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As a physics major at Montana State University, you will study some of the most exciting aspects of our world, and indeed our Universe, alongside leading scientists whose commitment to discovery is matched only by their commitment to your learning. Many of our faculty have received teaching awards at the college and state levels and MSU often brags about the number of nationally competitive science and mathematics scholarships won by our physics students. Moreover, your education will not stop in the classroom. You will work closely with faculty on cutting-edge research projects where, using the latest in high-tech equipment, you will be probing the fundamental workings of our universe. This combination of high-quality, small-class instruction and research opportunities with nationally recognized physicists is something that few other physics departments in the country can offer. With a Bachelors of Science (BS) degree in physics, you will have the opportunity to enter the workforce directly, where your skills will be highly valued by employers, or continue your studies in graduate school where you will find that physics provides an excellent background for entering a wide variety of fields such as engineering, computer science, teaching, and business. Many MSU physics majors have chosen to continue their education in graduate programs, including some of the most prestigious schools in the country such as Caltech, Stanford, and M.I.T Some of the exciting opportunities that await you are outlined below! Check out our flyer here!

TRACE (Transition Region and Coronal Explorer) image of the sun

Solar Physics

The Solar Physics Group at MSU investigates the million-degree solar atmosphere, X-ray flares, spectacular eruptions, and the origin of the solar magnetic field. Undergraduate students work with us to analyze data from numerous space and ground based instruments, discovering new clues to the persistent mysteries of the Sun's behavior. Click the image to visit TRACE to see some amazing solar images. For more information visit the Solar Research webpages.



Gravitation, Relativity & Cosmology 

The gravitational physics group invites you to join us in studying some of the most exotic objects and processes in our Universe including neutron stars, black holes, and gravitational waves. Common to all of these are extreme states of matter and enormous gravitational fields; for example, the gravitational force at the surface of a neutron star is a trillion times larger than on Earth. Much of our research involves fluctuations in these huge gravitational fields, which can be detected as gravitational waves. The advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO) has recently made the first detection of gravitational waves produced in the merger of stellar mass black holes. A network of radio telescopes is using an array of pulsars, rotating neutron stars, to detect the waves emitted in the merger of galaxies. Soon, a space version of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), will join in the effort to detect the waves of inspiraling supermassive black holes. Together, these instruments are opening a new window on the universe, allowing us to observe and understand the most violent and energetic events in the cosmos. For more information visit the webpages.


NASA's proposed Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA)

Student working in the Imaging and chemical Analysis (ICAL) Lab

Condensed Matter (Solid State) Physics

Exciting opportunities to do research in condensed matter physics are available for undergraduates beginning in their freshman year. Research opportunities that you could take part in include: fabricating and investigating the behavior of films only a few atoms thick; studying the interactions of microscopic magnets; using the “spin” of an electron to run computers; blasting films with atomic bullets to see how they respond; designing equipment that will remove even the slightest vibrations for space-bound instruments; and developing new materials for use in fuel cells for future energy needs. For more information visit the CM Research webpages.


Students experiment with LASER's

Lasers and Optics

Numerous undergraduate research opportunities in optics and lasers will allow you to explore fundamental physics while learning practical skills for jobs in a growing industry. Research projects involving undergraduates include: developing and studying new types of optical materials, sensors, and lasers; using crystals as novel computer memory devices; and exploring the response of molecules to laser pulses with durations less than a trillionth of a second. Collaborations with researchers in the Optical Technology Center, Spectrum Lab, and at local industries enhance the cross-disciplinary experience of our students and prepare them well for both graduate schools and industrial positions. For more information visit the LASER and Optics Research webpages.


Students design and build cube satellites

Space Science and Engineering

The SSEL seeks to involve students in the design, fabrication, and operation of space flight hardware. Current programs allow students with no prior experience to become involved and build to increasingly more responsible roles in SSEL programs. The BOREALIS program utilizes high-altitude balloons to provide frequent, low-cost opportunities to fly experiments at the edge of space. Undergraduates in the Student Satellite Program design, build, and fly satellites in Earth orbit. The Solar Physics group is developing an innovative solar telescope-spectrograph called MOSES and opportunities also exist to work with space science data from currently operating NASA satellites. For more information visit the SSEL website.


Contacting Us

The Department Head of  the Physics Department is particularly interested in talking with you about the opportunities we have to offer. Please feel free to call or email. We look forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Yves Idzerda, (Department Head)