The Department of Physics since its creation has formed scientists of a very good level. In its 55 years more than 200 undergraduates have graduated, and have worked in a diverse group of institutions, both national and foreign. These students were formed in an ambient with synergy, with other students, professors and researchers in engineering and exact sciences. Here physical concepts and methods are developed immersed in a technological school, and the in depth curriculum in physics generates unique opportunities in the formation of engineers, geologists, astronomers and geophysicists. The Department’s graduates have an exceptional education, at an international level. It also provides an stimulating ambient, that gives physicists original problems of impact.
Presently our Bachelor’s program in Physics has been attracting more students, offering formation in experimental, theoretical and numerical aspects of physics. A large part of our graduates follow graduate studies, either in Chile or abroad.
The development of the Physics Department has been closely related with the development of the discipline in Chile and to the formation of new scientists in Physics, initially through its Master’s program, and later through the Doctorate’s program.
Initially the areas of research in the Physics Department were nuclear and molecular physics, crystallography, microwave and cosmic radiation. Presently it focuses its efforts in nuclear, non linear, computational physics, cosmology and gravitation, physics of surfaces and nano science, non linear optics, granular media and hydrodynamics, and condensed matter.
The Department of Physics started together with the development of physics in Chile. It was the rector Juan Gómez Millas, that in 1954 took the task of creating research centres in physics and social sciences. He promoted the creation of nuclear physics group, brought to Chile a small accelerator of the type Cockroft-Walton together with dutch scientific personnel for its installation and initial operation. Arturo Arias was the first chairman of the Physics Department, and the first members were the electrical engineers Jaime Escudero, Jacobo Rapaport, Jorge Zamudio, Lincoyán González, Igor Saavedra, Alex Trier, Mallén Gajardo, Egbert Hesse, Patricio Martens y Patricio Riveros. By that time, the University Council, in its session of December 17th 1958 decided to create the School of Physics, that started functioning in 1960. The chilean physics is founded with these events. In the Annals of our University, number 129, of January-March 1964, the new rules of the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences
are stated, including the new Physics Department within nine Departments. The Department started oficial operations in January 1965.
The Bachelor’s program in Physics was initiated in 1960, in the School of Physics, with Luis Romero and Enrique Tirapegui (National Science Prize 1991) its first graduates. It has experimented several changes in its history. During its evolution there have been changes in the program, following the academic group and the international evolution of physics.
At the end of the 60’s, new graduates from foreign universities arrive, principally from the USA and England. They do get involved strongly in teaching physics, backing up the Bachelor’s and Master’s physics programs.
At the end of the 60’s the Department diminished the number of faculty members, in particular the area of Plasma Physics ended, that was very active up to that point. The emphasis in teaching physics was on theoretical subjects, something that has been changing since the 80’s with the formation of new experimental groups.