Coursework

Physics, the most fundamental science, is the study of how the physical universe behaves. Physicists try to answer questions covering the range from the origins and structure of the universe, through the physical underpinnings of life, to the nature of subatomic particles. Because physics is the science that underlies all the other sciences and modern technologies, physics is the “liberal arts” of science in that it provides the broadest possible exposure to technical knowledge.


Undergraduate Coursework  |  Graduate Coursework  |  NMT Physics Course Catalog (pdf)

Undergraduate Physics at Tech

An undergraduate physics degree is excellent preparation for graduate study in physics or the engineering disciplines. As our society gets ever more reliant on advanced technology a physics background is also excellent preparation for graduate work in the medical field, and professional careers in finance, business and law. New Mexico Tech is fairly unusual in that it allows a specialization in Astrophysics, Atmospheric Physics or Computational physics at the undergraduate level. Our program also prepares you for graduate study in other fields such as biophysics, condensed matter physics, and particle physics.

The New Mexico Tech Physics faculty are dedicated to quality teaching and student success. Combine this with Tech’s research opportunities for undergraduates and it is no surprise that our Physics graduates consistently find their way to further research at internationally leading universities and are employed by major corporations and national laboratories.

All of our Physics students receive a broad education in both theoretical and experimental methods. Currently there are about 80 undergraduate Physics Majors, with 30% of those women. Tech has one of the largest undergraduate programs in the country! Yet class sizes at all levels are kept small, with an overall student/faculty ratio of 7:1. Our Physics undergraduate curriculum includes a major laboratory class every year, providing valuable experience with experimental techniques and instrumentation. Many Physics students study Mathematics as a second major, or minor in the Electrical Engineering or Computer Science programs at Tech.

Over half of our graduates continue studying Physics for advanced degrees at schools such as Stanford, Colorado State, Texas A&M, U. C. Santa Cruz, and the Universities of Arizona, Hawaii, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Kentucky. In industrial and government research laboratories, our Physics bachelor degree graduates command very competitive salaries.

General Degree Summary

Physics majors at Tech are encouraged to pursue a broad scientific background and to master the theoretical underpinnings of Physics as well as experimental techniques. They take fundamental courses in the principal areas of physics:

  • Atomic and Nuclear Physics
  • Classical Mechanics
  • Electromagnetism and Optics
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics

In addition to several mathematics and laboratory physics classes, a comprehensive physics training requires well developed communication skills. Thus, Physics majors take a number of courses in other sciences, and the humanities. Scientific writing is taught to all physics majors. Over and above class and lab work, students have the chance to participate in research projects during the semesters and the summertime. Many undergraduate students become involved in faculty research and often co-author published papers.

New Mexico Tech offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics. Students may also choose from two options which involve specialty courses for a more focused degree program. Details of these programs can be found below:

We also offer minor programs for students who would like to pursue specialties in disciplines beyond the options offered above. Two are particularly relevant to the physics degree. They are:

Physics Degree Options

Atmospheric Physics is one of the two main research areas in the Physics Department. Undergraduate students are often involved in ongoing research. Current research interests include:

  • Cloud physics: from the internal dynamics of clouds (such as convection and ice/rain formation) to their role in global climate patterns.
  • Thunderstorms: how they become electrified, and the dynamics of the lightning they produce.
  • The middle atmosphere: how solar radiation propagates, is absorbed, and affects the chemical and thermal state of the atmosphere.

Tech faculty and students are often involved in atmospheric science at the nearby Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research.

Astrophysics is the other main research area in the Physics Department. Undergraduate students are often involved in ongoing research. Current research interests are broad; they include:

  • Active galactic nuclei: feeding mechanisms, the origin of the radio emission, and their effects on galaxy evolution.
  • Normal galaxies: the dynamics and evolution of their stars and the ecology of their interstellar gas.
  • Planetary astrophysics: study of planetary atmospheres in our solar system and in newly discovered exoplanets.
  • Stellar evolution: formation mechanisms and processes in massive stars and late stages of stellar evolution.

Tech faculty and students frequently carry out research at the nearby National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) operates both the Very Large Array and the Very Long Baseline Array, through its headquarters on campus. In addition, Tech is also a founding partner in the proposed Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO), which will be built on the nearby Langmuir Research Site. Undergraduate students are often involved in research and employment with these facilities. Detailed coursework of a BS with Astrophysics Option can be found here.

