Visiting UR? Yes, you CAN sit in on a physics class!

If you are a prospective physics student visiting UR this spring, we would be happy to let you sit in on a physics class!  It’s a great way to get a feel for what a Richmond physics class is really like.  To set up a classroom visit, please contact our department admin, Mary Ann Stewart.  (During the fall, classroom visits are arranged centrally by the UR admissions office.  They don’t do it during the spring, presumably to avoid unmanageably large numbers during that busy time.  But as usual, the physics department doesn’t play by the rules; we’re small enough that we can welcome visitors anytime if you contact us directly.)

Jim Stith speaks about careers in physics

stith.jpgJim Stith, recently retired as Vice President, Physics Resources Center for the American Institute of Physics, spoke at the University of Richmond about careers for physics students.  The title of his talk was “The Physics Passport – Where does it take you?”  Jim points out that of the 5500 yearly graduateswith bachelors degrees in physics, only a small number continue a “traditional path” of academic physics research.  Many more continue in industry and government sector work, where their technical backgrounds and problem solving skills allow them to address a variety of challenging problems in different areas.  Before coming to AIP, Dr. Stith was a Professor of Physics at The Ohio State University and also spent 21 years on the faculty of the United States Military Academy at West Point.

25 Random things about UR Physics

  1. The introductory physics courses are all small: capped at 24 students, though usually much smaller.
  2. Upper level physics courses are even smaller: usually no more than about 10 students in a class.
  3. We don't have any graduate students!  Undergrads are taught by professors, and get to use all the cool equipment themselves.
  4. Intro physics courses are taught in a "workshop style," where laboratory and classroom elements are integrated together.  (No separate 3-hour labs, taught by grad students, that aren't related to the lectures.)
  5. Favorite study break: liquid nitrogen ice cream!
  6. About 6-10 physics students graduate each year.  
  7. All of the tenure-line physics faculty are active researchers, making discoveries and publishing their findings€”all with the help of undergraduate students.  
  8. Do the math: with a small number of majors and lots of research to be done, all students have a chance to get involved, usually by their sophomore years.  
  9. First year students can get involved in research too: at least 8 of them, so far this year.
  10. 100% of the physics faculty have external funding for their research.  (This means their research is recognized as important in their field.  It also means more money and opportunities for their students.)
  11. Students doing research have coauthored papers with faculty in prestigious scientific journals.
  12. Students frequently travel to national and international scientific conferences to present their work.  (Some recent destinations: Los Angeles, Denver, Hawaii, Alaska, St. Louis, Oakland€¦)
  13. Many of our physics students also study abroad: (Scotland, China, Australia€¦)
  14. Many students do research here over the summers, paid by external grants (NSF, etc.) or University fellowships.
  15. Many physics students are double majors, with a second major in math, computer science, chemistry, biology, political science, philosophy€¦.
  16. Students can graduate with either a B.S. or B.A. degree in physics.  (The B.S. prepares you better for grad school or a technical career; the B.A. offers more flexibility for students with other interests.)
  17. Favorite physics student hangouts: either the physics student lounge, or any open classroom.
  18. Best place to watch major sporting events: on the projection TVs in the classrooms after hours.
  19. Our 3-2 engineering program offers students chance to do 3 years at Richmond, followed by 2 years at a partner engineering school. (Students have also gone straight to grad school in engineering after graduating with a straight-up physics degree.)
  20. Our resources include a state-of-the-art atomic force microscope and a supercomputer cluster, among other major instrumentation, plus very well equipped teaching laboratories.
  21. Most heavily used physics equipment: the coffee maker. (It's not even close.)
  22. After graduation, some students have gone on to physics graduate school (University of Chicago, University of Kentucky, Princeton, Johns Hopkins€¦)
  23. Other students have followed their dreams elsewhere after graduation: teaching English in China, doing software development in industry, actuarial mathematics, high school teaching….
  24. Physics students are really friendly!  They study together and help each other, and the atmosphere is always fun and supportive.
  25. We like meeting new physics students.  If you’re interested in physics, please come to visit us. 🙂