Student teaching kids

Physics is the study of the behavior of matter, space, time, and fields. Using highly sophisticated experimental and mathematical techniques, physicists gather detailed measurements of phenomena — from the largest scales involving the entire universe to the smallest scales involving the most fundamental particles — to construct theories that explain how the universe and the things in it behave.



Undergraduate majors


The Department of Physics educates students at all levels from general education, through preparation for teaching and scientific careers, to doctoral and post-doctoral education. The department encourages the involvement of undergraduates in research; currently more than 180 undergraduates participate in research within the department.

Graduation 2019: Physics degree recipients.
Graduation 2019: Physics degree recipients.


Autumn 2019

  • 408 Undergraduate majors
  • 40 Master’s students
  • 156 PhD students

Degrees Awarded

2018 - 2019

  • 180 Bachelor of Science degrees
  • 32 Master of Science degrees
  • 20 PhD degrees

Recent Student Awards

Since 2017

  • 5 ARCS Awards
  • 3 Clean Energy Awards
  • 4 NSF Fellowships
  • 1 Microsoft Research Fellowship
  • 1 Perimeter Institute Fellowship


Subjects of current interest to physicists range from the behavior of the universe at the earliest times and largest distances, to the collective behavior of large numbers of particles, the properties of nuclei and their constituents, and the fundamental nature of space, time, gravity and other interactions.

Current work includes studies of basic symmetries in atoms and nuclei, properties of diverse forms of matter, quantum information and entanglement, searches for dark matter or other new particles, and many other areas. Research highlights include:

  • hosting the Axion Dark Matter eXperiment (ADMX) which is a world-leading dark matter search experiment;
  • classification and study of states of matter with unique topological properties;
  • formation and study of atomically thin layered materials which exhibit diverse properties and may form the basis for new quantum information devices;
  • leading roles in the KATRIN and MAJORANA neutrino experiments;
  • studies of the period in the early universe when the earliest stars and galaxies first lit up; and
  • major roles in the muon g-2 experiment at Fermilab and in ATLAS and novel future experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.
David Thouless receives the Nobel Prize in Physics from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in 2016. © Nobel Media AB/Pi Frisk
David Thouless receives the Nobel Prize in Physics from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in 2016. © Nobel Media AB/Pi Frisk

Areas of Research

  • Astrophysics and Dark Matter
  • Atomic Physics
  • Biological Physics
  • Condensed Matter Experiment
  • Condensed Matter Theory
  • Elementary Particle Experiment
  • Elementary Particle Theory
  • Gravitational Physics
  • Nuclear Experiment
  • Nuclear Theory
  • Physics Education
  • Quantum Computing


The Department of Physics has 59 faculty — 53 research active and 6 who anchor the instructional programs of the department. They include: 

  • 28 Professors
  • 9 Associate Professors
  • 8 Assistant Professors
  • 2 Research Professors
  • 1 Research Associate Professor
  • 5 Research Assistant Professors
  • 1 Principal Lecturer
  • 2 Senior Lecturers
  • 3 Lecturers

The department is also home to 36 Postdoctoral Scholars.

Recent (since 2016) faculty and emeritus faculty honors include:

  • 1 Nobel Prize (David Thouless)
  • 1 New Horizons in Physics Prize
  • 5 co-recipients of the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
  • 1 Presidential Early Career Award
  • 1 Packard Fellow
  • 2 Sloan Fellows
  • 1 American Physical Society Sakurai Prize


The Physics Education Group has been involved for 30 years in programs to help pre-service and in-service physics teachers understand physics and how to help students deal with the concepts. Programs are offered during the academic year and the summer.


Department of Physics
Box 351560
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195
(206) 543-2770


last update: November 2019