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Undergraduate Physics. Undergraduate Physics at the University of Illinois. Agenda: Welcome Dale Van Harlingen Parallel Parents: financial aid David Wilde Students: university life Matt Feickert, Shannon Glavin university housing overview Mari Anne Brocker

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Undergraduate Physics

at the University of Illinois

  • Agenda:

    • Welcome Dale Van Harlingen

    • Parallel

      • Parents: financial aid David Wilde

      • Students: university life Matt Feickert, Shannon Glavin

    • university housing overview Mari Anne Brocker

    • physics curriculum Kevin Pitts

    • lunch – meet students and faculty

    • Roundtable with faculty Profs. Cooper/Gollin/Greene/Makins

    • physics careers, research Kevin Pitts

    • question and answer period

    • Parallel

      • Tour PHYS 403 lab Prof. Eugene Colla

      • More Q&A

    • adjourn

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  • Physics at UIUC:

    • Ranked #2 in the nation in undergraduate engineering physics

    • Ranked #8 overall (two surveys)

    • Other national rankings:

      • #2 in condensed matter physics

      • #8 in quantum information

      • #10 in nuclear physics

      • #12 in elementary particle physics

Tony Leggett receiving the Nobel Prize for Physics (2003)

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Undergraduate Physics

at the University of Illinois

Toni PittsCoordinator of Recruiting, Advising, and Special Programs


Kevin PittsProfessor of Physics

Associate Head for Undergraduate Programs

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  • The Department

  • Undergraduate Degree Programs

    • Choices of Major

    • Courses

  • Extracurricular Activities

    • Physics Society

    • Physics Van

  • Undergraduate Research Opportunities

    • REU

    • Senior Thesis

  • Extracurricular Activities

    • Physics Society

    • Physics Van

  • What can I do with a Physics Degree?

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60 faculty

290 graduate students

315 undergraduate students

$23M in grant support for research

We award

60 Bachelor’s degrees/year

40 Ph.D.’s per year

Average ACT score is 31

By the numbers

Charles Slichter receiving the National Medal of Science (2008)

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Areas of Research

  • Astrophysics

  • Atomic and Molecular Optics

  • Biological Physics

  • Complex Systems

  • Condensed Matter

  • Cosmology

  • High-Energy Physics

  • Nuclear Physics

  • Physics Education

  • Quantum Information

  • Campus centers:

    • Institute for Condensed Matter Theory

    • Center for the Physics of Living Cells

  • Close research ties with:

    • National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA)

    • Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

    • Argonne National Laboratory

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Undergraduate Degree Programs

  • Engineering Physics

    • Offered through Engineering College

  • Science and Letters Physics

    • Virtually identical to Engineering Physics

  • Specialized Physics

    • Most flexible physics curriculum

  • Physics Teaching Option

    • Includes secondary education minor

      (and teaching certification)

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Engineering Physics

  • Offered through College of Engineering

  • 128 Hours required to graduate

  • Curriculum features: “Elective Options”

    • [more on this in a minute]

  • Graduate school or industry track

  • 3 years HS foreign language or 3 semesters satisfies language requirement

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LAS Science and Letters Physics

  • Offered through College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

  • Curriculum features: “Elective Options”

    • [more on this in a minute]

  • 120 hours required to graduate

  • Graduate school or industry track

  • 4 years of HS foreign language or 4th-semester college language satisfies language requirement

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LAS Specialized Physics

  • Offered through College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

  • 126 hours required to graduate

  • 4 years of HS foreign language or 4th-semester college language satisfies language requirement

  • “Option-oriented” curriculum (ideal for pre-med, pre-law, and physics related fields)

  • Very flexible in upper-level courses

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LAS vs. Engineering

  • : What’s the difference between LAS Science and Letters and Engineering Physics?

A: Nothing in the physics + math curriculum.

  • LAS physics majors must pay the college of engineering college surcharge. (They utilize all of the same equipment/infrastructure.)

  • LAS/Engineering have slightly different general education requirements.

  • LAS requires 4th semester of foreign language.

  • Engineering requires a few more hours.

  • Is one “more prestigious” than another?

    • Not for grad school…maybe in the job market?

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    Degree Requirements

    • “Core” Physics Courses

    • “Core” Math courses

      (+2 courses = math minor)

    • Supporting courses (Chem, CS)

    • General Education requirements

    • Elective Options

    • Free electives

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    Elective Options

    • Allows students to tailor curriculum to their needs and interests.

    • Examples:

      • Professional Physics (this is the grad school track)

      • Astrophysics

      • Biophysics

      • Bioengineering

      • Computational Physics

      • Materials Science

      • Physical Electronics

      • Earth Science

      • Science Writing

      • Pre-law

      • Pre-med

      • User defined

    • New options coming:

    • Nuclear physics

    • Energy/sustainability

    • Management

    • Atmospheric science

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    Recent user defined options

    • Electrical Engineering Technical Option

    • Geology/Geophysics

    • Pre-Optometry

    • Mathematical Physics

    • Prep for Grad School in Library Science

    • Economics

    • Acoustic Engineering

    • Atmospheric Sciences

    • Acoustics

    • Biomedical Engineering

    • Nuclear Physics

    • Sustainable Technology Commercialization



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    Teaching Option

    • Offered through Liberal Arts and Sciences in conjunction with the College of Education

    • Must complete a secondary education minor

    • Apply to Science and Letters Physics (then tell us you are interested in teaching option after admission)

    • Contact advisor Prof. Mats Selen ([email protected])

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    Introductory Courses

    • Introductory sequence (3 semesters)

      • PHYS 211 – Mechanics

      • PHYS 212 -- Electricity and Magnetism

      • PHYS 213 -- Thermal Physics (half-semester)

      • PHYS 214 -- Waves and Quantum Physics (half-semester)

      • PHYS 225 – Relativity and Math Methods

    • Notes:

      • Courses have calculus prerequisites

      • Take Phys 225 the same semester you take Phys 212

      • Phys 213 and 214 are two half-semester courses (for practical purposes, it’s a single four hour course)

    • What if you change your mind?

      • Calculus and Phys 211-214 are required for most engineering majors.

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    Introductory Courses

    • Introductory sequence (3 semesters)

      • PHYS 211 – Mechanics

      • PHYS 212 -- Electricity and Magnetism

      • PHYS 213 -- Thermal Physics (half-semester)

      • PHYS 214 -- Waves and Quantum Physics (half-semester)

    • Course format:

      • Lecture, discussion (interactive problem-solving), labs

      • Lectures are highly interactive using iClickers

    • New for fall 2011:

      • Physics major-only discussion sections

      • Register for one of these if you can, it’s ok if you can’t

      • Help to build a sense of community with our majors

      • Cover additional material when appropriate

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    More About Our Courses

    General information:


    Details on programs:

    • Engineering physics:


    • LAS Physics


      Course web pages:


    • We will help you choose your courses during summer registration. It helps to review our sample schedule and look at the course material before you come.

    • Schedule summer registration date through registrar’s office. Their website will be open on March 15.

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    Discovery Courses

    • Freshman-only courses

    • Enrollment limited to 19

    • Offered in many departments

    • Spring 2011

      • “Behavior of Complex Systems”

      • “Science and Pseudoscience”

      • “Physics of Electronic Musical Instruments”

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    Academic Advising

    • Every major is assigned an advisor and a faculty mentor

      • Advisor is the expert on courses/programs/graduation requirements

      • Mentor is the faculty member, expert on research/areas of study/careers

    • Required to meet academic advisor and mentor until PHYS 325 is taken

    • We are working on some new programs to further aid the mentoring process.

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    More on Advising

    • Each student is assigned a faculty “mentor”

      • Get to meet the mentor during first year

      • Degree to which you use the mentor is up to you

    • New for Fall 2011: we are going pair freshmen up with an upperclass student

      • They can help you learn the “things you need to know”

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    Extracurricular Activities

    Physics Van

    Society of Women in Physics

    Physics Society

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    Physics Society

    • http://physoc.physics.illinois.edu/

    • Speaker meetings

    • Faculty research talks

    • Pizza meetings

    • Informal dinner with faculty

    • Engineering Open House

    • Physics demos for kids and the public

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    Society for Women in Physics

    • Undergraduate research database

    • Midwestern women in physics conference

    • Social gatherings

    • Seminars (“How to get into grad school”, “Careers in Physics”)

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    Physics Van

    • http://van.physics.uiuc.edu/

    • Traveling science show for kids

    • Visit regional elementary schools

    • Fun for everyone!

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    Teaching Opportunities

    Upper-class physics majors might have an opportunity to teach!

    It’s a great learning experience

    It looks great on your resume/cv

    Teaching assistants receive stipend

    Typical teaching load is 2 laboratory sections per semester (~8-10 hours/week)

    Our TA’s are good…75% are voted as “excellent” by their students!



