What is physics?
Put simply, physics studies the laws of nature. It incorporates the study of matter, motion, energy, and force.
It takes a special skill set to relate to practical problems that need solving in real life, but this is what physicists do every day. A look at some of the most intriguing physics discoveries in recent decades shows the diverse potential of the discipline.
Physics principles are behind many significant progressions within the field of science. Nuclear weapons, interstellar travel, global positioning systems, and vehicle safety systems have become an integral part of our daily lives as a result of physicists. Their understanding of atoms and particles, the laws of motion and conservation of energy, among other key ideas, has helped construct the modern world.
Physics and mathematics go hand-in-hand; much of the problem-solving within the field requiring strong knowledge of calculus, core principles and data analysis. Those who excel within physics often relish the opportunity to break an issue down to its key constituents, to understand truly how the building blocks of the universe function.
As the world faces the realities of climate change, physicists are right there with us. Projection models are underpinned by physics of the atmosphere and oceans.
From deepening our understanding of the make-up of the universe, to splitting stem cells and making major contributions to climate change action, physics plays a pivotal role in scientific research and academia.
Physics also has untold commercial applications in fields including engineering, computing, defence, infrastructure, transport, and more.
There are many different fields in which physicists may specialise, the most contemporarily relevant branches include quantum physics, optics, atomic physics, nuclear physics, electromagnetism, earth physics, and statistical mechanics.
What does a physicist do?
While famous names such as Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, or Stephen Hawking have given us a rather fixed view of what a physicist might look like or do, physics professionals come in all shapes and sizes.
As a physicist, you will hone your ability to think critically and find solutions, no matter where you work or in which branch of physics you specialise.
Increasingly, many physicists are required to collect, interpret, and communicate large sets of data, as they look for patterns and seek to confirm theoretical concepts. Analytical skills are central to the profession, as you will be required to assess experimental data using specific standards and criteria, before identifying, describing and justifying the best approach to solving a particular problem.
There is no such thing as a ‘typical day in the life of a physicist’, because the variety of different jobs you might undertake once you have physics knowledge and skills is so vast.
Physicists who work primarily in theory may spend a lot of their time working within computer models, analysing data, looking for patterns, and proposing explanations to long-unsolved questions. Physicists who tend more towards experimental roles might be based in laboratories where they work with a variety of equipment designed to confirm or disqualify theories within their field.
As a quantum physicist, your days will be taken up considering the interaction of atoms and particles that cannot be seen by the naked eye. A highly theoretical field for most who practice within it, you will primarily select and evaluate computational and theoretical techniques and tools to consider problems and confirm theories. You will find yourself drawing heavily off both physics and mathematical principles.
Working within the field of electromagnetism may provide more opportunities to work in a hands-on capacity. Electromagnetism concerns the ways in which particles can become electrically charged, and the forces which these interactions generate. You may find yourself designing technology that incorporates uses for electromagnetic waves or conducting experiments to understand these phenomena in more depth. You will spend much of your time in laboratories, gathering, analysing, and documenting experimental and observational data, and often communicating this to peers, stakeholders, or the wider academic community.
Earth physicists may stay within a specific discipline – such as studying the dynamics of the Earth’s core through physical principles. Applications of this field can connect with other science disciplines, for example, how changing temperature affects rainforest species distributions or leads to coral bleaching events.
What jobs are there in physics?
As a physicist, your skills will be relevant to a diverse number of careers in commercial organisations, governments, research institutes and universities all around the world.
JCU graduates develop careers within the industrial, scientific and educational fields, and in sectors such as health, meteorology, mining, environmental monitoring, energy production, telecommunications, and aerospace.
Your critical thinking and analytical research skills will be highly prized in the modern workplace, as the ability to solve problems and interpret data is increasingly in demand across most specialisations.
With a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Physics, from JCU your career opportunities include:
- Experimental physicist
- Theoretical physicist
- Data scientist
- Quantum engineer
- Medical physicist
- Scientific researcher
- Scientific policy advisor
Why study Physics at JCU?
When you study Physics at JCU, you will gain a broad range of practical and theoretical skills across various Physics disciplines.
JCU Physics is accredited by the Australian Institute of Physics, and taught by JCU’s highly respected Physics professors, who are passionate about passing on their knowledge and experience to the next generation.
Be empowered to innovate and develop the foundation you need to build a lifelong career that makes a genuine difference to your community and the environment. Subjects are structured to offer plenty of opportunities for experimentation and hands-on learning.
JCU Physics students also gain access to our state-of-the-art research and teaching facilities, like JCU’s The Science Place. Here, you will benefit from the opportunity to engage with cutting-edge technology to conduct experiments and expand your practical skills.
Begin your research journey with an Honours degree. Devise, research and propose solutions to a core challenge within your chosen discipline of physics. The personal research project and academic connections you make will prepare you for Higher Degree Research opportunities, including Masters’ and PhDs.
Please note: Mid-year entry is not available for the Physics major.