Physics

Since the dawn of time, humankind has been asking questions about the nature of things and the laws which govern the workings of the universe. While there are many possible answers, understanding the mechanisms which control the structure and transformation of matter constitutes the very definition of physics.

uriosity about the nature of things, the primary motivating factor of physicists, led them to make such fascinating discoveries as the atom, the theory of relativity, quantum physics, and the double-helix structure of DNA.

This list, which is far from exhaustive, includes discoveries which have generally heralded a revolution in our perception of reality and which yield some very diverse applications.

Physics is one of the most crucial sciences for making sense of the world around us.

From the tiniest particle moving around in the nucleus of an atom to infinitely vast galaxies, its scope covers the entire universe. Observing and describing the components of matter, their properties, and the forces which govern them and their effects in a quantitative and conceptual manner is what drives physicists. But physics is also about discovering new natural phenomena and predicting the behavior of previously unknown components. With the help of mathematics, physicists look to develop models which enable what is hidden in the boundaries of time, space, and matter to be explained.

Along with mathematics, physics is one of the bases of any engineering training. It consequently plays a key role in improving quality of life. Many fields such as materials science, microtechnology, and biotechnology increasingly depend on the understanding of physical phenomena. The development of new energy sources is also closely tied into fundamental research in physics, using and developing modern experimental means and the most advanced theoretical knowledge.

Program presentation

Cs an EPFL physicist, you are both a researcher and a manager of projects and of teams working on solving concrete technical problems. Your general training will open up career prospects every bit as broad as the field of investigation of your chosen specialization. Fundamental research, applied research in the field of specialized technology, the management of companies or public institutions, and teaching are among the many possible career options in which you will be able to progress according to your goals or field of expertise.

While being rooted in the practical, training in physics requires good mathematical skills, a marked taste for scientific rigor, and a penchant for conceptualization and abstraction.

Study plan

BSc (180 ECTS credits)

Once you have acquired a basic knowledge of analysis, linear algebra, and general physics (foundation year), you will embark on more specific training with classes in analytical mechanics, quantum physics, statistical physics, solid-state physics, etc. This program is complemented by special options and practical work.


Prospects: MSc Program

MSc training then offers a wide range of options covering almost all of the fields of modern physics: theoretical, quantum, and statistical physics, solid-state physics, relativity and cosmology, plasma physics, optics, nuclear and particle physics, biophysics, astrophysics, nonlinear systems and chaos. Training also includes practical work carried out in the laboratory of your choice (high-energy physics, accelerator physics, surface physics, etc.)

You also have the option, for 30 additional ECTS credits, of choosing a specialization (minor) in fields such as space or medical technology or doing a 4-6 month internship in industry to obtain the title of “physicist engineer”.


Other programs will be open to you after graduating with the BSc degree, in particular some interdisciplinary MSc programs. Consult our website on Master Studies or further information about this.

Please note that the information regarding the programs’ structure as well as details of the study plan may be subject to change.

Career Prospects

As specified in the presentation of the program, a BSc in Physics opens up the door to many specialized MSc programs. At the end of this MSc, you will be ready to enter the professional world.

As an EPFL physicist, you will have a very broad choice of career options open to you. As a general scientist, you can pursue a career in numerous fields ranging from fundamental or applied research to management of companies or public bodies, not to mention teaching.

If you opt for research, you can embark on an academic career by doing a PhD which will make you a specialist in a specific field. You can also join the industrial world where your fields of investigation will be more focused on practical applications. Whatever the sector you have in mind (new energy sources, imaging techniques, nanotechnology, materials science, microengineering, etc.), your broad understanding of physical phenomena will make you an attractive target for recruiters. In addition, your scientific rigor will stand you in good stead for the tasks involved in technological-project management.

Furthermore, the structured thinking acquired during your high-level scientific training will offer you numerous opportunities with banks, insurance agencies, financial companies, and computer companies. Finally, you might be inspired to share your passion by choosing a teaching career.


Alumni testimony

Thibaut Vernay

Physicists can find a job in so many different fields: basic research, finance, engineering, and politics!

Thibaut Vernay, Bachelor and Master degrees in Physics (2008), PhD in the Plasma and Fusion Laboratory (2013)

I work for a telecommunication company based in Zurich. My job is to do statistical analysis and to model the contact center (the center our customers contact for information or to solve a technical problem). Our forecasts estimate for example how many calls the contact center will handle in the next days. They require very complex statistical models and are essential to optimize the contact center agents’ schedules.

Before entering the business world, I worked in basic research. After my Master degree, I decided to do a PhD in the Plasma and Fusion Laboratory (CRPP) et EPFL, one of the best lab in Europe in this field. I was completely fascinated by plasma physics (hot gas physics) and I wanted to do more research about it.

Living a PhD student’s life is quite nice, but you need some tenacity, too! Writing a PhD thesis can be a complicated process, and you have to deal with the unavoidable difficulties of research. But on the other hand, you have freedom in your working hours, you are part of a research group – around 20-30 PhD students from all over the world do their PhD at the CRPP, which means a great international atmosphere—and once a year, you have the chance to travel to attend a conference and present your work.

Coming from EPFL, I adapted very easily in my new job at upc cablecom: an EPF physicist is really well prepared for any professional challenge. Of course, finding a first job can take a couple of months, but it’s important to persevere and to be flexible! And once you are in the job market, the quality of EPFL studies (with or without a PhD) and the analytical mind you have developed will give you a good advantage.

Working in a telecommunication company is extremely interesting, as it combines the business tasks of a company and the telecommunications technology. It’s a fast changing field that offers many challenges. And the possibility to discover the business world and to use my technical background at the same time is great!

Contact

Looking for further details about this program? Please check its specific webpages or use the contacts below:

[email protected]


+41 (0)21 693 33 00