About DFI



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.

National Awards

Igor Saavedra

Born in May 4th 1932, and passed away October 8th 2016.

He became Electrical Engineer of the University of Chile in 1957, and then obtained a PhD degree in Physics from the University of Manchester.

He was academic of the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. In 1999 he was distinguished as Emeritus Professor of the University of Chile.

In the year 2000 he received the Gold medal of the Institute of Engineers of Chile, and in 2005 the Medal Rector Juvenal Hernández Jaque.

National Sciences Prize 1981

The jury that awarded him the National Prize cited his noted work in the areas of theoretical physics and quantum mechanics. He was praised as mentor of the first generation of physicists for higher education, and as initiator of research in Physics in Chile.

Enrique Tirapegui

Bachelor in Physics from the University of Chile (1962). Doctor in mathematics and in theoretical physics of the University of Paris.

He was incorporated as Full Member of the Chilean Academy of Sciences, Institute of Chile, in 1984.

He is Full Professor of the Department of Physics of the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences of the University of Chile.

National Prize of Sciences 1991

In 1991 he received this prize for his contributions with respect to the effects of random perturbations on microscopic systems, and to the formation of patio-temporal structures in these systems when they are far from thermodynamic equilibrium. Also, for his role in the formation of new physicists in Chile.

Fernando Lund

Bachelor in Sciences, Physics from the University of Chile (1971). He is Master and PhD in Physics from Princeton University, USA. He did two postdoctoral stays, at the Institute of advanced studies of Princeton, and at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences in New York.

In 1978 he became full time academic of the Department of Physics of the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, and presently he is Full Professor.

In 1992 he was incorporated as full member of the Chilean Academy of Sciences of the Institute of Chile.

National Prize of Sciences 2001

The jury cited his “leadership shown in scientific and academic work”. Also his
“innovative work in his most recent research in the area of propagation of fracture, with direct applications in seismology and materials science”.