Prescott Campus

Space Physics



Physics is the study of forces, space, and time at its most basic level and provides the foundation for all physical sciences. Explore the fundamental forces in nature through experimental investigation of atomic, nuclear, and elementary particle systems. The Bachelor of Science in Space Physics is an applied physics program designed to produce graduates who can work in space and aerospace-related industries. The program requirements in this discipline offer a choice from three Areas of Specialization:

You'll study the "micro" and "macro" universe through the use of high-precision detectors and have the advantage of Embry-Riddle's dedicated faculty and state-of-the art labs and equipment. The combination of laboratory skills and fundamental scientific knowledge prepares you to make discoveries that will promote the exploration of space and add to the body of knowledge in science.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is Space Physics?

The B.S. program in Space Physics at Embry-Riddle is the only undergraduate program of its kind.

This program is designed to help students explore the physical phenomena observed in our universe, for example, the merging of black holes in nearby galaxies (the LIGO project), as well as measuring the physical parameters of nearby exoplanets using our campus observatory.

The areas of concentration are defined by the research interests of our professors, and include:

  • Astrophysics, the study of interstellar media and galaxy formation
  • Particle Physics, the search for massive neutrinos and dark matter
  • Cosmology and General Relativity, the search for violations in general relativity
  • Gravitational Waves, the search for merging black holes and neutron stars in nearby galaxies. Also, the LIGO Experiment (Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory)
  • Exotic Propulsion, the design of non-chemical engines to be used for manned space exploration (nuclear-thermal, matter-antimatter, and so on)
What skills should I have to major in Space Physics?

Students should have good to excellent math skills and be prepared to take Calculus I and Calculus- based physics the first semester at ERAU.

If possible, students will have completed an introductory physics course and an introductory chemistry course in high school.

Students who have taken the Calculus or Physics or Chemistry AP exam and received a 4 or 5 can receive credit for the first semester of University Calculus, Physics, or Chemistry.

What can I do with a Space Physics degree?
  • Because of your hands-on experience in the physics labs, you will be prepared to work in the space industry as an industrial physicist, building equipment and experiments and analyzing data, thus contributing to the body of knowledge in space physics.
  • Because of analytical skills and desire to study space-related phenomena, you will be prepared to work at a national laboratory such as Kitt Peak, Jet Propulsion Labs, NASA research labs, and Department of Energy labs such as Fermilab and Los Alamos.
  • Students who perform well in the Space Physics program will be academically prepared to take the physics Graduate Records Exam (GRE) and move on to a graduate program in physics, astrophysics, or space physics.
How is Space Physics different from other ERAU degrees?
  • You will learn and understand more math and physics compared to other degree programs, and will use that knowledge to solve problems encountered in the study of space physics.
  • While ERAU offers many professional degrees, this is a science degree that prepares students for a career in scientific research, aerospace industry, and science education.
What courses comprise the Space Physics curriculum?

Students can expect many of the same courses as offered in other physics degree programs, such as:

  • Mechanics
  • Electricity & Magnetism
  • Statistical and Thermal Physics
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Atomic & Nuclear Physics

However, many of these courses will have applications focused on space physics. Furthermore, there will be other courses focused on “space,” such as:

  • Astrophysics I and II
  • Particle Physics and Cosmology
  • Advanced Propulsion Systems
  • Remote Sensing
  • and more

The curriculum for the first three semesters is similar for both physics and engineering students (~80%). The fourth semester course (Modern Physics) is not required for engineers. Furthermore, physics students must take a physics lab every semester for the first four semesters, while engineering students are only required to take one physics lab.

In the third year, all space physics students are required to take the optics lab. The skills learned in this lab are useful for developing high precision detectors often used explore physics at the atomic and nuclear level.

During the fourth year, students have the opportunity to pursue a senior thesis project focusing on an experimental or theoretical investigation of a space physics phenomena.


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  • Provides a broad-based education with emphasis on communication, analytical and critical thinking skills.
  • In addition to preparing for successful entry into graduate physics programs, you are prepared for immediate productivity in academic, industrial, military and government sectors.
  • Frequent opportunities to do undergraduate research with professors who engage in all types of projects. Opportunities include NSF-sponsored internships and experiments with NASA Edwards, Center for Space Nuclear Research, NASA Arizona Space Grant Program and Los Alamos National Lab.
  • Students find connections with each other through groups including the Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honors society.

Billy Nollet prepares to pump down the small vacuum system, in order to test a mirror coating sample to be used in the next-generation LIGO Experiment. The judicious choice of coatings will hopefully extend the search for inspiraling black holes to ~400 galaxies nearest to our Milky Way. Billy plans to graduate with his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in Fall 2013.


View requirements for the B.S in Space Physics degree on the Catalog site.


Because of the strong emphasis on experimental physics, graduates are well-suited to enter a variety of fields in industry and graduate programs. In addition to employment in research and the space program, graduates with physics degrees will pursue diverse careers in fields such as medical physics, biophysics, plasma physics and other areas that utilize physicists, such as the military and security sector.

