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Department of PhysicsDepartmental Overview

Oceanography & Physical Sciences Building

What is physics?

Physics is the study of forces and matter, from the structure of the atom to the structure of the universe.

It is also the basis for the applied sciences and engineering which have taken our world from the horse and buggy to the supersonic jet, from the candle to the laser, from the pony express to the fax, from the beads of the abacus to the chips of a computer.

What do physicists do?

Physics is a field of study full of excitement where future discoveries will continue to change the world in ways beyond our wildest imagination. The laboratory of the physicist extends from the edge of the universe to inside the nucleus of an atom. A physicist may work in a laboratory designing materials for the computer chips of tomorrow, or smashing atomic particles against one another in a quest to understand how our universe began.

Physicists have orbited the Earth as astronauts, and plumbed the oceans' depths. Some make instruments that diagnose and cure disease; some develop safer and cleaner fuels for our cars and homes; some study how to harness the power of the sea and sun; some calculate the movement of arctic glaciers; and some create smaller and faster electronic components and integrated circuits.

Research physicists work in industry and government, in laboratories and hospitals, and on university campuses. Some physicists serve in the military, teach in high schools and universities, design science museum exhibits, write books and news articles about science, give advice to federal, state, local and foreign governments, work on Wall Street, and run businesses. Furthermore, a degree in physics is an excellent preparation for medical, business or law school.

The Physics Department at Old Dominion University

The Physics Department at Old Dominion University consists of 20 full-time, 6 part-time and several adjunct faculty. The research programs are diverse and include theoretical and experimental work in: nuclear and particle physics, atomic, molecular and optical physics, materials science, solid state physics, plasma physics and accelerator physics.

The following facilities are available on campus:

  • The departmental offices, modern classrooms and multi-media lecture halls, undergraduate laboratories (featuring innovative computer-interfaced experiments which allow student to gain experience with modern data acquisition and analysis methods) and most of the research laboratories, are located in the Oceanography and Physics Building at 4600 Elkhorn Avenue.
  • The Pretlow Planetarium, a 40-foot domed Spitz Ap-4 planetarium used by the introductory astronomy classes and also for many public presentations.
  • On-campus research facilities include modern laboratories in materials science, surface science, continuous-wave and pulsed laser spectroscopy, electron spectroscopy, atomic beams and laser cooling, and nuclear and particle physics detector development. These laboratories are equipped with a variety of state-of-the-art instrumentation including fast electronic and computer-based data acquisition systems, pulsed and continuous-wave narrow-band lasers, high and low temperature Mössbauer spectrometers, an X-ray diffractometer, and high resolution particle detectors.
  • Additional research spaces for the faculty and graduate students engaged in accelerator physics is located in the Center for Accelerator Science at 1021 West 47th St., a block east of the main campus.

Physics Study at Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University offers many exciting possibilities for studying physics. The physics department has been selected by the University to achieve national prominence, taking advantage of Old Dominion's proximity (a half-hour drive) to the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (TJNAF), the world's premier nuclear physics research facility, and the NASA Langley Research Center.

As a result, the Old Dominion University physics department has grown tremendously in the past 20 years, with double the number of faculty, new teaching and laboratory facilities and modernized computer-based undergraduate laboratories. With the addition of the new Physical Sciences Research Building we offer substantial additional opportunities for research to graduate and undergraduate students alike.

Why is strength in research important to you? The faculty that create new knowledge in a field are in the best position to prepare the curriculum and give guidance to students who are trying to learn what's important in that field. In addition, research outside the classroom can enrich your education enormously. In the Department of Physics at Old Dominion, these resources are available, with the added advantage that you will not get lost in the crowd. Most of our upper level undergraduate students are involved in research and have established close collaboration with individual faculty members. The opportunity for intimate involvement in research with world-class faculty is here for any interested student.

Undergraduate Physics Programs

To serve a variety of career objectives and interests, the physics department offers five broad curricula, each leading to a baccalaureate degree: One option is for those preparing to work as physicists in corporate or governmental research and development activities, or for those intending to pursue a graduate education in physics. A second path is for those pursuing careers in which a strong foundation in physics is essential, such as: engineering, advanced computing, mathematics, communications, optical systems, laser development, pre-medical and pre-law studies. A third option is for those wishing to be high school physics teachers. Financial aid is available in the form of scholarships, grants, and internships. There is also an option to earn a B.S. in physics concurrently with a B.S. E. in Engineering in 5 years. Finally there is a 5 year B.S. Physics/MBA program.

Graduate Physics Program

The Department of Physics offers graduate programs leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Physics and the Master of Science (M.S.) in Physics.

For the Ph.D. Degree an endorsement in Applied Physics is also offered. The doctoral and masters program provides broad curricular instruction in classical and modern physics. The Ph.D. Degree further requires intensive training in one of several specialty areas of the Physics Department faculty. Mentoring of each student by a faculty member, and additional guidance provided through an individualized thesis committee, leads to a dissertation describing original research in a frontier area of physics.

The Master of Science Degree is offered through a thesis or a nonthesis option. In each option, advanced course work provides a base of physics training beyond typical undergraduate instruction. In the thesis option, less course work is required of a student, but they must complete a thesis describing advanced laboratory or computational research. The depth and scope of the thesis is naturally less than that of the dissertation, but provides an opportunity for student contribution to an original research project.

Physics Alumni

Physics majors are prepared for almost any career. Studying physics can teach how to use critical thninking skills to analyze and solve complex problems and builds a strong quantitative background that can be applied in any technical field. A background in physics is applicable across many diverse fields and can take your career just about anywhere. To see how wide a range of fields your degree can take you please visit our Alumni Directory.