Engineering Physics At the Colorado School of Mines

Physics as a Career

By choosing a career in physics you will join a tradition dating back to Galileo and Newton. This career track has attracted those who want to understand nature at its most fundamental level. Today's physics frontier stretches from inquiry about the makeup of matter at the elementary particle level to investigation of the evolution of the universe and everything in between. With every puzzle solved new ones emerge, a process which Vannevar Bush called the "Endless Frontier". A professional physicist is motivated primarily by curiosity and inspired by the complexity and beauty of the world's mechanisms. Physicists, by working to understand nature in their areas, add little pieces to the grand puzzle. In so doing they each contribute to the advance of knowledge for all humanity. Can there be a more noble career ambition?

A physicist has practical knowledge that comes from a deep understanding of natural phenomena. With this background, physicists are well-equipped to tackle problems that are of concern to many different types of employers. Professional physicists work in a wide variety of situations; from academic environments to industrial development teams, from oil exploration firms to computer manufacturers, from start-up firms to biotechnology companies, from tiny partnerships to multinational corporations. Check here to learn more about what physicists do. In each case, the insight and creativity that a physicist brings to the tasks at hand are widely recognized as essential components to meeting the organization's objectives.

Our everyday lives are continually influenced by discoveries and developments provided by physicists. The computer revolution was born in the laboratories of solid state physics five decades ago and the World Wide Web was created by physicists. If you want to know what the future holds, peek into the physics laboratories of today. Fundamental research dealing with quantum optics and nonlinear phenomena will make it possible not only for tomorrow's data to be carried by light signals but also for information processing to be performed by light-based computers. This and many other advanced technologies are being created and shaped by professional physicists.

If you are intrigued by these prospects, take a closer look at the Engineering Physics program at CSM!

Engineering Physics

The Engineering Physics degree combines the deep understanding of science fundamentals with the practical knowledge and skills of engineering practice and design. When you graduate from CSM with a major in Engineering Physics you will be ready to jump right into jobs that require a broad technical education. Our graduates can be found at places like Texas Instruments, Amoco, IBM, Lockheed-Martin, and many many others. You will also be well-prepared to continue specialization through graduate school, in physics or other related technical fields. The analytic skills developed in the study of physics are highly prized in other areas such as medicine or law. Those CSM physics graduates who have chosen to continue to study physics in graduate school have successfully competed with the best students from around the country for admission to the most competitive graduate schools, such as Cal Tech, Berkeley, Cornell, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, Illinois, and many others.

There are sound reasons why our graduates have been so successful. Our curriculum combines aspects of an engineering degree with the rigorous foundation of traditional physics. Our Engineering Physics program is fully accredited by ABET, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. We are one of only seventeen schools in the country with this distinction, and the only one in Colorado. With an appropriate selection of electives, many of our graduates apply to and are accepted at engineering graduate programs in mechanical, electrical, and materials engineering.

In addition to the collection of core courses that are required of every student at Mines you will study advanced topics in mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, electronics, and modern physics. The department also offers a broad selection of electives, including optical, nuclear, and solid-state physics, as well as biophysics, astronomy, and photovoltaics. A total of 130.5 semester hours of classes is required. Of these, nearly one fourth are electives. This flexibility makes it possible for you to minor in almost any area. Common choices include electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, materials engineering, geophysics, mathematics, and computer science.

Curriculum (Based on 2008-2009 Catalog)

The curriculum beyond the 33 credit hour freshman year is listed below:

Sophomore Year - Fall
Credit Hours
Calculus III 4
Physics II 4.5
Design II 3
Human Systems 3
Physical Education III 0.5
Total 15
Sophomore Year - Spring
Credit Hours
Differential Equations 3
Modern Physics I 3
Analog Circuits 4
Introduction to Thermodynamics 3
Linear Algebra 3
Physical Education IV 0.5
Total 16.5
Apparatus Design
Credit Hours
Summer Field Session (6 weeks) 6
Total 6
Junior Year - Fall
Credit Hours
Advance Physics Lab I 2
Introduction to Mathematical Physics 3
H&SS Cluster Elective I 3
Digital Circuits 3
Intermediate Mechanics 4
Total 15
Junior Year - Spring
Credit Hours
Intermediate Electromagnetism 3
Modern Physics II 4
Advanced Physics Lab II 2
Thermal Physics 3
Principles of Economics 3
Total 15
Senior Year - Fall
Credit Hours
Senior Design I 3
Advanced Electromagnetism 3
H&SS Cluster Elective II 3
Free Elective I 3
Free Elective II 3
Total 15
Senior Year - Spring
Credit Hours
Senior Design II 3
Engineering Science Elective 3
H&SS Cluster Elective III 3
Free Elective III 3
Free Elective IV 3
Total 15
Degree Total 130.5