Recent Space Physics Graduates

  • Christopher Frank
    Physics Faculty at Atlantic Cape Community College (NJ)
  • Alex Carnes
    Audit Quality Analyst for QUIKTRAK
  • Alex Corpuz
    Graduate Student, University of Texas (Theology)
  • Derek Costache
  • Christine Burns
    SPARTAN Controller for the ISS (Johnson Space Center)
  • Sebastien Goncalves
    U.S. Army
  • John Mangeri
    Graduate Student, University of Connecticut (Optics)
  • Graham Stoddard
    Graduate Student, Northern Illinois University (Particle Physics)
  • Rhondale Tso
    Research Assistant at Columbia Astrophysics Lab (NY)
  • Matthew Brown
    U.S. Army
  • Rachel Greenlee
    Graduate Student, University of Texas, San Antonio (Education)
  • Samantha Abraham
    Law School at ASU
  • Candice Brown
    High School Teacher, Wasala, Alaska
  • Michael Gilbert
    Graduate Student, Arizona State University (Biophysics/Materials)
  • Elizabeth Jesse
    Graduate Student, University of Arizona (Optics)
  • Joseph Latta
    U.S. Navy Nuclear Program
  • Marc LeBourdais
    Financial Analyst for Bloomberg
  • Robert Potts
    Graduate Student, University of Tennessee
  • Ian Simpson
    HoneyWell (Phoenix)
  • Victor Veibell
    Graduate Student, George Mason University (Comp. Physics)
  • Walter Williams
    Graduate Student, Medical Physics
  • Adrian Akerson
    Graduate Student, University of Wisconsin (Plasma Physics)
  • Alexis Becerra
    Graduate Student, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach (Engineering Physics)
  • Jacob Flores
    U.S. Navy
  • Dillon Foight
    Research position with Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (Cambridge, MA)
  • Patrick Hailey
    Satellite Engineer for NAVSOC (Point Mugu, CA)
  • Phillip Hakeem
    Graduate Student, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (Optics)
  • Eric Lentz
    University of Washington, Seattle (Mathematical Physics)
  • Richard McDaniel
    Navigator, U.S. Air Force
  • Billy Nollet
    Graduate Student, University of Wisconsin (Nuclear Engineering)
  • Timothy Beyer
  • Joshua Smith
    Graduate Student, University of Arizona
    High School teacher
  • Holly Vance
    Active military duty
    Helicopter flight school
  • Robert Slaughter
    Graduate Student, U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology (Nuclear Engineering)
  • Deborah Clement
    High School Physics teacher (Deer Valley, AZ)
  • Paul Cummings
    Graduate Student, University of Michigan (Nuclear Engineering)
  • Robert Hensley
    Graduate Student, University of Minnesota
  • Julian Horvath
    Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Michael Kunkel
    Graduate Student, Old Dominion
  • Harsh Menon
    Graduate Student, Stanford (Aerospace Engineering)
  • Renee Naphas
    Graduate Student, University of Maryland (Biophysics)
  • Jessica Norcia
    Texas Instruments
  • Chad Pearce
    OCS Navy
  • Kristen Pechan
    Graduate Student, University of Texas, Austin (High Energy Theory)
  • Aaron Rose
    Peace Corps
    Graduate Student, Boston College (Physics)
  • Amy Rose
    Peace Corps
    Graduate Student, MIT (Physics)
  • Raelin Schneider
    General Dynamics (Missions Operations Engineer)
  • William Taitano
    Idaho National Laboratory (Research Scientist)
  • Anthony Triani
    FNAL Fermi Lab
    CMS Experiment at CERN
  • Steven Zech
    U.S. Air Force Security (Dayton, OH)


Darrel Smith Dr. Darrel Smith



Dr. Darrel Smith specializes in neutrino physics.

Quentin Bailey Dr. Quentin Bailey

Associate Professor


Dr. Quentin Bailey is currently focused on the theoretical and experimental aspects of testing Lorentz symmetry, the spacetime symmetry of Special Relativity.

Tim Callahan Dr. Tim Callahan

Instructor of Physics

Physical Sciences

Tim Callahan's research interests are in the field of nonlinear dynamics, particularly pattern formation and bifurcations of systems with large amounts of symmetry.

Nicholas Devereux Dr. Nicholas Devereux

Associate Professor


The best galaxies are the nearby ones because they are the largest and brightest.

Andri Gretarsson Dr. Andri Gretarsson

Associate Professor


Dr. Andri Gretarsson works on LIGO, The Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory, among several other research projects pertinent to the College of Arts and Sciences.

Brennan Hughey Dr. Brennan Hughey

Assistant Professor


With his eyes on all things astro, Dr. Brennan Hughey is doing ground-breaking research.

Brian Rachford Dr. Brian Rachford

Associate Professor, Observatory Director


Dr. Brian Rachford is an astrophysicist who specializes in research on stars and the interstellar medium.

Michele Zanolin Dr. Michele Zanolin

Assistant Professor


Dr. Michele Zanolin’s research is in experimental general relativity within the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC).