What Is Physics?

Physics is the study of matter, energy, and their interactions with one another. Physics seeks to study the world around us, the world inside us, and the world beyond us. It is the foundation of all other natural sciences, including chemistry, biology, oceanography, geography, and radiography. From the formation of the universe to the way that nanoparticles influence the natural world, physics seeks to answer the fundamental questions in nature.

What Can I Do With a Physics Degree?

Physics majors go on to work in a variety of fields. An undergraduate degree in physics is a solid foundation for research and development in both the public and private sector, and it opens up many possibilities for academic success in a variety of fields. Physics majors often go on to pursue graduate degrees or careers in:

  • Astronomy
  • Chemistry
  • Engineering
  • Law
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine
  • Physics
  • Statistics

Recent data shows that after obtaining a B.S. in Physics, 35% of graduates enroll in a physics or astronomy graduate program, 20% enroll in graduate school in another field, and 45% go straight into employment in education, government, or a technology role in the private sector1.

Physics and Astronomy at Chapel Hill

There are currently around 18,500 undergraduates at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Of those, about 200 are physics majors. These students enjoy the benefits of:


  • Small class sizes (around 25 students per course)
  • Highly individualized attention and advising from faculty
  • Early exposure to cutting-edge research (UNC is ranked 8th in research activities among all U.S. public and private universities2)
  • An exceptional social network within the Society of Physics Students (SPS) and Women in Physics (WiP)

Curriculum and Degrees

dsc_0772We offer both a B.S. in Physics and a B.A. in Physics, both with varying degrees of specialization available. The Physics B.S. is more mathematically intensive, and is generally regarded as better suited for a the pursuit of further Physics or Astronomy education. The Physics B.A. includes less mathematical instruction and offers a bit more flexibility in incorporating other areas of study into the degree program. If you’re considering majoring in Physics, you can talk to one of our advisors about which path is right for you.

In addition to our degree programs, we also offer both a physics and an astronomy minor.

The UNC Course Catalog offers details on all paths of study related to the department.

Contact Information

Prof. Frank Tsui is the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the department. He can be reached at ftsui@physics.unc.edu.

Dylan Delisle is the department’s Academic Affairs Coordinator, and provides student services assistance for undergraduates. She can be reached at 919.962.2078 or ddelisl@email.unc.edu.

If you are already a UNC student and a Physics major within the department, you may contact your advisor with questions:

Physics Advisors Fall 2016- Spring 2017

For Students with last names beginning:
A-D: Dr. Rene Lopez, (Fall), Chapman 343, rln@physics.unc.edu; Dr. Sean Washburn, (Spring), Chapman 351, sean@physics.unc.edu
E-K: : E-K: Dr. Fabian Heitsch (Fall), Phillips 292, fheitsch@email.unc.edu; Dr. Dan Reichart (Spring), Phillips 260, reichart@email.unc.edu
L-R: Dr. Jennifer Weinberg-Wolf, Philips 136, jweinber@physics.unc.edu
S-Z: Dr. Yue Wu, Chapman 341, yuewu@physics.unc.edu

1Based on 2004 AIP statistics. More recent statistics show similar numbers.
2UNC News Facts & Figures, June 2016 – http://uncnews.unc.edu/facts-about-carolina/facts-figures/