Congratulations on your acceptance to WPI and it is great to hear that you are interested in Physics!

I am Doug Petkie, the Department Head and Professor of Physics in the School of Arts and Sciences at WPI, and I would like to tell you a little bit about physics, the physics department, and the departmental programs.  Before I do that, if you have any questions that I can answer via video conferencing, I will be available the following days and times.  I can also set up a separate meeting time, just let me know what days and times work.  Please email me at dtpetkie@wpi.edu or physics@wpi.edu for the password.  

Days and times will be listed shortly. 

This letter is also on the physics department webpage along with some videos from myself and several students.  Please visit: https://www.wpi.edu/academics/departments/physics/admissions-page-prospective-physics-majors.

The department is composed of 20 full time faculty, 4 staff, and serve nearly 100 undergraduate majors and about 25 graduate students.  Our areas of study that lead to bachelor’s degrees, minors, master’s degrees, five-year BS/MS program, certificates, and a PhD is found on the departmental home page, www.wpi.edu/+physics with clickable links.  Our program and the success of our graduates has led to the College Factual ranking WPI Physics as #10 out of over 263 Physics programs in the U.S. See rankings at: https://www.collegefactual.com/majors/physical-sciences/physics/rankings/top-ranked/p1.html.

Physics is a foundational science that remains at the forefront of advancing our understanding of the universe as well as developing technologies that makes our lives better.  Physicists have a high level of curiosity that drives them to look inside the ‘black box’ of anything that they are studying to understand how it works.  A deep set of problem solving skills is a result of this curiosity, deep inquiry, and ability to reason that translates to just about any career field that includes physics, other STEM fields, medicine, legal careers, teaching careers, business and entrepreneurship. 

The endeavors we pursue from a physics framework are quite broad.  For instance, on the grand scale, the world celebrated the detection of the first gravitational wave in 2016, one hundred years following the development of general relativity by Albert Einstein in 1916.  The gritty pursuit was accompanied by the development of many technologies that society now benefits from that include the new types of lasers, the implementation of quantum sensing (quantum mechanics was found after general relativity), new materials, as well as computational techniques used to analyze the signals.  To do things first takes the development of new ways of doing things that benefit everyone!  Another exciting field is biophysics where physics and biology team up to provide an understanding of how biological materials can form micron-sized motors for drug delivery.  A third example is how we are beginning to use light and photons to complement and expand the capabilities of microelectronics that will lead to new ways to encrypt information, develop chemical and biological sensors for new medical instruments, as well as making contributions toward the development of the quantum computer.  The integration of theory, practice, and impact, embedded in our educational programs at WPI, is also in a wide range of careers that physicists pursue.  

We offer a wide range of core physics courses and electives and we are constantly introducing new courses from faculty initiatives or those requested by students.  Our regularly offered undergraduate and graduate courses are listed on the Courses page off our main webpage.  A sample schedule shows the rigor and flexibly of our curriculum.  Students meet with advisors to tailor their courses and schedule to meet their goals and we frequently offer independent study courses in unique areas of study, such as quantum information science or general relatively. 

WPI is a project based curriculum and during your senior year, you will complete your Major Qualifying Project.  An archive of past physics MQP projects is located at Digital WPI.  During the MQP, students work with faculty or external organizations on a research topic and culminates with the final report and a public presentation during Project Presentation Day.

We also have a strong Physics Teacher Preparation Program that is funded as a PhysTEC Comprehensive Site.  We work closely with the STEM Education Center so that students graduate with a BS in Physics or Applied Physics, or a degree from a closely aligned majors, AND graduate with a Massachusetts Initial Teaching License.  Students in this program work with WPI faculty as a Peer Learning Assistant to assist faculty in teaching courses and with the Teacher-In-Residence from a regional high school.  A flyer for the program can be found here.

The Physics Department resides in Olin Hall that hosts a majority of faculty offices, teaching labs, student project space, and research labs.  Faculty and students do research at several other facilities at Gateway Park includes the Lab for Education and Application Prototyping (LEAP), the Life Science and Bioengineering Center, and Robotics Engineering.

A WPI Chapter of the Society of Physics students is an informal social and professional outreach network that provides information and resources for physics students to explore their research and career interests.  We also have an annual Sigma Pi Sigma awards ceremony to recognize outstanding scholarship and service of persons who have excelled in physics.   

For a closer look at WPI, check out the many accepted students virtual options available at https://www.wpi.edu/admissions/undergraduate/visit/accepted-students-virtual-options.

Feel free to contact me, the WPI students listed on our webpage, or the WPI Admissions Staff if you have further questions that we can help answer.  I look forward to seeing you at WPI in the Fall!

Prof. Doug Petkie

Department Head, Physics

dtpetkie@wpi.edu

https://www.wpi.edu/people/faculty/dtpetkie

 

Video for Accepted Students: https://player.vimeo.com/video/408411820 with a link to a pdf version.

Two faculty and four students present in the above video.  Doug Petkie starts the presentation, Prof. Lyuba Titova starts at time stamp 21:23.  Four of the student below start presentations at the indicted time stamps below.  Please feel free to get in touch with any of us!

WPI Physics Student Experiences

Patrick O'Mullan

PH/CS '22

pjomullan@wpi.edu

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Patrick O'Mullan
At time stamp 30:05 in the video.

Caroline Jaeger

Physics/Env&Sustainability Studies '22 

cojaeger@wpi.edu

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Caroline Jaeger
 

Zoe Mutton

Society of Physics Students - President

Ketones A Cappella - Music Director

zmmutton@wpi.edu

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Zoe Mutton
At time stamp 38:00 in the video.

Tom Young

Physics Teacher Program

tayoung@wpi.edu

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Tom Young
At time stamp 45:30 in the video.

Megan Varney, She/her/hers

B.S., M.S. Physics 2021

Research Assistant - Wu Lab

Resident Advisor - Institute Hall

Secretary – SIAM

mevarney@wpi.edu

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Megan Varney
 

Jacob Bouchard

BS, MS, PhD Student

jnbouchard@wpi.edu

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Jacob Bouchard
At time stamp 47:55 in the video.