Information for Prospective Students

a male professor works with a physics student

Rhodes physics majors are vibrant, involved, motivated, hard-working individuals. We count many student-athletes among our majors, as well as students involved in music, community service, and a wide variety of other extra-curricular activities. The student experience in the physics department at Rhodes is one that imparts fundamental knowledge of physics, encourages creativity in the application of physics through research, and provides for the transformation from student of physics to physicist.

What sets Rhodes apart from many other schools is how we engage physics students outside of the classroom. Many of our physics majors work with faculty in their research labs, and some start as early as their first year. Faculty research areas include astrophysics, medical physics, theoretical physics and magnetic microparticles. Our astrophysics group, led by Professor David Rupke, will be one of the first research groups in the world to use the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope.

We also have very active student clubs in the physics department such as our chapter of the Society of Physics Students that receives national recognition for the many science-related events they sponsor on campus and in the Memphis community. We also have an Aerospace Engineering Club that is working with NASA to build a satellite that we plan to launch in the summer of 2023. How cool is that!

Our facilities include several instructional and research laboratories, a fabrication shop, a new astronomical observatory and a large student lounge in the physics building where students get together for meetings, social events and study groups.

Here are few quick facts about our department.

  • Number of full-time physics faculty: 5
  • Average number of physics majors that graduate per year: 9
  • Number of instructional laboratories: 5
  • Number of research laboratories: 5
  • Special facilities: observatory, fabrication shop, student research lab, student lounge
  • Number of upper-level physics courses offered: 20

Why Take Physics?

From a practical standpoint, much of modern everyday life and advances in technology are rooted in physics. In physics, we learn valuable critical thinking skills and logical ways of quantifying the natural world. This way of thinking about problems can be very valuable outside of physics in any discipline that involves logical analysis (economics, law, engineering, and architecture, among others). Many branches of science, such as chemistry and biology, rely on basic physical principles.

From an intellectual standpoint, taking physics introduces us to a unique way of looking at the world. Physicists analyze the world using a “first principles” approach. We try to interpret a problem in terms of its simplest pieces and make connections to basic underlying principles in order to fully understand the problem. When we study physics, we learn to express ideas with the clarity and precision of a scientist.

What Do Physics Majors Do?

Physics is a strong base for many careers, including those outside the sciences. Many students use the physics major as a springboard for rewarding careers in areas such as finance, law, and education. The majority of physics majors do go on into scientific careers, however. Roughly half of our graduates pursue graduate study in engineering, physics, astronomy, or medical disciplines, obtaining masters and doctorate degrees. Fifteen percent of our graduates pursue advanced studies in a non-science discipline such as law or other fields. The remaining thirty-five percent of our graduates find jobs using their physics backgrounds and work as teachers, engineers, computer scientists, laboratory specialists, etc.