The College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences



    Welcome to the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, an exciting and stimulating group of departments. The college is primarily based in the Talmage Mathematical Sciences and Computer Building, the Eyring Science Center, and the Ezra Taft Benson Building. These facilities, together with dedicated faculty and staff members, provide excellent and rewarding educational programs.

    The college is composed of the following departments: Chemistry and Biochemistry, Computer Science, Geology, Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy, and Statistics.

    Science is an exciting and challenging field to explore. New discoveries in these fields of study are moving the frontier of science ever onward and make these areas intellectually rewarding.

    Chemistry is the study of matter, the changes undergone by matter and the laws that govern these changes. Chemists study atoms as well as the structures and reactions of molecules. They also work to develop simplifying models (theories) that permit the correlation and explanation of observations about matter.

    Chemical principles are fundamental to the understanding of subjects ranging from the molecular basis of biology to the structure of rocks and minerals. Chemistry is an essential foundation in the engineering disciplines, especially in chemical engineering, the electronics field, energy and environmental science, geology, pharmacy, medicine, and in virtually all manufacturing areas.

    Chemistry is an active science that is vital to human existence. Energy needs, environmental concerns and requirements for new materials all involve major contributions from chemists.

    Examples of the diverse areas of interest to chemists include gene splicing and DNA replication (biochemistry), synthesis of medicinal substances (organic chemistry), study of complex ions and radicals (inorganic chemistry), spectroscopic study of energy levels and molecular structures (physical chemistry), and analysis of contaminants or trace elements found in the atmosphere or the ocean (analytical chemistry).

    Paul D. Boyer, a 1939 alumni of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, received a share of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 1997. Boyer is now a professor emeritus at the University of California at Los Angeles. He was honored for his discovery of the enzymes that participate in the conversion of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which fuels energy production within the cell.

    Computer science, even though it is a relatively new field, touches virtually every area of human endeavor. It is the systematic study of the algorithmic processes — their theory, analysis, design, efficiency, implementation, and application. Fundamentally, computer science is a science of abstraction — creating the right model for a problem and devising the right computer manipulations to solve it.

    The degree programs in computer science concentrate on the fundamental techniques and knowledge used in designing and implementing information processing systems, with emphasis on systems software design and computer organization.

    It would be difficult now to envision a world without computers. One should note the increasing use of computers in the educational process and the expanding Internet uses.

    Geology is the study of the earth’s origin and development and of the natural processes that have operated upon it and within it from the time the solar system was created.

    With the development of remote sensing technology and the exploration of the solar system by manned and unmanned spacecraft, geology has expanded to include the moon, other planets and their moons, and small bodies that orbit the sun.

    A student of geology will study the major features of the earth: the continents, the ocean basins, the structure of mountains, the origin of minerals, the nature of fossils, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and glaciers.

    Geology is rapidly increasing in technological complexity but still remains fundamentally tied to the field. The Intermountain West is unsurpassed as a place to study the variety and grandeur of the earth. Geological research in western Colorado and southern Utah resulted in the world-class collection of fossils at Brigham Young University.

    Mathematics is a means of dealing with order, patterns and numbers as seen in the world around us. The abilities to compute, to think logically and to take a reasoned approach to solving problems are highly valued in society and are characteristics of any educated person.

    Mathematics is not just a body of knowledge but a process of analysis, reasoning, comparison, deduction, generalization and problem solving.

    A mathematician’s stock-in-trade is the ability to solve problems and to explain the solutions to others. Having once determined the right questions, solving problems involves analyzing both concrete and abstract situations, relating them to mathematical ideas and using mathematical techniques to work toward solutions.

    Explaining the solution involves pointing out what has been solved and why the solution is valid.

    All the sciences require a fundamental basis of mathematical skills, and mathematics is part of the core of most academic endeavors at a university.

    Through its undergraduate offerings, the Department of Physics and Astronomy seeks to help students of all disciplines to become more fully aware of our physical environment from subatomic particles to the cosmos, to understand the structure and behavior of matter and energy, to realize that man is capable of comprehending natural laws and to appreciate both the strengths and the limitations of science.

    Physics is well equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for studies involving X-ray optics and nuclear and solid state physics. The astronomy program has an observatory at West Mountain and combines data collected there and at other observatories throughout the world to research the stars.

    The statistician’s job is to help determine what data are to be collected, how to collect it to avoid biases and distortions, and then how to turn that data into information that other people can understand to help solve problems and reach sound decisions. From the predictions of the political pollster to exacting analysis of pharmaceutical research, the breadth and diversity of statistical applications are injected into nearly all aspects of modern life.

    The application of statistics is the embodiment of the scientific method and is a peopleoriented profession, because they interact continually with other professionals in problem solving. The application of statistics has been used extensively in the medical and health areas, in searching for better ways to feed the world’s growing population, to estimate population growth, to measure employment and to forecast the economy.

    The college and its departments support the mission and vision of Brigham Young University as we move into the next century. We seek to discover and teach science in harmony with the external truths of the restored gospel. Scientific truths of value must be sought after in the light of the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is the unique mission of Brigham Young University.

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