Beyond the Surface: McMurry Physics Department Offers Deeper Look Into the World

Issue 1: February 14, 2022

Have you ever wondered why washing machines spin, or why you can see your own
reflection in a lake or pond? These everyday occurrences happen so frequently we never truly
give ourselves time to stop and ponder over how complicated and scientifically fascinating such
small events can be. Studying physics offers you a look into these naturally occurring events
and much, much more. In my time interviewing Dr. Tikhon Bykov, a physics professor at
McMurry University, he described studying physics as a “practical experience” as well as a
“foundational experience for a liberal arts education”.

The Physics department at McMurry offers a host of options for curious students, you
can choose to major in general Physics, you can choose to focus on an engineering path, or
you can even “just study Physics for fun” as Dr. Bykov explained. For many new students,
picking a single major can feel nerve-wracking, Dr. Bykov explained to me that Physics offers a
wide net of opportunities for students. “Physics is foundational, which means you can actually
adapt. You can switch from one field to another.” This makes pursuing Physics a great option for
McMurry students who might be interested in pursuing many different career fields. Dr. Bykov
even gave a specific example of a student who received a Ph.D. in Astrophysics and was
working in academia before deciding to switch career fields and pursued engineering.

The McMurry physics department also offers the unique opportunity of grasping
complicated mathematical subjects in a different way. “By studying Physics you can better
understand mathematics.” Dr. Bykov elaborated even further, “for some people mathematics
seems to be a very abstract concept, but you can not fully understand math until you study
something where you actually apply math.” Physics offers the unique opportunity to use math in
this practical, applicable way.

The Physics department also offers a host of outside opportunities. The McMurry
Society of Physics Students is described by Dr. Bykov as a “very active” club that works on a
“variety of projects”. These projects have led to the McMurry Physics club being recognized and
honored at a local and national level. The McMurry Society of Physics Students Chapter even
earned the “Distinguished Chapter Award” from the Society of Physics Students National Office
in both 2019 and 2020. The chapter has done a wide variety of projects, ranging from very
Physics focused projects, to projects that bring both Physics and Art together.

The McMurry physics department also hosts a group of very talented and diverse
professors for students to learn under. Dr. Tikhon Bykov was a pleasure to talk to and offered
very insightful and deep answers to all my questions. Dr. Bykov is a Russian-born professor,
receiving his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from Saint Petersburg State
University in Saint Petersburg, Russia. He then received his Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from
the University of Nebraska Lincoln, Bykov joined the McMurry staff in 2004 as an assistant
professor, before eventually being named Endowed Professor of Physics at McMurry.