Summer Field Session and Senior Design

One of the unique aspects of the CSM Engineering Physics Curriculum is the practical training that comes through the combination of the Summer Field Session, prior to the junior year, and the full year of Senior Design. In Summer Field Session you will be introduced to machine shop techniques, vacuum technology, materials preparation, and specialized applications of computer technology. In the Senior Design sequence you will work, one-on-one as part of a team, with a member of the faculty on an independent research, design, and/or fabrication project. This experience is very much like that of professional physicists. Some of the Senior Design projects which have recently been completed include: "Ab initio calculation and interpretation of Raman and infrared spectra of functionalized carbon nanotubes", "Decomposition of two quantum bit logic gates", "In situ sorting and imaging of lunar dust", "Design construction and application of a research scale solar cell encapsulation machine", and "Spectrophotoscopic study of bacterial growth in a nutrient medium for detecting contamination in fluids such as drinking water" Do these sound ambitious? They are! But by the time you are a senior in our program you'll be ready for the challenge.

Combined BS/MS Programs

The Department of Physics, in partnership with several other departments at Mines, offers combined BS/MS programs in which students can obtain a baccalaureate degree in Engineering Physics as well as a Masters Degree in an engineering discipline with just one additional year of study. There are four engineering tracks. The first two lead to a Master's degree in Engineering Systems with a mechanical or electrical specialty. Students in the third track receive a Master's of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering with an electronic materials emphasis. The fourth track leads to a Master's Degree in Nuclear Engineering. These programs emphasize a strong background in science fundamentals in addition to practical experience in a specific engineering discipline. The Department offers a combined program leading to a Master's Degree in Applied Physics as well. Finally, it is possible to also earn a Master's Degree in Mathematics. Additional information can be found here.

Undergraduate Research Environment

CSM physics majors participate in the research activities of the physics faculty through senior design. But, it is also possible to work with a research group as an Undergraduate Research Assistant. The Department grants the M.S. and Ph.D. in Applied Physics, and is a part of interdisciplinary programs in Materials Science and in Nuclear Engineering, through which students can obtain both the M.S. and the Ph.D. Research in the Department is supported by state-of-the-art equipment and instrumentation. For example, the experimental nuclear physics group has a 180 keV particle accelerator. This is being used to study nuclear reactions involved in astrophysics as well as to understand better plasma fusion processes. In other laboratories you will find state-of-the-art photon generation and detection hardware, including high-power and ultrafast lasers. These devices play key roles in research involving nonlinear biological imaging and in characterizing photovoltaic materials. In other labs you may work with high flux x-ray scattering equipment, or surface physics characterization facilities such as x-ray photoemission and atomic force microscopy. There is a class 1000 clean room for the preparation of high technology materials and devices in addition to a major effort in solar cell technology using CdTe. The Department has a major role in a number of campus research centers, including

As an Engineering Physics major you will have a chance to work with the professors that are at the forefront in their areas of expertise. This is the kind of experience that will give you a head start on your career path.

As part of the Department family, you will be given access to the Physics Department local area network of Unix and MS Windows-based workstations in Meyer Hall. Through this resource you can run Mathematica, call up a host of other sophisticated computer packages, or retrieve or transmit information from the Internet.

Student Life as a Physics Major

When you join the undergraduates who have declared Engineering Physics as their major, you will become part of a close-knit intellectual community. In addition to 18 faculty, this community includes over 200 undergraduates and 30 graduate students. As a CSM Engineering Physics major, you may join the Society of Physics Students (SPS) which is free the first year and has very modest student dues in subsequent years. It is affiliated with the National Society of Physics Students. This is one of the most active professional student organizations on campus. The CSM chapter has the distinction of having often been selected as one of the outstanding chapters in the country. SPS students participate in all sorts of activities of mutual interest, promoting physics both within and outside of the Mines community and just having fun.

You'll also find community with the faculty in the department. The professors take an active interest in all of the undergraduate physics majors. You'll get to know all of the faculty well, and they will know you equally well. This is particularly valuable when it comes time to have recommendations sent on your behalf to prospective employers or graduate schools. Your professors will be able to provide substantive comments that feature your best qualities to help you compete with other applicants.

More Information

We'd like to tell you more about Engineering Physics at CSM. We invite you to visit the Department and to talk with the faculty and the students in the program. You'll notice the stimulating atmosphere punctuated by animated hallway discussions and intense concentration in the labs. This is the same attitude that for centuries has helped professional physicists push forward the frontiers of knowledge. We invite you to join us in this exciting quest!

Physics Department
Meyer Hall Rm 325
Colorado School of Mines
Golden, Colorado 80401
(303)-273-3830 | © 2009 CSM Physics Department | Mines Privacy Policy