For more than a century, the Department of Physics has attracted some of the nation's top scholars. Students build a strong foundation in nuclear physics, astrophysics and biophysics while studying advanced concepts, from quantum mechanics to optics. They also collaborate with faculty and partner institutions to understand the building blocks of life, observe exploding stars in distant galaxies and detect subatomic particles at the core of matter.

Study in the physical sciences at the George Washington University goes back to the founding of the Columbian College in 1821. Officially founded in 1912, the department has been a leader in scientific breakthroughs ever since, including hosting the historical 1939 conference at which Nobel Prize Winner Niels Bohr announced that Otto Hahn had successfully split the atom, thus ushering in the atomic age. Department faculty have included renowned scientists such as George Gamow, early developer and advocate of the big bang theory, and Edward Teller, famed for his work on the hydrogen bomb. 

Today, the department carries on the practice of excellent research at state-of-the-art labs in Corcoran Hall and Science and Engineering Hall on GW's Foggy Bottom Campus. Faculty regularly secure competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, NASA and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. In the lab and in the classroom, the department is applying physics solutions to everyday life.


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“GW has a diverse population. The student body comes from very different backgrounds. Even if your idea of fun is running computer modeling cell movement simulations, here you can find your tribe.”

George Sangiolo
BS '18, Biophysics

George Sangiolo


GW Physics News

Adellar Irankunda sits as a computer with his hands on the keyboard, smiling at the camera

A Space Odyssey: Physics Student Rockets to Virtual Galaxy

Senior Adellar Irankunda’s journey has taken him from a childhood in rural Rwanda to the heights of cutting-edge tech. His next stop is a virtual tour

Two large satellites out in an open field at night

Astrophysics Student Impacts Earth and Sky

Graduate student Sarah Chastain searches space for cosmic transients—a project that is also opening the field to a diverse new generation of students and schola

Prof. Andrei Alexandru

Andrei Alexandru was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society

Andrei Alexandru was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society

The lower half of a man's face is photographed here. He is wearing a medical face mask that reads, "COVID-19 Misinformation" in all red text

Study: Online Battle Lost Early in COVID Crisis

A team led by Physics’ Neil Johnson revealed mainstream Facebook communities were already intertwined with anti-science groups before COVID-19 vaccines arrived.

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Exploring Cosmic Extremes

In a conversation with CCAS Dean Paul Wahlbeck, Physics Professor Alexander van der Horst discusses gamma-ray bursts and more.

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GW Students Present Research at the 19th American Astronomical Society HEAD Meeting

In March 2022, eight GW astrophysics graduate students and one undergraduate student traveled to the astrophysics conference to present their exciting research.

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Fantastic Voyage: Physics Student Peers into Protons

Junior Gabriel Grauvogel is bringing his CCAS Luther Rice Fellowship research to an international effort to unravel the puzzling proton.

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Online Parenting Communities Pulled Closer to Extreme Groups

Previous research has shown that social media feeds the spread of misinformation. But exactly how that occurs has been unclear.

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NASA Pact Rockets Astrophysics Impact

The GW Astrophysics Group within the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (CCAS) is expanding its reach into space exploration with a new agreement with the NASA...

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Excited states of strongly interacting matter predicted from first principles

What is the origin of matter? What kind of matter is there and what are its properties? These questions are simple but difficult to answer, and they are at the center of nuclear physics, both for...