Asee peer logo

Engineering Physics What Is It, Really?

Download Paper |


2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.441.1 - 6.441.12

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Philip Young

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1380

Engineering Physics - What is it, really?

Philip W. Young University of Wisconsin - Platteville

I. Introduction

The Physics Department at University of Wisconsin - Platteville (UWP) initiated its engineering physics program in 1996. During these past 5 years, the number one question heard from university administrators, prospective employers, and prospective students has been “What is Engineering Physics?”. We have developed and refined an answer to that question based on our program at UWP, and that answer has seemed to satisfy most of the questioners. But as we prepared for our initial ABET inspection in fall 2000, we began to ask “What does Engineering Physics mean in other schools?” This paper is an attempt to answer that question.

Engineering physics (EP) has been around as an educational discipline in the United States for about 75 years. ABET began accrediting EP programs in 1949 with University of Maine and University of Oklahoma both achieving accreditation in that year.1 The Physics and Engineering Physics Division of ASEE was started by Prof. Bennett who also started the program at University of Maine.2 In 2000 there were 15 accredited and at least 32 non- accredited under-graduate programs across the country. The programs are located in all parts of the country and represent all types of colleges and universities. Appendix I lists all the EP programs identified from an Internet search. All the programs share the same title - Engineering Physics - and include at least some physics and some engineering, but that is about all they have in common. They differ in academic administration, relative amounts of physics and engineering, and both physics and engineering content. This paper looks at both the differences and the similarities in all the programs in an effort to better define what is meant by Engineering Physics.

Most of the information for this paper was taken from the EP program web pages. (Appendix I includes the URL’s for the university home pages.) A total of 47 programs were identified. The web sites for 14 of the 15 accredited programs and 31 of the 32 non-accredited programs included curriculum information. The curriculum statistics below are based on these 45 programs. In addition a brief questionnaire (Appendix II) on enrollment numbers and course content was emailed to all the programs. About half (9 accredited, 14 non-accredited) responded, so the enrollment statistics are based on just these 23 programs.

II. Administration of EP Programs

The differences in programs begin with differences in academic identity. Most of the EP programs are offered as alternatives to traditional physics programs; however, 2 of the 23

“Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2001, American Society for Engineering Education”

Young, P. (2001, June), Engineering Physics What Is It, Really? Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2001 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015