Blog Post: Physics Career Day

Recently, the UCF Physics department put together their annual physics career day for central Florida high school students. The goal was to inform students what jobs, internships, and college experiences are available for students pursuing a physics major. The day started off with stories from professors and UCF physics graduates. Many of these graduates now work outside of the field of physics, such as improving artificial intelligence with Facebook or building space shuttles at NASA, and explained how a physics degree is very sought after by employers. This is because those with physics degrees have been trained in methods of learning, rather than just covering course material during college. Employers know this, and are very willing to hire employees that can not only think critically but also who learn more in a shorter training time.

As the morning continued into afternoon, the high school students had a chance to step inside and see a few actual operating physics laboratories. Among those was the Chini Ultrafast Lab, with John Beetar performing a demonstration with plasma.


Plasma is arguably the 4th state of matter (solid, liquid, gas, plasma). Essentially, when a gas is heated to extremely high temperatures, it is turned into a plasma. This occurs when thermal energy forces out an electron from a gas atom, leaving a positively charged ion and separate free electron. Due to these free electrons, plasma can carry an electric current, and is used everywhere from neon lights to televisions. In John’s experiment, he focused an infrared beam coming out of a laser on a specific point, giving the energy needed to rip electrons off air particles. This plasma is dangerous, as was shown when it burned a hole in a business card.

This demonstration not only showed high school students the real world application of physics and allowed them to see what experiments can consist of, but they also saw how physics is more than just bookwork; it is a very hands on field with a great future potential.