Do Anything. Do It All. Do Physics.

[Career image] While attending high school in Germany her junior year, Alicia Ruch-Flynn knew that physics was for her. She learned about optics and angles, developed a basic understanding of the relationship between motion and the planets, and enjoyed problem-solving.

So, it wasn’t surprising that she went to the Unviersity of Texas and majored in Physics. After she got her degree, she had the grades and the opportunity to go to graduate school. But after tutoring other college students, Ruch-Flynn knew that the inside of a classroom—not the inside of a research lab—was where she belonged.

“I never worked in anyone’s lab,” Ruch-Flynn says. “I wanted to talk and interact with people.” Ruch-Flynn teaches a science and technology course at the Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy in Austin. The students have 15 weeks to solve a very difficult problem. She’s also an advisor to the Science Olympiad Team, which under her leadership has finished first in the state for three years running and eighth nationally in 2009.

Ruch-Flynn, who was recently named High School Teacher of the Year by the Austin Independent School District, says she measures her impact differently than others might. “When you have 25 different kids—some who think they are science kids and some kids who think they aren’t—and they are having this very lively conversation about what will work and what will not with regards to building a robot, that’s great,” Ruch-Flynn says. “That’s what it’s all about, and it gives me faith in the future.”

 

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Careers in Physics

Despite what you might have heard, you can do more with a Physics degree than teach at a college and conduct research. Physics teaches you to think. Thinking helps you to solve problems, regardless of the field. Think of Physics less as a career path and more as a skill set or toolkit. That’s why the careers below, and pretty much anything else you can think of, are possibilities.

Medicine

MRIs, PET scans, and proton beam accelerators are all based on physics. The proton beam accelerator at M.D. Anderson in Houston is used to treat cancer patients.

Fusion

Read about a UT Physics student who is now studying nuclear fusion energy at MIT.

Nuclear engineering

Read about how a Naval nuclear engineer ended up studying physics. We hate to say it this way, but while physics students can be engineers, engineers can’t necessarily do physics. (OK, so we don’t hate to say it that way.)

Teaching (high school physics)

Think about the most earthshaking discovery you might make as a physicist. What if you could pass that knowledge and problem-solving skill to hundreds of students every year? And then they could make thousands of earthshaking discoveries. Explore UTeach to find out more. You can also read about two students, Claire and Andrew, who plan to teach high school physics, and why.

Science journalism

If the public doesn’t know about the importance of science in our daily lives, how will it receive the attention it deserves in our public policy-making? Read about a UT Physics student who is doing her graduate work in Science Journalism at Johns Hopkins University.

Energy exploration

Imagine creating an MRI tool that is used to go into boreholes in oil fields. You have to make sure it works to 150° Celsius, and it must withstand 20,000 PSI. Once you do that, you’ll have to work as the go-between for the hardware and the software folks. And you’ll have to make sure that it works. So you’ll have to work with the manufacturing people and help create the process used to actually build the tool. You’ll also have to develop a way of calibrating the tool. When you get all that done, give us a call and let us know you’re finished, would you?

Patent attorney

Physicists make excellent patent attorneys because not only do they udnerstand complicated processes related to science-based inventions, they can explain it to others.

Business

Since physics is about discovering the “why” behind things, a Physics graduate is unexpectedly and uniquely qualified to tackle all sorts of business challenges. Read about a Physics student who will graduate in December and will most likely go to work for an alternative energy development company.

Consulting

Physicists were asked to help with the placement of the new Yankee Stadium, taking into account how wind patterns might affect the flight of a baseball. Physicists are asked to work on cool problems like this all the time.

Taxidermy

Well, maybe not. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

We Get You Ready If You’re Ready

Finding the right field is hard. You have to participate in undergraduate research to discover what fuels your passion. You also need to learn what fuels your professor’s passion for physics so you can decide if that field is for you or if you can cross it off the list. Nobody ever said that pursuing the “why” would be easy.

Physics Prepares You for What Comes Next

Physics majors and minors are prepared to perform well on entrance exams. Physics and Math majors score the best on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and are second only to biomedical engineers on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

The Numbers That Really Intrigue Physics Majors

The median annual income for a physicist is $94,240. The middle 50% earn between $72,910 and $117,080. The lowest ten percent earned less than $52,070, and the highest ten percent earn $143,570. The average starting salary offer to Physics doctoral degree candidates is $52,460.