Physics peels back the cosmos to uncover universal laws - School of Science, the University of Tokyo
Aug 17, 2015

Physics peels back the cosmos to uncover universal laws

03. The font of human curiosity is bottomless — Department of Physics

Modern physics is a multifaceted field that covers areas from subatomic particles to cosmic and biological phenomena and even economic phenomena. Join us for a solid education in this exciting field.

Professor Seiji Miyashita
2013 Department Chair
Department of Physics
Faculty of Science

As Pascal and Bacon described it, physics is the study of the wonders of nature to separate out magical belief and to transform the knowledge obtained into forms useful for humans. It’s a field in which we closely examine the world around us and use what we find to uncover universal laws. Examples of revolutionary discoveries in physics include Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, which led to Newton’s discovery of universal gravitation. This in turn allowed us to predict the motion of objects, eventually taking humankind to the moon. Maxwell’s equations explained the seemingly magical forces of electromagnetic phenomena, which today are a keystone of the information technology industry. Yet our questions never cease—today we are working hard to learn what matter is at its lowest levels, how it functions, and what is the true nature of our universe and the source of diversity in the world around us. Human curiosity knows no bounds.

A defining characteristic of physics is that it aims to explain natural phenomena as they are. For example, Kepler came to the conclusion that the planets do not travel in perfectly circular orbits. However, he had not discovered a flaw in nature but rather made a first step toward a deeper natural law. A similar development occurred at the end of the nineteenth century, when several phenomena were discovered that could not be explained by classical physics. Examples include the invariance of the speed of light, the specific heat of objects approaching zero at low temperature, and the spectrum of blackbody radiation. Explaining such phenomena required the introduction of relativity and quantum theory, ideas that have expanded in recent years to become vital tools for humanity.

Physics is a versatile field that is applicable at a wide range of scales, from subatomic particles and atomic nuclei to cosmological phenomena, the composition of matter, and the emergence of life. In recent years findings from physics have even been applied to economic phenomena. Our department includes almost 40 groups of professors, associate professors, and instructors. They specialize in areas that run the gamut in this wide-ranging field of study. Our students begin their study with a solid education on the fundamentals of physics, including quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, electromagnetics, and fluid dynamics. Time is set aside for learning the mathematics needed to fully understand these topics, and our curriculum is rounded out with time for insightful experiments. Our department is furthermore characterized by building camaraderie between our students through events like our traditional Newton Festival.


Advancement after graduation

In recent years, nearly all of our graduates go on to pursue graduate studies. Most graduates from our master’s and Ph.D. programs move on to jobs in academic, industrial, or government laboratories, where they pursue research in a variety of fields. We have a career guidance support system for job seekers, in which dedicated staff supplies information and advice for finding employment. For those with strong motivation, there are excellent employment prospects after graduation.


Department History

1877Department of Physics established along with the University of Tokyo
1886Restructured within Imperial University
1901Divided into Departments of Theoretical Physics and Experimental Physics
1919Unified as Department of Physics as part of the Imperial University reformation
1951Reorganization of the Faculty of Science; Departments of Astronomy, Geophysics, and Physics unified
1967Departments of Astronomy, Geophysics, and Physics divided into separate departments

― Office of Communication ―

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