Physics - From Classroom to Career Junior Year
Talk to favorite professors about possible supervised research projects you might do in your area of interest, in the summer or during the school year. On-campus summer housing is available. Take advantage of the Internet Resources for research, as recommended by the department.
The research I have been involved with deals with biomedical engineering with a focus on biomedical optics. It encompasses the laser detection of cancer by use of a physical factor called the refractive index. Our end goal is to be able to utilize a light source at the base of an endoscope so that cancer detection can be made possible right in the doctor's office without the need for a biopsy. From my research experience, I have learned not only about the topic itself, but also how to properly conduct research, its ethics, and how to give a professional scientific presentation. Dr. Min Xu is an excellent mentor, and I do feel I have learned a great deal from his guidance over the last 3 years. Along with other students, we have already written and published 3 papers on the project! I also believe that my research experience will help my prospects after graduation. - Bianca De Angelo '12, Physics major and a double-minor in mathematics and mechanical engineering; aspires to a career within space exploration as either an astrophysicist or an aerospace engineer.
Students also consider the program Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). Deadlines fall between December and March.
I did research with (Prof.) Dave Winn the summer after my sophomore year and used this to bolster my application for an REU program during the summer after my junior year.... Participation in an REU program is extremely valuable, especially for those who wish to study Physics in grad school. I participated in an REU the summer of my junior year and learned a great deal about how to conduct research and physics in general. It also looks very good on a grad school or job application. Also, it can be a lot of fun to spend the summer at a large research university in another part of the country and meet new people. - John Stupak III; Physics
BASE Camp (Broadening Access to Science Education)
BASE Camp projects offer students an informative and fun week-long experience with actual scientific research, across all scientific disciplines at Fairfield. Projects change every year, allowing students to choose from a variety of topics including biomedical science, medicinal chemistry, forensics, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, marine ecology, software engineering, behavioral psychology, neuroscience, and biophysics, and applied mathematics.
Students have been traveling to Fermilab, Chicago and CERN, Switzerland for research projects. Student research is supported by DOE, NSF and NIH grants. The department routinely sends students to research conferences. Talk to your faculty advisor or department chair about how to get considered.
Look for three professors, in and out of the department, who can speak about your successes in an informed way.
Try to take a leadership role and get expert advice from faculty members about careers, graduate school opportunities. See department chair.
Attend the annual Sigma Xi poster session, held in Bannow every spring. Post your own work, or see the work of other Physics majors. Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, was founded in 1886 as an honor society for scientists and engineers. Contact: Dr. Jim Biardi, advisor, (203) 254-4000 ext. 3465; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students who plan on continuing on to grad school should consider when to take the GRE exam. The GREs are offered in Oct, Nov, and April. It then takes about six weeks to have the test scored and the results sent out to universities. Grad school deadlines begin as early as November, so it's important to take the test in October of the senior year. This means prep should begin in the junior year. Good grad schools expect students to have taken both the general and Physics GRE. There are prep books and online material available. If multiple students plan to take the GREs, they would be wise to form a study group.
Are you interested in a research area but there's no course offered in the catalog? Talk to a faculty member or department chair about a possible independent study.
Teaching or Research Assistants
Students can become or Teaching Assistants in upper division labs. Talk to the Department Chair for details.
It is possible for physics majors to be involved in research activities after completion of the sophomore year as research assistants during the academic year or during the summer months. During the summer, these research assistants also receive a salary for their intern work as well as gaining invaluable experience in the laboratory. These students make worthwhile contributions to the ongoing research activities of the faculty.
Over the last few years, students have participated in studies of:
- The physical properties of diamond films
- The construction of calorimeter models for elementary particle detection systems
- Photoluminescence of porous silicon and other advanced materials
- Transport phenomena in semiconductors
- Neutron activation analysis and gamma-ray analysis applications in environmental science studies.
In some instances, this research work results in publications of papers in various journals and attendance and presentations at conferences on undergraduate research.
