This is content from the Catalog 2019–2020 back issue. Please visit the current catalog for current information.

Department Chair: Kathy Cooksey, Ph.D.



Associate Professor:

Assistant Professors:



Physics is the basic science underlying all other sciences. It attempts to describe the fundamental nature of the universe and how it works, striving for the simplest and yet most effective explanations for its diverse behavior. A very few of the things that Physics explains are why the sky is blue, what keeps a satellite in orbit, what the building blocks of atoms are, and why the weather is so difficult to predict.

There is no other field of study available which offers the student greater flexibility in our high-tech society. Whether a student is contemplating a career as a scientist, an engineer, a teacher, a physician, a lawyer, or a businessperson, she or he can have no better grounding in the natural sciences, mathematics, and logical reasoning than is available in a good undergraduate physics program. The intellectual rewards are there, as are the opportunities for a flexible choice of careers at graduation and beyond.


The mission of the UH Hilo physics program is to provide students with a rigorous, high-quality foundation in physics. The primary goal is to prepare students for graduate studies, for work as professional physicists, or for careers in secondary education, engineering and just about any technical or scientific fields. Our program supports the liberal arts mission of the University by providing general education courses for all students and service courses for the natural sciences and pre-health fields. The physics program has, and actively seeks, partnerships with other UH Hilo STEM programs. Although a quality undergraduate education is the focus of our degree, our faculty, together with our students, conduct original research and make substantial contributions to community education and service on the Big Island.

Program Learning Outcomes

The B.A. program in physics is designed to develop student mastery of concepts and problem-solving skills in:

  • Classical mechanics
  • Thermal and statistical physics
  • Electricity, magnetism, and optics
  • Modern physics, relativity, and quantum mechanics
  • Other areas such as electronics, astrophysics, and nonlinear science

Goals for Student Learning in the Major

Graduates are expected to:

  • Effectively express scientific ideas in writing
  • Use standard mathematical and computational tools to solve problems in physics and astrophysics

We will strive to provide every opportunity for our students to:

  • Develop experimental skills appropriate for physics work
  • Become proficient at finding and analyzing scientific literature
  • Participate in original research projects
  • Earn internship and employment opportunities as appropriate

Special Aspects of the Program

The Department is housed in the campus' Science and Technology Building which provides modern offices, classrooms, introductory and advanced undergraduate labs, and faculty research facilities that offers students with an ideal working environment.

Students can participate in faculty-led research in nonlinear science and high-energy physics and in the Department’s international collaborations.

The Space Grant Fellowship Program offers competitive fellowships to students of exceptional promise, usually during their senior year. The fellowships provide a full tuition waiver and a small stipend. Space Grant Fellows conduct a proposed research project under the supervision of a faculty mentor and participate in University-wide Space Grant College symposia. Funding for travel to meetings is available from this program.

Affiliated faculty from the University Technology Park and other facilities offer a rich array of supplemental Special Topics courses which expand opportunities for students.