Providing a strong foundation
The Tennessee Tech Physics Department is dedicated to giving its graduates the strongest possible preparation for their future careers. The rigorous programs of study for a B.S. in Physics provide a broad foundation in all major areas of physics, and automatically yield a minor in mathematics. This foundation is a firm basis on which to build a graduate career, or for immediate employment.
Evidence for excellence
The quality of this preparation is attested to by the performance of Tennessee Tech physics majors on the ETS Major Field Test, the responses of alumni to survey questions, and the careers of our our graduates. The program also undergoes an external review approximately every five years.
- ETS Major Field Test
Among the top 5%
Along with over 100 physics B.S. programs nationwide, the department uses the ETS Major Field Test in Physics to assess the learning of physics majors who are about to graduate. The graph below shows the average percentile ranking of Tennessee Tech physics majors, when compared with all students who take this test. (The results are shown as a rolling three-year average.)
As can be seen, Tennessee Tech students have always scored above the national average, and usually above the 75th percentile (which is a department goal). This places Tennessee Tech physics students among the best in the nation, and the program generally ranks among the top 5% of those using this assessment.
- Alumni Survey
Approximately every five years the department conducts a survey of its alumni to determine their perceptions of the program and the degree to which that are satisfied with the level of preparation they received. The most recent survey was conducted in the fall of 2018.
The graphs below show the responses to two questions asked in the survey, averaged over four separate cohorts based on year of graduation (since the year 2000).
Preparation: 'Good' to 'Excellent'
"How would you rate the overall level of preparation that the Tennessee Tech physics program provided you toward your next career step? (1 = Very Poor, 2 = Poor, 3 = Adequate, 4 = Good, 5 = Excellent)"
Research experience: 'Extremely valuable'
"Please rate how valuable you feel your research experience was in your career preparation.(1 = Worthless, 3 = Somewhat valuable, 5 = Extremely valuable)"
As can be seen, for almost 20 years program graduates have continued to place a high value on both their formal preparation and their research experiences. The department is committed to continuing this level of satisfaction by constantly engaging in assessing and identifying areas for improvement.
- Alumni careers
TTU physics graduates have always been very successful in obtaining either suitable employment or financial assistance for graduate study. Over 80% of our graduates go on to graduate school, including into some of the finest physics graduate programs in the country (Duke, Caltech, Carnegie Mellon, Yale, SUNY-Stony Brook, University of California at Berkeley), and also in other fields, such as engineering, business, statistics, computer science, and biomedical science. Others have been employed by high-tech corporations such as IBM and Texas Instruments. In 1997 one of our alumni flew as a NASA payload specialist on the Space Shuttle Columbia, while in 2006 another alumnus was awarded a Presidential Early Career Award.
More information on the careers of some of our graduates can be found on the 'Life after Tech' page.
- Program Review
Unlike some other programs on campus (such as those in the College of Engineering) there is no national accrediting agency for physics programs. However, under a Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) mandate, our programs must still undergo external review approximately every five years. The latest review was conducted in March of 2019 and the program was rated as 'Excellent' across all aspects of its mission, achieving a score of 2.94 on a scale of 0 to 3! The reviewer commented specifically on the excellence of the B.S. programs, the collegiality of the faculty, staff, and students, and the remarkably high level of high-quality research taking place in the department.