Engineering physics blends concepts from engineering, physics, and math in an effort to bridge the gap between theoretical science and practical engineering. Engineering physicists focus on research and development, design, and analysis, often specializing in frontier areas of engineering including quantum computing, nanotechnology, quantum sensing devices, ultra-fast lasers, adaptive optics, solar cells, magnetic storage technology, micro-mechanical systems, and molecular electronics.
With an engineering physics degree, you’ll boost your knowledge of the physical environment while discovering how physics is applied to problem-solving in our rapidly changing high-tech world. In addition to being qualified for positions both in high-tech startup companies and established engineering firms, graduates are also exceptionally well prepared for advanced graduate degrees, with about one-third pursuing higher studies in physics, engineering, and applied sciences.
CU Boulder’s Department of Physics offers award-winning programs, well-established and knowledgeable faculty, and an unmatched educational experience. The department is ranked among the top 10 physics departments at public universities and among the top 20 universities overall for graduate-level physics programs by the National Research Council.
The department is also ranked as the best public institution in atomic, molecular, and optical physics, according to the 2023 edition of Best Graduate Schools published by U.S. News & World Report. Four CU Boulder professors have won the Nobel Prize for Physics, including Carl Wieman and Eric Cornell in 2001 for the world’s first Bose-Einstein condensate, John Hall in 2005 for his contributions to the development of laser-based precision spectroscopy, and David Wineland in 2012 for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.
Engineering physics undergraduates take a variety of core and elective laboratory courses that emphasize student-developed and -designed independent projects. Students are encouraged to form research collaborations with faculty as they pursue senior thesis projects, and many additional research, internship, and industry co-op experiences are available. Students also gain professional exposure through the student chapter of the Society of Physics Students on campus.
Research is a fundamental part of our curriculum, and it provides an excellent opportunity for undergraduate students to gain hands-on experience in the field. Through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and the summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program on the CU Boulder campus, engineering physics students enjoy ample opportunity to participate in the fascinating, cutting-edge research that the department and its various research partners conduct.
Nobel-prize caliber research is carried out in studies of quantum gases and quantum optics. Condensed-matter theorists and experimentalists unravel the mysteries of many-body systems, including liquid crystals and the quantum mechanical nature of the electrical and magnetic behavior of materials.
Other areas of interest include the physics of nuclei, both low- and high-energy plasmas, and an exciting thrust into the behavior of ultrafast laser pulses and the response of atoms, molecules, and solids to such novel light sources. Novel studies of physico-chemical reactivity are also under way at temperatures a mere whisper above absolute zero. The burgeoning subjects of biophysics and nanoscience continue to thrive and grow here, along with energy science, geophysics, physics education research, and other interdisciplinary fields.
Among the department’s key partners are several national labs and institutes, located both on and off campus including JILA, LASP, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Engineering physics graduates are employed at Ball Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Ascent Solar Technologies, Quantinuum, Atom Computing, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, and the CU Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, among other national labs and organizations.
Many also go onto graduate school. About one-third of CU Boulder engineering physics graduates continue onto graduate school, gaining admittance to top schools such as MIT, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, University of California Berkeley, and the University of Texas at Austin.
Physicists are expected to have a faster than average growth rate, with employment projected to increase 8 percent through 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Students who graduate with a bachelor's degree in engineering physics and pursue employment in STEM positions in the private sector can expect to earn an average salary between $50,000 and $75,000, according to the American Institute of Physics.