The Department of Physics was established in 1962 in the University with the basic policy to teach pure Physics. The Department graduated its first crop of students, four in number, in 1965. The Department also offered courses in areas of applied Physics. Several areas of applied Physics that were offered have now developed into full fledged Departments. Such applied areas are: Geophysics which grew into a full-fledged department of Geology; Electronics which has grown into the Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering.
In the early days of the Physics programme, the Department depended heavily on foreign lecturers in both the teaching of the courses and serving as external examiners to moderate the examinations. The Department has since trained its own indigenous staff members, some of whom were trained abroad while others were trained locally. These form the great majority of lecturers within the Department right now.
In the late seventies, in order to train the manpower that would be needed for the aspiration of the country to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes, the Engineering Physics programme was introduced. This programme was designed to train personnel who have strong physics background in the area of nuclear engineering and nuclear engineering materials. The introduction of the Engineering Physics programme has also led to increase in students’ enrolment. It has also led to establishment of Centre for Energy Research and Development (CERD), Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Many of the initial crop of students that were trained under this programme have gone for further studies abroad, and have taken their Ph.D. degrees. The programme has faced an uphill task in trying to maintain the initial goal and objectives because the Government has not maintained its level of interest in developing the nuclear programme fully.
Thus, the department runs two programmes (I) Physics and (II) Engineering Physics separately at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Successful graduates are awarded B.Sc, M.Sc, MPhil and Ph.D degrees accordingly.
Over the years, there has been a remarkable thrust in the area of research within the department. The areas of research include Geophysics, Atmospheric Physics, Meteorology, Solid State Physics, Atomic and Molecular Physics, Nuclear and Particle Physics. Most of the advances that were made in these areas of research have now been seriously undermined by shortage of fund both for basics research and for the running of the programme itself.
Over the years, there has been a remarkable thrust in diverse areas of research within the department including Geophysics, Atmospheric Physics, Meteorology, Solid State Physics, Atomic and Molecular Physics, Nuclear Engineering Science, Medical Physics, Health and Environmental Physics, Materials Science and Nanotechnology among other emerging areas.
The Department through the approval of the University Senate in 2014 changed its name from “Department of Physics” to “Department of Physics and Engineering Physics”. The department remains committed to collaborating with relevant government agencies, industries and private sectors in the areas of trainings, research and development.