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    Undergraduate Research

    • On campus:

      • Work in a research lab

        • can earn individual study credit

      • Summer research through senior thesis project

    • Off campus

      • Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)

      • 10 week summer research program

      • Offered at many schools

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    Senior Thesis Sequence

    • Co-taught by Professor Lance Cooper and technical writing expert Celia Elliott, Director of External Affairs and Special Projects

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    Intro to Physics Research

    • Explore research fields

    • Presentations

    • Journal Club

    • Introduction to scientific communication

    • Oral presentations

    • Scientific writing

    • Introduction to research basics

    • Collaborations

    • Ethics

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    Senior Thesis

    • More emphasis on Communication Skills

    • How to design a scientific poster

    • More practice giving presentations

    • Learn specifics on formatting your thesis

    • Journal Club continues

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    Other Research Opportunities

    • http://physics.illinois.edu/undergrad/research.asp

    • Can get credit for work (PHYS 199 or 497, Individual Study)

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    We return to the big question….

    What the heck can I do with a physics degree???

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    The Answer…


    • ~50% of UIUC Physics graduates go to graduate school

      • Mostly in Physics

      • Some related fields (Astronomy, Engineering)

    • Others find employment in a variety of fields.

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    Graduate School: Who/What/How?

    • Grad school may be for you if you want to…

      • do research and development

      • work at a national laboratory

      • teach/research at the college/university level.

    • Duration

      • 1-2 year Master’s, 5-6 year Ph.D.

    • Grad school

      • Typically get remitted tuition + ~$20k per year

      • Two years of course work (+ teach + research)

      • Three-four years of research + dissertation

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    Graduate Schools

    • Where do UIUC students attend graduate school?

    School Field

    Berkeley PhysicsBoston University High Energy PhysicsCaltech PhysicsCornell Engineering, Physics, Harvard Applied PhysicsMichigan EngineeringNorthwestern Engineering (Quantum Information)Oxford (UK) PhysicsStanford Applied PhysicsUniversity of Chicago Physics, AstrophysicsUniversity of Illinois Physics, Engineering, Education….

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    Post Graduate (Ph.D.) Employment

    50% get postdocs

    40% get permanent jobs

    10% other

    Overall employment rate for Ph.D.’s is *very* high.



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    Employers in Illinois that recently hired new physics bachelor recipients

    • Fuji Machine America Corporation

    • GMS / Vedior

    • Greenlight Planet, Inc.

    • Highland Engineerin, P.C.

    • Imaje

    • Leo Burnett

    • Lockheed Martin

    • Northrop Grumman

    • Orchid Tree WEb Solutions

    • Quantum Design

    • S&C Electric Company

    • Sargent & Lundy

    • United Conveyor Corporation

    • Val-Matic Valve & Manufacturing Corporation

    • Wellpoint, Inc.

    • Zurich North America

    • Accenture

    • Aerotek Scientific

    • Aisin Electronics Illinois, LLC

    • Analysts, Inc.

    • Argonne National Lab

    • Army Corps of Engineers

    • Beckman Institute (University of Illinois)

    • Caterpillar, Inc.

    • CONTAX, Inc.

    • Creative Thermal Solutions

    • CSG Systems

    • Delcross Technologies, LLC

    • Deloitte Consulting, LLP

    • Exelon

    • Fermi National Lab

    • This is only a portion of the employers who hired recent physics bachelors into technical positions.

    • Source: AIP Statistical Research Center, Initial Employment Surveys, classes 2007 thru 2009.Incomplete list of employers and positions (2000-2003)

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    Knowledge and skills rated as important by physics bachelors 5-8 years after graduation



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    What WE are doing

    Working with industry to market our majors and explain the value of physicists!

    Working with our majors (and Engineering Career Services) to make sure they market themselves and seek out opportunity.

    Seek out intership opportunities for our students. (separate from research opportunities discussed last week)

    Surveying our alumni to find out what careers they are in and create ties for future graduates.

    Getting input from students, parents…



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    More Career Data

    • Illinois companies that hire physics bachelors:http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/states/state.html

    • Education and Employment Trends:http://www.aip.org/statistics/

    • American Institute of Physics collects the most data on Physics Trends

    • You can find the pot of gold with a physics degree!

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    • It’s all about opportunity!

    • Opportunities for variety in your physics curriculum

    • Opportunities to supplement your education (working on those “people skills” employers love) with extracurricular activities

    • Opportunities to do research as an undergraduate

    • Opportunities for your future!

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    Contact Information

    Toni PittsCoordinator of Recruiting, Advising, and Special ProgramsEmail: [email protected]: 217-244-2948

    Professor Kevin PittsEmail: [email protected]

    Department of PhysicsUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign1110 West Green StreetUrbana, Illinois 61801-3080