AskDefine | Define physicist

Dictionary Definition

physicist n : a scientist trained in physics

User Contributed Dictionary


  • /ˈfɪz.ɪ.sɪst/


  1. A person whose occupation specializes in the science of physics, especially at a professional level.


Extensive Definition

A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made (particle physics) to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole (cosmology).


Most material a student encounters in the undergraduate physics curriculum is based on discoveries and insights of a century or more in the past. Newton’s laws of motion were formulated in the 17th century; Maxwell's equations, 19th century; and quantum mechanics, early 20th century. The undergraduate physics curriculum generally includes the following range of courses: chemistry, classical physics, astronomy, physics laboratory, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, optics, modern physics, quantum physics, nuclear physics, solid state physics. Undergraduate physics students must also take extensive mathematics courses (calculus, differential equations, advanced calculus), and computer science and programming. Undergraduate physics students often perform research with faculty members.
Many positions, especially in research, require a doctoral degree. At the Master's level and higher, students tend to specialize in a particular field. Fields of specialization include experimental and theoretical astrophysics, atomic physics, molecular physics, biophysics, chemical physics, geophysics, material science, nuclear physics, optics, particle physics, and plasma physics. Post-doctoral experience may be required for certain positions.


The three major employers of career physicists are academic institutions, government laboratories, and private industry, with the largest employer being the last. Many people who are trained as physicists, however, use their skills in other parts of the economy, in particular in engineering, computing, and finance. Some physicists take up careers where their knowledge of physics can be combined with further training in other disciplines, such as patent law in industry or private practice. In the United States, a majority of those in the private sector with a physics degree work outside physics, astronomy and engineering altogether.

Honors and Awards

The highest honor awarded to physicists is the Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded since 1901 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.


External links

Further reading

physicist in Bosnian: Fizičar
physicist in Danish: Fysiker
physicist in German: Physiker
physicist in Modern Greek (1453-): Φυσικός
physicist in Spanish: Físico
physicist in Esperanto: Fizikisto
physicist in French: Physicien
physicist in Korean: 물리학자
physicist in Croatian: Fizičar
physicist in Italian: Fisico
physicist in Hebrew: פיזיקאי
physicist in Luxembourgish: Physiker
physicist in Dutch: natuurkundige
physicist in Japanese: 物理学者
physicist in Simple English: Physicist
physicist in Slovak: Fyzik
physicist in Slovenian: fizik
physicist in Finnish: Fyysikko
physicist in Thai: นักฟิสิกส์
physicist in Vietnamese: Nhà vật lý
physicist in Chinese: 物理学家
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