Physics has not always been my passion, as a matter of fact, my first passions were ping pong, soccer and music, typical of most children growing up in the tropics of Africa.
In my high school days, I would pass all my subjects and would sometimes fail mathematics out-rightly. So, because I did well in other science subjects such as biology and chemistry, it made sense to say I wanted to become a medical doctor when asked what I would love to do in the future, just as most of my peers were in the habit of doing. But Providence brought me in contact with a wonderful schoolteacher who told me that physics is cool and that it can teach us a lot about the world around us. This schoolteacher would sit with me and explain in simple terms hitherto difficult physics concepts.
He just seemed to have a way of finding the appropriate analogy to tickle my budding mind. He stirred up my interest. I learnt that in order to understand the subject of physics, teachers of the subject need to find the appropriate analogies suitable for their audience/students. Now in my third semester as a physics graduate student at Western Illinois University, I can say my passions are being reborn.
When I tell people I‘m a physics major, I get a quizzical look that says “are you nuts, why on earth would you study physics up to the graduate level?“ Yes, it‘s a general consensus that the subjects of physics and mathematics are the hardest endeavors any person can set his/her mind to do. But, physics can also be fun once you begin to appreciate the elegant theories inherent in the subject. Physics helps us understand the world from the very femtoscopic (one millionth of a billionth) scale of the elusive Higgs boson to the macroscopic motion of the planets, galaxies and everything in between.
I am fascinated at how some physics concepts such as the Newton‘s Laws, Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, the second Law of thermodynamics and the very popular axiom of physics of all time — the scientific method, all have a way of showing up in the macro world and giving us insights into things such as management, branding, marketing and even love.
Take, for instance, a direct implication of the Newton‘s laws is that a more massive object will require more force to change its direction. This has some (beautiful) parallels in marketing. It explains why companies such as Unilever and P&G keep their brands small and separate (e.g Pringles, Dove, Ariel, etc.) so that they can change the direction of these brands easily, sometimes without the consumer even knowing it happened.
In recent years, researchers have sought to help us understand the force that gives “things“ their masses. Mass is what gives objects inertia. Without inertia, objects cannot resist forces. Without forces, there won‘t be motion and without motion nothing exists. That is how important physics is. Imagine a world with NO vacuum cleaners, grocery laser scanners, light bulbs, cars, solar panels, cell phones (iPhone), airplanes (Airbus A380), DVD players, flat screen TVs — difficult to imagine, right?
Physics is the singular subject that has given some glimpse into our universe, without it, NASA‘s Rover mission to the red planet (Mars) will not even be conceivable. Physics is fun to imagine in a lot of ways: it explains why we can see a rainbow up in the sky; it explains why the world goes round; it explains why global warming will have Alaskans trading in the snow boots for flip flops.
Physics teaches you how to think. Ever wondered why everyone expects the ‘physics guy‘ in any group to have all the answers? Well, that‘s because physics students do not have a shortage of skills. They are highly numerate, analytical, logical, meticulous- they think creatively and are excellent at problem solving. These skills are relevant to any work environment plus the fact that the laws of physics are 100% recession proof, physics graduates have the essential training to address global needs which makes them attractive to employers. Physics matters.
With the help of physics, I now understand the reason my ping-pong ball floats when it falls in the pond in our backyard. I can now calculate the velocity of my soccer ball when I kick it above the ground at a certain angle. I even understand the properties of the different frequencies and pitches when I listen to a piece of music. I would not trade the skills I have developed over the years as a physics student for anything. Learning physics equips us with the ability to push back the frontiers of whatever our minds can conceive. The world needs physicists because physics matters.
Economics is interesting, plain and simple. Why do we, as consumers, buy certain products? Why does the government enact certain policies or decide to raise taxes? Questions like these demonstrate why economics is all about the study of choice. We chose to major in economics because the job opportunities are seemingly endless.
Career options for economics majors vary with lucrative opportunities in finance and banking, health care, government agencies, sales and marketing, and even the sports world has a place for economics.
Economics is not only important for our careers, but on a personal level as well. Having a strong understanding of the subject will help us become financially smarter, better consumers and more informed voters. The logic and analytical skills developed throughout the undergraduate experience are also great preparation for graduate school.
Lastly, economics is fun. Trust us and read “Freakonomics,“ or watch “Moneyball.“ As mentioned, economics provides the necessary skills to prepare one for success in graduate school or the job market. Some of the most successful businessmen like Warren Buffet and Sam Walton had degrees in economics.
Economics will simply help you better understand how the world works. Western Illinois University has a great economics department, and we encourage all students to take an economics course or attend an Economics Student Association (ESA) meeting to find out more information.
—Sarah Blaase and Sloane Levin
RPTA is not just a simple bachelor‘s degree for me, but a gateway to a brighter future. It is a way for me to finally see the world while working in a field that I always wanted to do. The “T“ in RPTA stands for tourism and travel, and with that emphasis I choose traveling and working — which is ideal for me.
Ever since I went to Peru a couple of times and lived for a bit, I realized that my life‘s dream was to travel the world and get paid to do it. I want to work in the hotel industry or airline industry, so I can go and experience new places, gain new views, find meaning and maybe find true enlightenment along the way.
After Western, I want to work in Singapore and start my journey on the other side of the globe. I want to experience a new setting and mindset — maybe even find my place to settle down. Singapore has the feel of a Western world, with a foundation of a very eastern setting, making it the perfect hot spot for travel. They speak English already, and the business sector is open for the taking. With a degree in RPTA, my dreams will become a reality.
Policy, Planning, And Management
This year has been unusually hot. In March, there was a strange heat wave and all through the summer we repeatedly had triple digit temperatures. This has resulted in massive crop failures all across the country. That means the price of food will go up next year. Not just our fruits and veggies, but everything with corn in it, and high fructose corn syrup is in everything. This climate change is the result of an increase in carbon emissions into the air. That is where my major comes in.
Renewable Energy: Policy, Planning, and Management matters because we currently are running much of the global society on limited resources: fossil fuels. We are burning these at a faster rate every year. Once these run out we won‘t be able to drive our trucks, charge our iPhones or buy lunch at the Union cafeteria. I‘m learning how we can incorporate new energy technology, such as wind turbines and solar panels, which will sustain our ever-increasing energy consumption.
The human population is increasing and with it is the demand for more energy. My major works toward finding a way to solve not just an American problem but a global problem. Renewable energy is a field that will promote job growth, respect for the environment, energy independence, and economic stability — all the while sustaining those things you love: checking Facebook, texting friends or microwaving leftover pizza. That is why my major matters.