Professor Assisting Student with Lab Assignment.


Explore modern physics concepts and learn how to apply computational techniques to real problems as you gain solid skills in experimental design and quantitative reasoning.

Why Study Physics?

As a physics major at USD you will satisfy your curiosity about the natural world. Physics is the foundation of all sciences—it provides a framework for understanding the world at its most fundamental level, from the smallest particles to the universe itself. In pursuing a degree in physics, you will gain more than just a classroom understanding. Our physics program enables you to address today’s hottest physics challenges and provides a strong foundation for a variety of options upon graduation.

Understand nature at its deepest level and prepare yourself for a future in research, academia and in industries such as energy, electronics, medical instrumentation and aerospace.


Degrees & Offerings

Physics (B.S.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

Students majoring in physics take a traditional undergraduate physics curriculum that includes courses in classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, optics and electronics. Students can also choose to specialize in applied physics.

Physics: Applied Physics (B.S.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

The applied physics specialization gives students practical experience with the department’s germanium crystal growth lab.

Physics (B.S.) with Secondary Education Certification

  Vermillion Main Campus

For a teaching major in physics, complete the physics degree along with the appropriate teaching certification courses.

Physics: Analytics for Large Data Sets (B.S./M.S.)

Accelerated Program
  Vermillion Main Campus

Earn both your bachelor's and master's degrees in five years instead of six and acquire an important, marketable skill in analyzing large amounts of data in addition to your in-depth instruction in physics.


  Vermillion Main Campus

A minor in physics will help you develop critical thinking skills and explore the relationship between matter and energy. This program is a great complement to a variety of majors, engineering and computer science.

Program Details






Known for Excellence

With qualities like small class sizes, specialized programs and incredible student opportunities, USD is not your typical university. What makes us unique is what makes your education exceptional.


As a student at USD, the opportunities available to you extend beyond the classroom. Explore your interests, find your community and experience your education to the fullest extent through the following opportunities.

The Physics Club is USD's chapter of the Society for Physics Students and sponsors guest speakers, social events, a physics fair and astronomy sky watching.

The club is open to all students with an interest in physics or astronomy. The club meets about once a month. The club assists with the Science Olympiad each spring, and usually sponsors a physics fair in conjunction with the Science Olympiad.

Learn More

USD physics students can spend a summer studying internationally while receiving a stipend and having much of their travel costs paid for. 

The research students conduct abroad creates valuable connections and prepares them for world-changing careers in a variety of fields.

About 95 percent of physics bachelor degree graduates are employed or in graduate or professional school one year after degree completion, and physics majors entering the workforce receive some of the highest starting salaries of any undergraduate major.

Many of our graduates also go on to graduate school, professional school and careers in a variety of fields. Physics majors interested in law school are encouraged as our students are the highest scoring demographic on the LSAT.

Explore Student Organizations

In our comprehensive curriculum, students find interest in unique classes such as Modern Physics and Numerical Methods of Physicists. For example, the former delivers a foundation for the “cool” topics in physics such as relativity, quantum mechanics and nuclear physics. The latter allows students to apply computational techniques to real problems in physics and along the way develop useful expertise in data analytics that serves them well in a variety of careers. The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation estimates jobs for big data and analytics workers to grow up to 35 percent over the next 10 years.

In addition, our applied physics specialization provides hands-on work with germanium detectors – both their production and application. These detectors play an important role in experiments that seek to further our understanding of both dark matter and neutrinos. Germanium detectors are also used to measure radiation in a variety of applications including personnel and environmental monitoring for radioactive contamination, medical applications and nuclear security.

Departments & Facilities

Our faculty are internationally recognized scholars and actively pursue grants and collaborations across the nation. We aim to develop relevant skills so that our graduates are highly marketable.
Two Students in a Physics Lab.


Physics at USD is a community of faculty and students dedicated to excellent teaching and to performing research at the forefront of the field, including the search for dark matter.

Faculty & Staff

Get to know the faculty and staff in your department. We're here to provide mentorship, expert instruction and an academic community for you and your peers.
Bio Image for Faculty Member Yongchen Sun

Yongchen Sun

Chair, Physics/Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Jing Liu

Jing Liu

Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Dongming Mei

Dongming Mei

Director, CUBED/Professor


Visionary Physicist with Expertise
Bio Image for Faculty Member Joel Sander

Joel Sander

Coordinator, Graduate Programs/Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member James Tracy

James Tracy Jr



Physics & physics instruction
Bio Image for Faculty Member Xiaoyi Yang

Xiaoyi Yang

Adjunct Instructor
Physics students in China.

Conduct Group Research

Our students take part in exciting travel and research programs. Through USD's partnership in the NSF Partnerships for International Research and Education Program Germanium Materials and Detectors Advancement Research Consortium, undergraduate students spent four weeks studying neutrino-less double beta decay at Yangtze University and toured the China Jinping Underground Laboratory. They also took part in cultural activities like paper cutting, calligraphy and a dragon boat festival. Opportunities like this abound for our enthusiastic physics majors.
Student Alex Kirkvold in the lab.

Utilize Renowned Facilities

The undergraduate research experiences contribute to large experiments seeking to understand the fundamental workings of the universe by seeking to detect dark matter or learn more about the properties of neutrinos. In our state-of-the-art facilities, your work can make a positive difference for the future.

Tuition & Costs

USD offers low tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students, as well as scholarships, financial aid and employment opportunities to help make your education even more affordable.
SD Residents, SD Advantage* & Child of Alumni
Tuition (30 cr.)
Fees (30 cr.)
Books (estimate)
Food Service

* SD Advantage: The in-state rate is available to new undergraduate students who are residents of South Dakota, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas (starting Summer 2024), Minnesota (starting Summer 2024), Missouri (starting Summer 2024), Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming and children of alumni of USD.

More About Tuition & Costs

This is an estimated annual cost. Other factors may change the cost of tuition.

Undergraduate Tuition & Costs

Learn more about tuition and fees for undergraduate students and see how your out-of-pocket costs at USD compare to those at other colleges and universities.

Financial Aid

Navigating options for how to pay for college can be challenging, but you are not alone. The Office of Financial Aid will work with you and your family to explore how you can make your college education even more affordable.


USD awards nearly $9.5 million in scholarships each year. View our scholarships to see which ones you may qualify for and how you can apply.


student success story

Success story Abbie Woodward smiling.
In the physics department at USD, there is so much opportunity for students to be part of research. It’s a smaller department so it’s nice to get so much interaction with advisors and mentors.

Abbie Woodard

B.S. Physics '23
Spearfish, S.D.

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