Why Study Physics-Engineering at a Liberal Arts School?

Washington and Lee is proud of its physics-engineering programs, of what it is able to provide for the students who choose it, and of the success of its graduates in a wide variety of fields. Washington and Lee, is fortunate to be able to offer this curriculum choice in a small university setting at a liberal arts institution.

W&L's degree in physics-engineering differs from those offered by large engineering schools in the general education requirements common to all majors at Washington and Lee. These requirements represent an added dimension to our program that is unique and valuable.


Rigorous Curriculum

Typically students will pursue a Bachelor of Science major in one of these areas: Physics, Physics-Engineering, Chemistry-Engineering.

  • Physics: classical Physics (mechanics, optics, thermodynamics, and electricity and magnetism) as well as modern Physics (Relativity and Quantum Physics)
  • Physics - Engineering: statics and dynamics, computer-aided drafting and design, thermodynamics, electric circuits, materials and solid and fluid mechanics
  • Chemistry - Engineering: Engineering, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics for chemists and engineers

The Benefit of Liberal Arts Courses

Washington and Lee University is at its core a liberal arts institution. Our mission is to provide students a well-rounded education that gives them the freedom to include other areas of study. The benefit is that the student gains experience, skills and character in addition to technical abilities.

Pursuit of a degree in Physics and Engineering combined with liberal arts requirements provides the student with the breadth and depth of education to stand apart. Labs and classes feature a low student-to-faculty ratio advantageous for pursuing independent study opportunities, electives and research. A degree in either Physics or another discipline combined with Engineering opens the door to a wide variety of careers from entertainment to a profession in medicine. 

The philosophy of our campus culture centers on two areas: giving and community. Within the Department, students can participate with humanitarian organizations and missions through the Engineers without Borders club. Some have won Department award money and pursued summer research through a non-profit of their own choosing. This strong emphasis of giving and community also bonds alumni from year to year.  Our alumni network is committed to the mission of the College as well as their fellow alumni. These relationships may lead to internships, research opportunities and employment.

Making a Decision

The engineering program at Washington and Lee is integrated with the College of Arts and Sciences and the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics and therefore gives an entering student the opportunity simultaneously to choose courses in engineering and in many other areas of the undergraduate curriculum. This juxtaposition provides appropriate information and time for making a wise and fruitful career choice. If, at this stage of your education, engineering is among (but not alone among) those courses of study you would like to consider, W&L can serve you well.

The flexibility of our engineering program has also allowed some students to combine engineering and other disciplines. Double majors with physics, mathematics, computer science, and other scientific disciplines are quite possible. Engineering has been combined with a pre-law program or with a Williams School major. More unusual combinations-for example, engineering and art by a student now doing theatrical set design-have also been merged successfully.

Click here to read the article with Emily Hudson '14.