Physics is the study of the basic principles that govern the physical world around us. It is science that deals with the structure of matter and the interactions between the fundamental constituents of the observable universe.
Physics is the natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion and behavior through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force. As one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, the main goal of physics is to understand how the universe behaves.
Physics is one of the oldest academic disciplines, perhaps the oldest through its inclusion of astronomy. Over the last two millennia, physics was a part of natural philosophy along with chemistry, biology, and certain branches of mathematics, but during the scientific revolution in the 17th century, the natural sciences emerged as unique research programs in their own right.
The Scope of Physics
Physics is the study of energy, matter, and their interactions. It’s a very broad field because it is concerned with matter and energy at all levels—from the most fundamental particles of matter to the entire universe. Some people would even argue that physics is the study of everything! Important concepts in physics include motion, forces such as magnetism and gravity, and forms of energy such as light, sound, and electrical energy.
The scope of physics can be understood if one looks at its various sub-disciplines such as mechanics, optics, heat and thermodynamics, electrodynamics, atomic physics, nuclear physics, etc.
Mechanics: Study of motion of particles and general systems of particles.
Optics: Branch of physics which involves the behaviour and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it.
Heat and thermodynamics: Thermodynamics is the branch of physics that deals with the relationships between heat and other forms of energy. It is study of pressure - volume changes that take place in a gas when its temperature changes, working of refrigerator, etc.
Electrodynamics: Study of the interaction of electric currents with magnetic fields or with other electric currents. It is a branch of physics that deals with the effects arising from the interactions of electric currents with magnets, with other currents, or with themselves. The magnetic field around a current carrying conductor, propagation of radio waves etc. are the areas where electrodynamics provide an answer.
Atomic and nuclear physics: This describes fundamental particles (i.e. electrons, protons, neutrons), their structure, properties and behavior. It deals with the constitution and structure of matter, interaction of atoms and nuclei with electrons, photons and other elementary particles.
Foundation of physics enables us to appreciate and enjoy things and happenings around us. The laws of physics help us to understand and comprehend the cause-effect relationships in what we observe. This makes a complex problem to appear pretty simple.
Physics intersects with many interdisciplinary areas of research, such as biophysics and quantum chemistry, and the boundaries of physics are not rigidly defined. New ideas in physics often explain the fundamental mechanisms of other sciences while opening new avenues of research in areas such as mathematics and philosophy.
Physics also makes significant contributions through advances in new technologies that arise from theoretical breakthroughs. For example, advances in the understanding of electromagnetism or nuclear physics led directly to the development of new products that have dramatically transformed modern-day society, such as television, computers, domestic appliances, and nuclear weapons; advances in thermodynamics led to the development of industrialization, and advances in mechanics inspired the development of calculus.
Skills and Competencies that You Need to Succeed in Physics
While studying physics you are expected to develop a range of skills that can be applied in many areas, both scientific and non-technical. The following are some of the skills you need to succeed in your career:
Ability to think clearly, to pay attention to detail and to construct logical and reasoned arguments.
In course of your career as a physics graduate you will be asked to solve problems---lots of them! You should be able to solve these problem with a pragmatic and analytical approach
Constructing logical arguments, applying analytical skills and grasping complex problems
Skills in using mathematics to find solutions to scientific problems, mathematical modelling and interpreting and presenting information graphically
Planning, executing and reporting experiments, using technical equipment and paying attention to detail
You will have to organise your timetable to meet deadlines for a variety of tasks
Physics deal with complicated and surprising concepts and good communication is essential. You should be able to convey complex ideas using technical language correctly.
Information and communication technology (ICT):
Ability to understand and use specialist software packages and some programming.
Job of Physics Graduates
As a Physics graduate you’ll usually work in:
- theoretical analysis – developing ideas, using computer simulations and mathematical modelling techniques, to make predictions and explain behaviours
- experimental research – designing experiments to test theories
Depending on the area of industry you work in, you may be:
- involved in climate forecasting
- developing new medical instruments and treatments
- working in satellite technology and space exploration
- investigating new ways to generate power
- exploring robotics and artificial intelligence
- teaching in schools, colleges or universities
- using your knowledge to work in publishing, broadcasting or journalism
- You’ll write reports on your findings and present your work at scientific meetings and conferences.
Career Opportunities for Physics Graduates
As a Physics graduate you will find employment in health or research institutes, defence or robotics, aerospace, computing and electronics, power generation or gas and oil,or government departments. You could use your scientific knowledge in other areas like education, scientific journalism and patent work.
Industries employing physicists (Physics graduates) are varied and include:
- oil and gas
- aerospace and defence
- science and telecommunications.
Jobs directly related to your degree include:
- Geophysicist/field seismologist
- Higher education / College / University Lecturer
- Radiation protection practitioner
- Research scientist (physical sciences)
- Secondary school teacher
Jobs where your degree would be useful include:
- Investment analyst
- Nuclear engineer
- Operational researcher
- Patent attorney
- PPC specialist
- Systems developer
Please note that many employers accept applications from graduates with any degree subject, so don't restrict your thinking to the jobs listed here.
Admission Requirements for Studying Physics in Nigeria
For most high institutions in Nigeria, to study Physics as a course, you need to meet specific academic requirements. Candidates seeking admission through the Jamb are required to have five credit level passes in the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (S.S.C.E.) or its equivalent. These should include English Language, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and any other Science subject from Further mathematics and Biology or Agricultural Science.
For Jamb UTME, English Language, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry or Biology.