A physics professor teaching a small class of 6 students


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.




George Sangiolo

George Sangiolo

BS '18, Biophysics

“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.”

Famous GW Physicists

Photo of two bronze plaques side by side, the first dedicated to Dr. Edward Teller and the second to the Atomic Age.

The Bohr and Teller Plaques

Two bronze plaques are mounted at the entrance of Corcoran Hall to honor two famous scientists who were part of the Physics Department's history, Edward Teller and Niels Bohr.
An illustration of George Gamow.

The Legacy of George Gamow

GW Professor of Physics George Gamow contributed many ideas to the scientific world: He explained radioactive decay, described reaction mechanisms and rates in the interior of stars, proposed how the elements were made and suggested how DNA might provide the code for protein synthesis.
George Gamow in a black-and-white photograph speaking to a group of male students

Getting a Bang Out of Gamow

George Gamow established himself as one of the leaders in the rapidly expanding field of nuclear physics before his 25th birthday. During World War II, while teaching at GW, he worked as a consultant for the U.S. Navy and was responsible for bringing another famous scientist, Edward Teller, to the university faculty.
Painting of Herman Hobbs smoking a pipe

Tribute to Professor Herman Hedberg Hobbs

Professor Herman Hobbs taught over 15,000 GW students in fields as diverse as quantum physics, solid-state physics and astronomy. He researched in the area of metal-whisker crystal growth while serving on the Graduate Council, the Research Committee and the Faculty Senate as well as acting as chairman of numerous committees. He was awarded the 1986 Columbian College Award for Excellence in Teaching as well as half a dozen awards from the GW Alumni Association for his lectures.