Department of Physics

Programs of Study

The department is currently revising its offerings to give students new opportunities to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The new courses and programs are slated for implementation during the Fall 2013 semester for incoming students, and current students may also transfer into the new programs beginning next year.


The Department of Physics offers major programs in two baccalaureate areas: the Bachelor of Science and the Bachelor of Arts Physics Teaching. All Physics students must complete an additional 38 hours of Liberal arts core courses, as well as a certain number of freely chosen electives, in addition to their major requirements.

The B.A. Physics Major-Teaching program (46 hours + 30 hours hours of teacher professional development) is for students preparing to be physics teachers at the secondary school level. It is highly recommended to take appropriate courses to achieve licensure approval in a second subject area, as well. Completion of this major will satisfy the requirements of the Iowa Department of Education for physics approval.

The B.S. Physics Major(59 hours) is recommended for students who wish to prepare for a career in any area of physics, engineering, or other technical field, graduate study in physics or engineering, or any endeavor which requires critical thinking and quantitative analysis.

Students in either the B.S. Physics Major or the B.A. Physics – Teaching Major who perform significant research during their undergraduate career may be invited by the department to participant in honors thesis research. Students must undertake 4 hours of Undergraduate Research (PHYSICS 3000) and, during their senior year, complete one hour of Senior Thesis.

Students in the B.S. Physics Major can also participate in the Physics/Engineering Dual-Degree Program. This program leads to a a B.S. Physics Major degree from the University of Northern Iowa and a B.S. Engineering degree from The University of Iowa (UI) or Iowa State University (ISU). This program requires approximately three years of attendance at UNI followed by approximately two years of attendance at UI or ISU. This program is an excellent opportunity for those students who want to combine the benefits of direct faculty interaction at UNI with the robust engineering programs of UI or ISU.


Physics Minor

The physics minor is an excellent route for students interested in learning more about the natural world and gaining expertise in various technical skills, but who may not have time to commit to a full major.

Required Physics Courses (8 hrs) : PHYSICS 1511 or 1701, PHYSICS 1512 or 1702.Electives in Physics (12 hrs): 2000+ courses with no more than 3 hours total of PHYSICS 3000 and/or 4450
Total: 20 hours

Nanoscience Minor (Proposed curriculum for approval by May 2014)

The nanoscience minor is an interdisciplinary sequence of courses to introduce students to nanoscience and nanotechnology. This minor is highly accessible to biology, chemistry, and physics students with an interest in this rapidly changing field. The minor requires 2 semesters of introductory chemistry and 2 semesters of introductory physics for background, followed by two hands laboratory courses in nanoscience and nanotechnology which can be taken for credit in either Physics or Chemistry.

Required Science (13-16 hrs): CHEM 1110 & 1120 or CHEM 1130, PHYSICS 1511 or 1701, PHYSICS 1512 or 1702

Required Nanoscience (6 hrs): PHYSICS/CHEM 4200 and PHYSICS/CHEM 4210

Total: 19-22 hours

Graduate Program

Professional Science Master’s in Applied Physics

The PSM in Applied Physics gives students practical experience in areas such as computer simulations for applications, investigation methods for materials using nanotechnology, computer interfacing and signal processing, and methods of experiment design. Emphasis is placed on examples and projects drawn from industry. Course work includes a seminar class built around conversations with successful corporate and industrial leaders, a projects–based course that involves PSM students from different disciplines, and an internship that puts PSM students in the workplace. Course work may be done on a part-time or full-time basis, and well-prepared students (a BS in physics or a related field) could complete the program in as little as 15 months.

A New Kind of Master’s Degree

  • Full and part-time study options
  • Day and evening classes
  • 15-month accelerated course available
  • Combined BS+PSM 5-year program

The PSM in Applied Physics is designed for science and engineering professionals and for recent BS and BA physics graduates.


  • Specialized courses in applied physics directed toward immediate employment
  • A Business Management for Science Professionals course to provide a business overview
  • Seminar classes that allow students to learn and work with fellow PSM students from diverse specialties in a team environment
  • An internship that helps students make the transition from PSM student to PSM graduate and employed professional

PSM in Applied Physics

30 credit hours total

Required Applied Physics courses.........................12 hours:
Applied Statistical Methods — 3 hours
Modeling & Simulation of Physical Systems — 3 hours
Computer Interfacing & Signal Processing — 3 hours
Experiment Design — 3 hours

PSM Core courses................................................11 hours:
Business Management for Science Professionals — 3 hours
Corporate/Industrial Problem Solving — 3 hours
PSM Seminar — 1 hour
PSM Internship — 4 hours

Elective courses...........................choose 7 hours minimum:
Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics— 3 hours
Holography, Imaging and Optical Measurement — 3 hours
Introduction to Nanoscience & Nanotechnology — 3 hours
Intermediate Nanoscience & Nanotechnology — 3 hours
Computational Physics — 3 hours
Introduction to Electronics — 4 hours
Physics of Modern Materials — 3 hours
Classical Mechanics — 4 hours
Electrodynamics — 4 hours
Quantum Mechanics — 4 hours
Quantum Physics — 4 hours
& other approved courses

For more information: 319-273-2420.


Note: The physics department is currently updating its programs to better prepare students to take advantage of new opportunities as the world adapts to new technologies. Updates to the programs above are intended to be incorporated for incoming students for the Fall 2013 semester, although current students can also switch to the new programs as well. Some changes have not yet been incorporated into the current UNI course catalog, so there may be discrepancies.