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Applied physics, with its various emphases, is an exciting and innovative new major at Bethel. Our goal is to develop graduates who are equipped for high-technology employment, interdisciplinary research, and graduate education in applied science and engineering

Why should I study applied physics with an optics emphasis?

Optics is a particularly interesting field of physics that offers a very wide range of possible careers. It has many practical everyday applications such as in media and data storage (e.g., flat panel displays, touch screens, CDs, Blue-ray discs), but it can also be used to probe the deeper mysteries of the physical world by using lasers to slow down atoms (to temperatures of thousandths of a degree above absolute zero) so their structures can be studied and explored. Such cooling is called a magneto-optical trap, and it's not only the basis of atomic clocks, but done by our undergraduate students in our state-of-the-art Atomic and Molecular Optics (AMO) Lab. This AMO lab has been funded by the National Science Foundation and grants from local industry. 

What can I do with this degree?

An intense study of optics can lead to a wide variety of careers. Optical engineering is becoming increasingly important as companies in the Twin Cities are experiencing a shortage of engineers who can expand on the development of data storage devices and optical displays. Optical techniques are also commonly used in medical fields. We have had multiple students with a strong optics background end up doing graduate work or post-doctoral work at Mayo Clinic. Optics is such an important field of physics that it often forms the basis of a productive career in physics—either with a bachelor’s degree or by doing graduate research for a Ph.D. 

What unique experiences or opportunities will I have?

Students do research in the department’s AMO lab year round. Many do open-ended, research-like projects as part of their normal coursework and labs. Other students (typically three to six at a time) are paid to do research during the summer months. Seniors often meet their research requirement by working in the AMO lab, while still more just spend time there because they find the work interesting and fun.

Every January we have students and professors presenting their work at the international Optics and Photonics Winter School and Workshop hosted by the College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona—arguably the finest school in optics in the world. But there are other conferences that students present at throughout the year. For example, in September 2017, a dozen current students travelled to Washington, DC, to present their research, mostly about optics or using optical techniques, at a national conference.

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in national research grants received since 2011


paid summer internships in 2018

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