Why study physics at Wake Forest?


Overview of programs and research interests


The Wake Forest Physics Department offers an outstanding educational program for the undergraduate student, with the option to pursue either the BS or the BA degree.  Students with interdisciplinary interests can also pursue a minor in physics. The program is designed to give the student a broad understanding of physics, with the opportunity to pursue research at the forefront of biophysics, nano-technology, condensed matter physics, gravitation and particle physics and optical and laser physics.


© Ken Bennett, WFU Creative Services


Students have the opportunity to take interesting advanced courses in such areas as Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology and Physics of Biological Macromolecules. The Department thus provides the unique mix of research opportunities similar to those found at large research universities with the atmosphere of a small liberal arts and sciences university.  Graduates from the Wake Forest Physics Department hold exciting and challenging positions at colleges, universities, industry and government laboratories, and not-for-profit institutes (see Outcomes section below for more details).


What makes the Physics Department at WFU special?


  •     The teacher-scholar model means the faculty are involved in:

        Internationally-recognized research AND

        Developing new courses and unique methods of teaching

  •     Small classes:

        Faculty get to know all the students

        Faculty can provide personal feedback and modify teaching methods, if necessary

        Students feel more comfortable asking questions and engaging in discussion


© Ken Bennett, WFU Creative Services


  •     Benefits of a liberal arts and sciences education:

        A liberal arts and sciences education is one in which students must take courses that provide general knowledge, as well as those in a specific major. (This is in contrast to a technical, professional, or vocational education, which focuses only on preparing students for a specific job or career.)

        A liberal arts and sciences education is designed to develop general intellectual capabilities, including the ability to identify and solve problems, and communicate solutions to those problems to others; these skills are necessary for a lifetime of learning and community engagement in any career.

        The 2000 survey of employers conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) indicated that general skills, including written and verbal communication skills, the ability to solve complex problems and to work well with others are important in hiring decisions; these are characteristics of a liberal arts and sciences education and the education you would obtain with a physics degree from Wake Forest University.

        This liberal arts and sciences education in the Physics Department is earned within the context of a nationally-ranked research university.

  •     Facilities and infrastructure to support research:

        State-of-the-art equipment

        Excellent library

        Powerful high performance scientific computing

    Interdisciplinary teaching and research with other departments (Computer Science, Math, Chemistry, Biology, Health and Exercise Science) and with Wake Forest University Medical School

        Interdisciplinary research and education prepares students to work in the diverse teams that are found in the workplace.


Graduate Outcomes: What might you expect after earning a degree in physics from WFU?


    With a major in physics from WFU, you will develop solid mathematical skills, strong problem solving ability, and a good work ethic--these essential skills will allow you to work in many different areas.

    Students have earned 334 BS and BA degrees in physics from Wake Forest University since 1943 (241 of those since 1980), as shown in the graph below.

    In a typical WFU graduating class of 8-9 physics majors:

        2 - 3 go on to graduate study in physics

        2 - 3 go on to graduate study in engineering

        2 - 3 go to medical or law school

        about 2 enter the work force, usually in high tech

    Our alumni are involved in career advising:

        Each semester, 1-2 alumni visit campus, present a seminar, and talk with graduate and undergraduate students about career possibilities (see Career Advising and Resources page for more information)

        If you are an alumnus/a who would like to visit campus and share your experiences with the students, please contact our Career Advisor, Fred Salsbury.

    Compared to other national universities, Wake Forest University is ranked #30 by US News and World Report and #19 by Forbes Magazine and the Center for College Affordability & Productivity.

        The US News and World Report rankings are based on educational details, including faculty-student ratios, admissions selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.

        The Forbes ranking is an "outcomes-based ranking", which focuses on graduation rates, numbers of students winning major awards, and achievement-based measures.

    The following table provide more detail regarding the careers of our alumni (this snapshot of our alumni and their careers was taken in 2007):




    Since 1943 -  Since 1980

Professor/Post-secondary Educator     25  11

Research Scientist  28 20

Engineer  18 12

Doctor/Dentist  10  7

K-12 Teacher   9  4

Information Technology;Software Engineer  13 9

Lawyer  13 10

Executive 21 10

Science Mgmt  6 4

Education Administration  3 1

Other Management  10  4

Consulting   9 6

Financial  8  6

Military   4 3

Pilot  4 3

Sales  6 6

Other  8 7

Unknown  116 100


    The following graph shows the number of BA and BS degrees in physics awarded by year:





100 Olin Physical Laboratory, Wake Forest University

Winston-Salem, NC 27109-7507. Phone: (336) 758-5337, E-mail: wfuphys@wfu.edu