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Physics program recognized as leader in preparing students for STEM careers

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's physics and astronomy department has been recognized as one of eight such departments nationally for successfully preparing students for careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). 

The American Institute of Physics (AIP), through its Career Pathways Project (CPP), identified UW-Eau Claire's physics program as one using best practices and having a strong record of placing its bachelor's degree earners in the STEM workforce. UW-Eau Claire was cited in the AIP study report titled "Equipping Physics Majors for the STEM Workforce," which resulted from a CPP study supported by a National Science Foundation grant. Successful physics departments were identified based on site visits to departments and other methods of data collection. 

The study based its results on 10 features considered to be effective in preparing students to enter the STEM workforce: 

  • Varied and high-quality lab courses
  • Research opportunities for undergraduates ·Curricular flexibility
  • Building communication skills as part of the undergraduate physics experience 
  • Faculty and staff commitment to physics majors' success at all levels, regardless of career goals 
  • Strong community of students within the physics department 
  • Opportunities for physics majors to be involved in outreach activities
  • Mentoring and advising physics majors in accordance with their interests and goals
  • Connections with alumni ·Relationship with career services office 

The UW-Eau Claire physics program employs many of the high-impact practices highlighted in the final report, including deeply involving students in undergraduate research and offering lab classes with direct applications to the scientific and engineering workplace. The departments cited in the study also graduate large numbers of physics majors relative to peer institutions.

"We have designed our curriculum to not only give our students a strong foundation in the fundamentals of physics but also to help them learn to apply what they have learned in novel and creative ways," said Dr. Lyle Ford, chair of the UW-Eau Claire department of physics and astronomy. "Learning to be a problem-solver is one of the most important skills our students work on. 

"A strong sense of community is vital for the success of our program," Ford said. "Whether working together on assignments for classes or simply socializing, students learn from each other about different ways of thinking, research opportunities and career options they have not been aware of." 

Photo caption: Dr. Thomas Lockhart, UW-Eau Claire professor of physics and astronomy, works in a physics lab with students Tyler Tolan, Eau Claire, and Mathew Guenther, Black River Falls, as they test for the potentials of electric fields using a digital multimeter.