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Deborah Gulledge poses in astronomy observatory

Physics: Concentration Astrophysics

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Why study Physics: Concentration Astrophysics?

The APSU Physics program is one of the largest in the southeast, though we maintain an emphasis on small class sizes and personal interaction with the physics faculty.  APSU Physics also has an excellent track record in getting students involved in research both at Austin Peay and at other institutions through summer Research Experience for Undergraduate programs. There are 10 undergraduate Research Experiences per year and 15 student presentations at conferences per year. Additionally, our students have over a 90% acceptance rate to graduate school for those who apply. Historically, 95% of graduates have a graduate school acceptance or gainful employment within 3 months of graduation.


What will I learn?

Physics is the study of the underlying properties of nature from the absolutely mind-bogglingly huge, like galactic superclusters, to the unimaginably small, like the fundamental constituents of matter.  It is the foundation of every other science and is responsible for some of the greatest discoveries and inventions of our time, such as lasers, solar cells, and hybrid cars.  

The B.S. in Physics with a concentration in Astrophysics is built around a core of courses that teach you to different "methods" for solving complex problems (experimental, theoretical, and computational) along with a set of physics content courses (mechanics, electricity & magnetism, and quantum mechanics).  The Astrophysics concentration replaces the 18 credit hours of electives in the regular physics degree with 18 credit hours of ASTR coursework that includes both observational astronomy techniques as well as an interdisciplinary background in astrophysics (specifically stellar evolution and galactic evolution).

The Freshmen Seminar degree requirement completed by most students is APSU 1000. The course is delivered in a small-class setting with like-minded students led by a faculty member and a peer leader. The interdisciplinary course is intended to support first-semester students and provide them with a foundation for university success. Emphasis is placed on student engagement, university learning success strategies, support services, library literacy, financial literacy, and academic and career planning. The first class meeting of APSU 1000 during fall semesters is on Freshmen Convocation Day.

The general education core is designed to develop critical competencies in written communication, oral communication, mathematical analysis, and critical thinking skills. Students at APSU select coursework in the general education core in the areas of Communication, Humanities and Fine Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences, History, Natural Sciences, and Mathematics. While the general education core requirements for graduation can be met by choosing courses from each of these areas, some programs of study require lower division courses that serve as prerequisites for upper division courses. Students should consult the sample 4-year plans and confer with their academic advisors as they choose their general education core courses.

What engagement opportunities are available to APSU students?

The department is home to an active chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) called Del Square Psi and an active chapter of the physics honor society, Sigma Pi Sigma. 

We strive to ensure that all students who wish to participate in research have an opportunity to do so. We do not have a graduate program, so all departmental research takes place with undergraduate students. Research opportunities can be paid or unpaid, for college credit or non-credit. We have active research involving undergraduate students in materials science, computational physics, astronomy, and engineering applications. APSU is a member of the WIYN 0.9 m telescope consortium at Kitt Peak National Observatory; a number of students are given the opportunity to observe hands-on at Kitt Peak each year.

Besides research opportunities at APSU, approximately 70% of our students are successful in securing summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) positions at other institutions. REU positions typically pay between $3000-$5000 for 10 weeks of work in the summer (more during the academic term). APSU physics majors have been accepted to prestigious REU programs at CERN, ORNL, Cornell and Princeton.


What Do Physics: Concentration Astrophysics Majors Do After Graduation?

The APSU Astrophysics Concentration is versatile enough to provide superior preparation for graduate study or a career in a wide variety of physics-related disciplines, from Astrophysics to Engineering to Medicine.   The lists below are a sampling of the areas that APSU physics graduates have pursued in the last several years.


  • Graduate Studies
  • Software Development
  • Engineering-related careers
  • Computational Science and Engineering
  • Data Analytics
  • Consulting