Some majors tutor younger students, independent of the University.
I listed myself on a couple private tutoring websites and found Fairfield Prep and other high school students to tutor. I charged $35an hour as opposed to ... (what I) would have gotten from the University. I think this also looks good on job/grad school apps. - John Stupak III; Physics
Physics has department awards for outstanding students every spring; they are honored at the College of Arts and Sciences award night in April. Attend the event and look for projects that might earn you this honor. With your faculty advisor, gain experience in entering such a competition and learn how to effectively package and present your work-and yourself. Non-seniors are often singled out for their great work.
Talk to your faculty advisor about the two internships for credit that are allowed at Fairfield. Remember that summer jobs, not for credit, can be just as useful in gaining experience and building a resume.
Final Career Choices
How can you best use your remaining courses and free electives to both round out your education and prepare for a career? How about possible graduate school work in Physics ... or scholarships like a Fulbright Fellowship ... or Teach for America. Talk to your faculty advisor.
The Association of American Medical Colleges has a terrific set of tip sheets available for students interested in this career path.
In general, Fairfield has a long history of success in preparing students with a solid foundation for the health professions. Since 1951, more than 2,000 Fairfield alumni have earned degrees in medicine and dentistry and are practicing throughout the world. More than 500 others have opted for other specialties within the allied health professions. Fairfield students have been accepted at almost every medical school in the country including Yale, Harvard, Duke and Cornell. Career Options in Health include Public Health, Toxicology, nutrition, and many others. Physics majors have also pursued degrees in Medical Physics.
By junior year, you finish up some of the required courses. It is strongly recommended that you take at least one English course by this time. Most entrance exams including the MCAT have a verbal section. Scientific thinkers often do poorly on these sections. Therefore it is wise to balance your skills by taking humanities courses which will force you to do critical reading and lots of essay writing. Philosophy, Religion, English and History are good examples.
Most students (excluding pre-meds) take their pre-professional admissions exams at the end of their junior year. Since these exams test your understanding of basic Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics, it is imperative that you have completed your required courses by this time. The MCAT is given several times throughout the year, but it is recommended that you take it in late spring/early summer so that your application can be complete by June. Remember to request a letter of recommendation from the Health Professions Committee. The deadline for applications is April 1. The committee interviews each candidate, reviews their academic performance and votes whether or not to recommend that student. Students whose performance is not up to Fairfield's standards may not be recommended. If this happens, you may support your application with three letters from individual professors in lieu of a committee letter.
Note: The summer between Junior and Senior Years is usually a busy time. Now is the best time to fill out applications. This is more complicated than it sounds (will take you hours!) so allow plenty of time. Nearly all health professions schools have rolling admissions so it is to your advantage to get your applications in as soon as possible. However, it is most common for pre-medical students specifically to apply after senior year. Students who were not ready in the spring or who did poorly on spring entrance exams may elect to take them in the summer.
Physics - Life After Fairfield
Upon graduation with the B.S. in Physics, students have available to them a number of career options including graduate studies leading to the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in any subfield of physics, industrial careers in research and development, and professional careers where a physics background, or more generally, a science background is an asset. Examples of this latter category include:
- Computer science
- Science education
Many recent graduates are pursuing graduate degrees at major institutions across the country. Others have secured employment at major industrial organizations. Whatever their occupation, their degree in physics signifies a true intellectual achievement and is the basis for a financially and creatively productive life.
Physics majors at Fairfield are broadly educated in a liberal arts context and they follow diverse career paths. Graduates of the last several years have chosen:
- Medical school
- Environmental education
- Secondary school teaching
- Work in regulatory affairs for a medical instrument manufacturer
- Computer engineering
A substantial portion of our graduates have gone on to advanced study in physics at:
- SUNY - Stony Brook
- Colorado State
That's just the start. Take a look at this career information from other University offices that we think is also valuable to Physics majors.