The Western Michigan University Department of Physics is large enough to offer strong, well-rounded programs of study, yet small enough to nurture student research opportunities and good communication with faculty. WMU physics students often work one-on-one with faculty on special topics of mutual interest.
Majors and minors offer flexibility
Our course requirements are designed to support the career plans of each student. We offer two majors and two minors for undergraduate students.
A focus on Education enhanced by research experiences
The required physics courses in the majors are regularly taught by physicists holding doctoral degrees. While most of our faculty are also actively engaged in research, the Department of Physics is proud of its focus on educating its students. And because we are engaged in research, the latest discoveries in physics and astrophysics may be brought into the classroom, and our majors can participate in research activities.
The introductory physics labs are taken separately from their partnering lecture course, but ideally in the same semester. Lab curricula help students understand the lecture material and develop practical and teamwork skills — important for physics majors. Typically, lab sections are overseen by an assigned graduate teaching assistant. Majors also engage in advanced laboratory experiences, taught by Ph.D. faculty, in their junior and senior years.
Outside the classroom
All majors, particularly those considering graduate work in physics or astrophysics, are strongly encouraged to become involved in experiences outside the classroom. This might include independent study and/or research with a faculty member, or work in the particle accelerator lab or electronics shop. Students should meet with the department’s undergraduate advisor to explore these and other opportunities.
High school preparation
The best preparation for a physics major is a balanced academic program that includes a firm foundation in mathematics. Coursework in physics and other sciences is desirable, but not required.
Transfer credit from other colleges or universities is granted for courses that parallel WMU requirements. Students should schedule an appointment for Department of Physics academic advising for more information.
Applications to the undergraduate physics program are processed by the WMU Office of Admissions.
Scholarships and financial aid
The Department of Physics honors outstanding undergraduate students with annual scholarships and awards.
Information about additional financial assistance, such as non-departmental scholarships, employment opportunities, loans and grants, can be obtained from the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships.
Physics majors qualify for departmental honors by completing the courses recommended for students planning to enter graduate school and by attaining—by the end of the semester preceding graduation—an accumulated grade point average of at least 3.5 in physics courses and an accumulated GPA of 3.0 in other courses.