to go a step beyond and include computer modeling in every single physics course that our majors take.

Our curriculum introduces modern physics in the first semester of the freshmen year in our "modern mechanics" course called Fundamentals of Physics I, and modern physics is woven into every single course so that students understand and use classical mechanics but begin to think and reason in terms of modern physics.


Our Core Values