 See Undergraduate Coursework
 Full Physics Course Catalog (pdf)

Undergraduate Applications

How to Apply
The New Mexico Tech Admission Procedures for Undergraduates

Applications can be made by mail. To request an application form and information, please contact:
Admission Office, New Mexico Tech, 801 Leroy Place, Socorro, NM 87801
Phone: (800) 428-TECH  |  E-mail: admission@admin.nmt.edu

Financial Support
New Mexico Tech provides several types of financial aid, including scholarships, need-based financial aid, and student employment. New Mexico Tech is very unusual in that it stacks scholarships, potentially greatly reducing the needed family contribution for outstanding students. For more information, see the financial aid department NMT website.

Graduate Physics at Tech

The Physics Department offers Master of Science (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees in physics, and an unusual and valuable Master of Science in Physics with Specialization in Instrumentation. Students pursuing these degrees must complete the general degree requirements, in addition to requirement for the specific course of study chosen by the candidate. Students may do research in any of the areas on which our faculty members, adjuncts and collaborators are working. At present, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees are offered in these areas are:

Atmospheric Physics is one of the main research areas in the Physics Department, and the other option for our Ph.D. program. Current research interests include:

  • Cloud physics: from the internal dynamics of clouds (such as convection and ice/rain formation) to their role in global climate patterns.
  • Thunderstorms: how they become electrified, and the dynamics of the lightning they produce.
  • The middle atmosphere: how solar radiation propagates, is absorbed, and affects the chemical and thermal state of the atmosphere.

Tech faculty and students are often active in developing specialized, front-line instrumentation, which is used to gather atmospheric data. They use both national instruments and our own “back yard” sites.

Astrophysics is the other main research area in the Physics Department. Undergraduate students are often involved in ongoing research. Current research interests are broad and include:

  • Active galactic nuclei: feeding mechanisms, the origin of the radio emission, and their effects on galaxy evolution.
  • Normal galaxies: the dynamics and evolution of their stars and the ecology of their interstellar gas.
  • Planetary astrophysics: study of planetary atmospheres in our solar system and in newly discovered exoplanets.
  • Stellar evolution: formation mechanisms and processes in massive stars and late stages of stellar evolution.

Tech faculty and staff take advantage of national observatories, including two important sites in our own “back yard.”

National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) operates both the Very Large Array (VLA) and the Very Long Baseline Array, through its headquarters on campus. The VLA itself is located an hour’s drive from campus. The close collaboration between New Mexico Tech and NRAO provides a unique opportunity for graduate student involvement with NRAO at all levels, from employment opportunities to the chance to do thesis or dissertation work under an NRAO staff member. Over half the Tech Physics Department’s graduates students are funded to do research through the NRAO, and both faculty and students have offices in the NRAO complex.

In addition, department faculty and students work in all wavelength regimes with the world’s leading telescopes, including NASA’s Great Observatories (Spitzer Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope), the Herschel Observatory, ALMA, and other optical and millimeter facilities around the globe.

New Mexico Tech runs the Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, located at 10,000 feet in the Langmuir Research Site, about an hour’s drive from the campus. This is a very good site for direct study of thunderstorms. The lab has facilities for balloon, radar and rocket-based study of storms, and offers an unparalleled opportunity for graduate student research.

We also offer an M.S. degree in Instrumentation. The degree programs are supported by courses at the graduate level in the fundamental areas of physics, and also by specialty courses germane to each area.

Instrumentation development and use is an important part of our program. Several of our faculty members are active in this area. Some current areas include:

  • Radio Interferometric Lightning Mapping
  • In situ Electric Field Measurement
  • High-Speed Lightning Videography
  • Fluid Simulations of Astrophysical Dynamos
  • Fringe Tracking Instruments for MROI
  • Exoplanet Spectroscopy

In addition, many of our Ph.D. students are also working on instrumentation-based research projects.

Local Research and Job Opportunities

Both undergrads and graduate students have excellent opportunities to be involved in research as undergraduate students. Many work with faculty members to successfully co-author published scientific papers. Students are often employed by one of Tech’s many research facilities, including the Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, the Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO), the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC), or the Array Operations Center of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Tech Physics students have been awarded summer internships at Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, the National Solar Observatory at Sunspot, Arecibo Observatory of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, and at several universities around the nation.

Environment

The New Mexico Tech Physics Department strives to maintain a friendly and collegial atmosphere in which faculty and students meet each other informally. There are several open study areas, a project room equipped with tools and small machine shop, and a computer workstation laboratory all dedicated to student use. The department maintains lively social and community activities, including an active chapter of the Society of Physics Students that has received Outstanding Chapter Awards as well as national recognition in the Blake Lilly Prize for physics outreach activities.