Degree Information

Why ISU for a degree in Computer Physics?

The Physics Department at Illinois State University has a history of innovation in computational science education. We were among the first departments in the nation to offer a course in computational physics in the early 1970's. In the 1980's, we embarked on an effort to systematically incorporate computer methods into all intermediate and advanced courses. In the 1990's, we have led interdisciplinary projects to develop specialized computational science courses. One of these courses, "Methods of Computational Physics", received the 1995 Undergraduate Computational Engineeering and Science Education Award by the U. S. Department of Energy. Today, we are at the frontier of computational physics education.

Our past experience combines with a nearly unsurpassed faculty expertise for an undergraduate department. The majority of our faculty members are active in computational physics. The department supports a network of state-of-the-art workstation computers and well-equipped laboratories. To download an updated Computer Physics Major brochure, please click here.

Click here for more information on Physics at ISU.

Faculty and Students

Members of the faculty hold Ph.D.'s from many of the nation's leading universities. Each is a dedicated teacher and scholar, publishing their results in the nation's top physics journals. Our faculty have often been honored by professional and academic physics societies, including the American Physical Society, the U.S. Dept. of Energy, and NASA. The Department has a 10:1 student to faculty ratio, and does not award graduate degrees. This means that all classes are taught by professors and undergraduate students receive all the faculty attention and support that they need.

The Department serves nearly 120 majors in its physics, computer physics, physics teaching, and engineering physics programs. More than half are from the top quarter of their high school class. The mean ACT composite score is above 27. The lack of graduate students opens up numerous opportunities for undergraduate students in research, employment, and scholarships. Students may apply for employment as research assistants, lab graders and proctors, computer programmers, and planetarium assistants, or they may apply to assist faculty in professional research in the areas of laser physics, nanoscience, space physics, nonlinear systems, and atomic, molecular and optical (AMO) physics. Faculty regularly obtain grants from major national agencies such as NSF, NASA, and DOE that support our undergraduate researchers with paid stipends.

Our Facilities

Students in the Physics Department have an enormous amount of computing power at their disposal. The department supports a bank of high-speed scientific workstations including four 64-core parallel processors, a visualization lab, and a lab open only to majors. Also accessible is the College of Arts and Science's multi-media lab. For those who get involved in computational research with a faculty member, access to supercomputers at several national centers is also available. All our computers run variants of the Unix operating system and offer a wide variety of open source software as well as some commercial paltforms like Mathematica and Matlab.

Faculty Profile

Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics

  • Brian K. Clark (Emeritus, Ph.D., University of Missouri-Rolla, 1986) "We observe how gases and light affect each other."
  • Rainer Grobe (Ph.D., University of Essen, Germany, 1989) "It is fascinating to explore laser pulses which can penetrate any material without destroying it."
  • George H. Rutheford (Ph.D., Rice University, 1991) "I explore lives of exotic atomic species like 'hollow' and 'planetary' atoms."
  • Qichang Su (Ph.D., University of Rochester, 1991) "My students and I study the role of electron spin in collisions involving excited atoms."

Condensed Matter Physics

  • Ross Bogue (Ph.D., Purdue University, 1989) "I enjoy teaching students how to simulate physical systems."
  • Hiroshi Matsuoka (Emeritus, Ph.D., University of Illinois, 1985) "By simulating the motion of atoms with a computer, I study how melting in a small cluster of atoms changes with the cluster size."
  • Shang-Fen Ren(Emeritus, Ph.D., Texas A&M University, 1986) "Macroscopic properties of matter are governed by conservation laws and broken symmetries."

High Energy Physics; Mathematical Physics

  • Sadri D. Hassani (Emeritus, Ph.D., Princeton University, 1980) Mathematics is the language of Nature, Physics its poetry."

Physics Education

  • Carl J. Wenning (Retired, Ed.D., Illinois State University, 2000) "I enjoy showing future physics teachers the utility of computers in the lab setting."

Space Plasma Physics

  • Daniel L. Holland (Ph.D., University of California at Los Angeles, 1990) "It never ceases to amaze me that you can obtain so much information about the global structure of the magnetotail from a few little wiggles in the ion distribution function."
  • Richard F. Martin, Jr. (Ph.D., University of Illinois, 1983) "My work on the Earth's space environment is motivated by a long-term fascination with the question of how complicated, but ordered systems form spontaneously and evolve in time."