Western Courier

Physics program ranks second in the nation

Tabi Jozwick, Courier Staff

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For three consecutive years, The American Institute of Physics (AIP) has ranked Western Illinois University second in the nation among institutions offering a master’s degree in physics as the highest degree. 

 “AIP collects data on all programs in the nation on their bachelors, masters and PhD programs and put out a booklet each year based on the data of the previous year,” said Kishor Kapale, professor of physics and physics graduate coordinator. “There are 56 masters-only programs in the nation and in the terms of graduates, we been ranked second and we been doing that for the last three years, third year in a row.”

 The AIP ranks degree-granting institutions nationwide and reports statistics on all U.S. physics program, following the demographics and trends of the physical sciences community.

 “We are very thankful for the hard work and continual efforts of our faculty in mentoring our graduate students in their graduate research projects, which makes our program very attractive to potential students,” said WIU Physics Chair Mark Boley.

 According to the AIP, Western had 29 graduate students and concurred 16 Masters of Science in physics degrees during the 2015-2016 school year.

 “Our numbers within the last two or three years have stayed about the same,” Kapale said. “It’s one or two institutions with similar programs matching with us or a little above us.”

 Kapale said that the master degree in physics had three options: internship, thesis or coursework.

 “All we require our students to do is to get that research experience and get that hands-on experience of how it is to do physics in a real-life scenario,” Kapale said. “Through that, they get that specialization, they get that flavor of the area that
interests them.”

 Kapale said that graduate students can take courses in several specializations of physics that included experimental, theoretical, observational astrophysics and quantum physics.

 “We have an observational astronomer, meaning with the help of radio telescopes that exists around the world, you can access them through the computer and looks at certain objects in the sky,” Kapale said. “Once they get that data, they download it here and analyzes it and that’s how astronomy works.”

 According to Kapale, the development of the physics department is important from a technological standpoint based on his experience in the quantum physics sub-genre.
“For my area of research, which is quantum physics, a more technical name for that is quantum optics, which deals with how light interacts with matter,” Kapale said. “It allows us to develop new tools for measuring small quantities of physical fields like electrical fields, magnetic fields, gravitational fields. It also allows us to develop new kinds of computers, so I work in quantum computing as well, which would be a lot exponentially faster than our traditional computers.”

Kapale said that the physics facility worked hard in their specializations and even helped graduate students with their research by training them how to use the physics lab equipment properly. Kapale said that several Western graduate students have published papers in physics journals.

“Students that are getting into the master’s program, for the most part, are interested into going to a Ph.D. program afterwards,” Kapale said. “There are some students that are very bright, they can directly go to the Ph.D. programs after their bachelors, but if they are not decided and if they really don’t know which area of physics that they want to go into, then getting a master’s degree is actually a much better route to a further study of physics.”

To learn more about AIP, visit the AIP site at aip.org. To learn more about the physics graduate program, contact Kapale at 309-298-1450 or by email at KT-Kapale@wiu.edu.

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Physics program ranks second in the nation