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Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Materials Science 

For More Information

Department Head

Missouri State University
901 South National Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65897
Office: 417-836-5131
Fax: 417-836-6226
Email: Physics@missouristate.edu

Career Preparation

The sciences of physics and astronomy are concerned with the study of the most fundamental processes in nature. Majors in physics must become skilled in working with laboratory equipment and in applying mathematics to the description of natural phenomena. Students may major in Physics either as preparation for graduate study in some specialized area or as preparation for a position in industry. 

Career specializations include electronics, condensed matter physics, engineering physics, quality control engineering, chemical physics, energy management, optics, general physics, computer engineering and physics education.

Academic Program

To prepare for a career in physics, students should take as many units of mathematics, physics and computer science as possible while still in high school. Note that it is possible to major in physics without a high school physics background, but it usually takes longer. At Missouri State, students may earn Bachelor of Science degrees in Physics or Bachelor of Science in Education degrees with an emphasis in Physics. Based on the current job market and modern research applications, a strong emphasis in computer science is recommended for anyone in this program. A minor area is required, and the most popular options are Astronomy, Mathematics, Computer Science and Chemistry.

To prepare for a career in astronomy, students should obtain a B.S. degree with a Physics major and Astronomy minor. Specialization in Astronomy will then be a graduate school option. Advanced placement credit is available in some introductory physics courses.


The following is a selected list of courses offered by the Department. Please consult the Missouri State Catalog online at www.missouristate.edu/catalog for course descriptions and specific degree requirements.

  • AST 115: Basic Astronomy
  • AST 311: Astronomical Techniques
  • AST 313: The New Solar Systems
  • AST 315: The Lives and Deaths of Stars
  • AST 317: Our Universe, the Final Frontier
  • AST 513: Solar and Extra-Solar Systems
  • AST 515: Stellar Structure and Evolution
  • AST 517: Galaxies and Cosmology
  • PHY 123: Introduction to Physics I
  • PHY 124: Introduction to Physics II
  • PHY 203: Foundations of Physics I
  • PHY 204: Foundations of Physics II
  • PHY 220: Intro. Structure/Logic of Digital Computers
  • PHY 233: Engineering Statics
  • PHY 252: Introduction to Circuits
  • PHY 324: Instrumental Computer Interfacing
  • PHY 333: Intermediate Mechanics
  • PHY 343: Thermodynamics
  • PHY 352: Electronics for the Experimentalist
  • PHY 353: Elementary Field Theory
  • PHY 373: Radiation Physics
  • PHY 375: Twentieth Century Physics I
  • PHY 385: Experiments in Twentieth Century Physics
  • PHY 386: Senior Project I
  • PHY 391: Mathematics for Science and Engineering I
  • PHY 392: Mathematics for Science and Engineering II
  • PHY 463: Physical Optics
  • PHY 475: Introduction to Solid State Physics
  • PHY 476: Twentieth Century Physics II
  • PHY 485: Advanced Experimental Methods
  • PHY 486: Senior Project II
  • PHY 499: Honors Project in Physics
  • PHY 533: Advanced Mechanics
  • PHY 543: Kinetic Theory and Statistical Mechanics
  • PHY 553: Electromagnetic Field Theory
  • PHY 558: Physical Electronics
  • PHY 575: Quantum Mechanics


The Department of Physics, Astronomy and Materials Science has 16 full-time faculty members. Faculty interest includes astronomical photometry, materials science, molecular beam epitaxy, theoretical computer modeling, computer interfacing, electronic circuit applications, vacuum technology, x-ray absorption Fourier spectrometry, condensation studies, ion implantation, electro-optics and physics education.


Departmental facilities include use of the Missouri State mainframe computers as well as dozens of departmental personal computers and board-level microprocessors. Specialized equipment includes multichannel analyzers, coincidence counters, vacuum systems and low-pressure accessories, digitizing oscilloscopes, lasers and optical components. Other general-purpose laboratory equipment is readily available.

In addition to the general-purpose equipment listed above, undergraduate students in Physics, Engineering Physics/Computer Engineering, Pre-Engineering or Astronomy have access to any of the department’s major experimental facilities. These include the Baker Observatory, which is the best-equipped astronomical observatory in Missouri. It houses a 0.4m telescope and a modern CCD detection system.

The department houses a two million dollar molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) laboratory where thin films of materials are grown, one molecular layer at a time. Lithography on these films and determinations of their physical properties then follow. Scanning tunneling microscopy is used to study the surface structure of the films. Another facility is a one million dollar ion implantation laboratory where material modifications are studied. In addition, there are optical, electrical and magnetic characterization laboratories equipped with Raman, micro-Raman, photoluminescence, ac and dc Hall effect, resistivity, thermoelectric power and piezoelectricity setup.


Students who major in Physics will conduct a two-semester research project as part of their undergraduate experience. In this project they will work closely with a physics or astronomy professor on a topic of mutual interest. Many of these projects will utilize the major research facilities mentioned earlier. Services available to the faculty and students of this department, as well as the other science departments on campus, include a well-equipped machine shop and full-time machinist as well as electronics repair facilities with two full-time technicians.

The department sponsors a chapter of the national Society of Physics Students (SPS) and a chapter of the national physics honor society, Sigma Pi Sigma. SPS members organize and participate in a number of departmental activities, including physics competitions for high school students, tutoring assistance and seminars by guest speakers. Physics students often find part-time employment in the department and may participate in the Missouri State Cooperative Education program. Students may also wish to apply for an appointment to a research semester at one of the U.S. government national laboratories. The department sponsors a
work-grant program to foster student research.

Sample Schedule

Missouri State is committed to assisting students to graduate in four years--see sample graduation plans for this major.

The following is a sample schedule for this major--your actual schedule will vary.

First Semester Courses Hours
MTH 261 Analytic Geometry and Calculus I 5
CSC 111 Introduction to Computing 3
CHM 160 General Chemistry I 4
GEP 101 First-Year Foundations 2
COM 115 Fundamentals of Public Speaking 3
Total Hours 16
Second Semester Courses Hours
MTH 280 Analytic Geometry and Calculus II 5
PHY 203 Foundations of Physics I 5
ENG 110 Writing I 3
Electives/general education 3
Total Hours 16

Sophomore Year

First Semester Courses Hours
MTH 302 Multivariate Calculus 3
PHY 204 Foundations of Physics II 5
AST 115 Basic Astronomy 4
KIN 100 Fitness for Living 2
Electives/general education 3
Total Hours 17
Second Semester Courses Hours
PHY 391 Mathematics for Science and Engineering I 3
MTH 303 Differential Equations 3
PHY 343 Thermal Physics 3
ENG 321 Writing II Beginning Technical Writing 3
Electives/general education 3
Total Hours 15