Engineering Physics Concentration

A New Option for Physics Majors at UM

What’s the difference between Physics and Engineering?

Physicists and engineers have a great deal in common.  For one, their academic training is centered on the physical sciences, mathematics, computing, and data analysis.  At their cores, the fields of physics and engineering are built on problem-solving.  In turn, professionals in both fields ultimately become expert problem-solvers.  What tends to be different is the area of focus, and the degree of specificity.  In particular, physicists take a broad approach -- building a conceptual foundation of the fundamental laws of nature.  They dig into the first principles and mathematical laws governing the behavior of the entire universe – from the smallest particles (e.g., quantum mechanics, particle physics) up to the large-scale structure of the universe itself (e.g., cosmology, general relativity).  Alternatively, engineers focus on more specific problems – applying the laws of physics to a focused area of interest (e.g., mechanical systems, civil infrastructure, energy storage).  They narrow the focus down to a particular type of specialized application.  To use an ecological metaphor, one might say physicists seek to understand the entire forest, and how each building block relates to the ecosystem itself, whereas engineers become experts on a specific type of tree within the forest. 

Mac students - Machine shop          Reed BOREALIS

What is Engineering Physics?

The Engineering Physics concentration is a new degree path available to students majoring in physics at UM.  At its core, it is fundamentally a physics degree, and thus carries the benefits and advantages of our other physics concentrations.  Just like other physics majors, students on this track will engage in a full sequence of lower and upper division physics and math coursework.  In addition, the physics curriculum is complemented by a series of engineering-focused courses, designed to bridge the disciplines of physics and engineering.  These courses will cover the fundamentals of engineering, including 1) Intro to Engineering, 2) Engineering Statics, 3) Dynamics, 4) Circuits, and 5) Fluid Mechanics.  Thus, in addition to the deep foundations in theory and first principles that are the hallmark of any physics degree, this degree will also provide students with the applied skills associated with an engineering degree.  In essence, this degree bridges the gap between the fields of physics and engineering, and will provide students with benefits from both disciplines.         


Why choose Engineering Physics? 

In general, physics majors can enter the workforce with their bachelor’s degree to find careers in a wide array of sectors within the economy.  These can include engineering, computing, technology, energy, data analysis, research, education, medicine, and communications, and business.  Around half of our graduates go on to pursue graduate school across a wide array of disciplines -- including physics, astronomy, engineering, biophysics, computer science, medicine, and mathematics (among others).  Indeed, all the options above are available to students completing the Engineering Physics concentration.  However, this new concentration is optimal for physics majors who may decide to begin a professional career immediately after graduation.  If you are passionate about physics, engineering, and mathematics, and you’d like to pursue a future in engineering, manufacturing, or technology, this degree may be an optimal fit.  It carries the full breadth of options and benefits of a traditional physics degree, while simultaneously making graduates even more attractive to engineering firms and prospective employers seeking to hire the most highly skilled problem-solvers on the market.