Degree options

  • Major or minor in physics
  • Teaching major in physics

Physics program overview

Our physics program prepares majors for graduate work in physics or related fields such as engineering and astronomy. And Cornell's liberal arts curriculum allows you the freedom to explore a wide range of other interests. Many physics majors discover that their analytical and problem-solving skills are highly valued in a variety of occupations, including engineering, software development, financial markets, and business.

Cornell's One Course At A Time curriculum gives us the freedom to dedicate entire blocks to in-depth lab courses and to use a range of active-learning approaches that go beyond traditional lectures. You will frequently work in groups on hands-on activities or problem-solving, while your professor is present to provide guidance and feedback.

During your advanced physics lab capstone course, you will spend the entire block researching a physics topic of your choice individually or with a partner. You will design, construct, carry out, and report your own experiments in a manner that closely mirrors the experience at major research labs. Recent projects have addressed topics ranging from quantum teleportation to wireless power transmission, to cosmic ray muon detection.

Degree requirements Courses

Physics beyond the classroom

In addition to many hands-on experiences in your classes, you can apply to work with Cornell faculty and other students during summer research projects on campus. Current research projects include:

  • Exploring properties of star forming regions
  • Developing videos showing how to construct useful equipment for both doing physics demonstrations and exploring a range of physical phenomena
  • Creating a virtual-reality (VR) surgical simulator for orthopedic surgeons to alleviate the costs, risks, and errors associated with training surgical residents in real operating rooms

The goal in our research program is to develop the fundamental skills needed to prepare for work in research lab settings, with a focus on student learning rather than faculty achievement. On-campus research frequently leads to undergraduate research placements at other larger institutions. Recent students have completed summer research experiences at places like Cornell University, the Hubble Space Telescope Institute, and the CERN particle accelerator lab in Switzerland.

Our majors have gone on to graduate studies in a variety of highly-regarded programs, or have found employment as engineers, lab scientists, project managers, entrepreneurs, teachers, and more.

Research Careers & graduate study

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