Astronomy is often called the oldest science -- in many ways, it is also one of the newest! Our majors learn the science of the physical study of stars and stellar systems in the observable universe, what might more properly be called astrophysics. Because astronomers really can't experiment on stars, experimentalists are called observers instead. They supply the observational details of positions, fluxes, and spectra to theoreticians, who model the evolution and development of objects ranging from comets to stars to entire galaxies.
Scientists who study the surfaces of planets are more typically found in geology programs, while scientists who specialize in the study of upper atmospheres and magnetospheres of planets, and the regions between the planets, are generally housed in space physics groups.
KU's Engineering Physics program is jointly administered through the School of Engineering and the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. If you love science, math and engineering, this is the place for you. In our interdisciplinary program students prepare themselves for life in the 21st century. Students work with faculty from both the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the School of Engineering. They can have cutting edge research experiences that run the gamut from A (Automobiles) to Z (Z bosons).The program offers a B.S. degree in engineering physics with opportunities to pursue one of four design options: Aerospace Systems, Chemical Systems, Digital Electronic Systems, and Electromechanical Control Systems.
Since the critical turning point defined by the work of Isaac Newton, Physics has expanded to become the foundational science for virtually all fields of the natural sciences and engineering. While basic Physics continues to delve deeper into the fundamental laws that govern the structure and evolution of the Universe on all scales, the fields of Chemistry, Geology, Biology, Astronomy, Atmospheric Science, and all of Engineering have developed in tandem, moving toward an increased understanding of the specifics of their areas built upon the application of physical principles from the bottom up rather than exclusively from the top down. A large number of the areas of specialization of applied physics are incorporated within the curriculum at KU: Biophysics, both locally and beyond Earth, Condensed Matter Physics and Nanotechnology, Plasma Astrophysics, Nuclear Physics, Elementary Particle Physics, Cosmology, etc. The goal of the undergraduate program (BA and BS) in Physics is to provide qualified students with the insight to identify their area of interest within the physical sciences and the tools to succeed within that specialty by completing an undergraduate degree and either entering the job market or continuing on to graduate work with a wide an array of options to choose from, including Physics. For some statistics on the value of a Physics degree, check out the AIP article from Dec. 2013.
The graduate program in Physics is designed for well-prepared and highly motivated graduates of undergraduate Physics, Astronomy or Engineering Physics programs, though qualified students with more diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Most physicists with graduate degrees are employed by academic institutions ranging from research universities to community colleges, industrial /technical firms, government laboratories, or federally funded research and development centers. The primary goal of the Department is to supply our graduates with the skills and insight necessary to succeed in the area of specialization that best suits their interests and talents. As demonstrated in the research overview of the Department, we offer a wide array of research opportunities touching virtually every area of active research within Physics and Applied Physics. Interactive learning and independent thinking are emphasized through classroom instruction, numerous seminars and regular colloquia, and supervised research with access to exceptional research facilities here and abroad.