physics - College of Engineering & Computer Science


What are pre-med and pre-health professions?

So, you want to be a physician.  

Or a nurse. Or an epidemiologist. Or a veterinarian. Or a physical therapist. 

You can get into these careers, and many others, through the pre-health professions program at the University of Tulsa. 

What can I do with a pre-med degree? 

Now is an ideal time to consider a health care career. Employment in health care-related professions is expected to grow by 15% through 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

close-up shot of three people in hospital scrubs with arms crossedAnd while “physician” may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a medical career and a pre-med program, there’s a lot more to health care than being a doctor. If you love working with patients, but aren’t up for four years of med school on top of four years of college (and then residency to boot), you can pursue dozens of avenues that can be just as fulfilling. 

As a student on a pre-health track, your pre-health advisor will work with you to ensure you’re taking the classes you need to reach whatever career you’re interested in. With your degree, you can go on to be a pharmacist, physician assistant, public health worker, dentist, optometrist or many more different health professions. 

Before we go on, let’s clear one thing up: If “doctor” is your dream job, you may be wondering about getting a pre-med major. But at most colleges, there’s no such thing. In fact, whether you want to be a doctor or go into another health profession, you can major in whatever you want as long as you take all the prerequisite courses you need to qualify. Because so many of those courses are science-related, students on a pre-health track often find science degrees attractive. 

If you wanted, though, you could major in accounting or chemical engineering and apply to med school. You simply need to work with your advisors to ensure you meet your degree requirements and the prerequisites for admission to your target health professions school. 

As part of the pre-med program, we’ll start advising you in your freshman year about what courses you’ll need to take. If you do want to go to medical school, our health professions committee will look at your grades to give you an idea whether you’re likely to be a good candidate. Medical schools are notoriously selective; fortunately for you, TU students have had a lot of success getting in. On average, 70% of TU students who apply to med school are accepted. 

A pre-health degree gives you a wide array of options. Some require further education; for some, you can find job opportunities right out of college.  

If you’re on a pre-health track at TU, we recommend you take: 

  • One year of chemistry 
  • One year of organic chemistry 
  • One year of physics 
  • One year of biology (Intro to Molecular and Cellular Biology, then Introduction to Organismal and Evolutionary Biology) 

If med school is your goal, you should also take classes in biochemistry, psychology and sociology; if you’re headed to a professional school, a class in genetics may also be required. Certain programs need a year of calculus. Ethics and sociology classes may also be a good idea. 

We know that’s a lot. Yet, in this competitive field, you may want to go even further. Admissions committees love to see students who really got into their work, either by taking as many relevant classes as possible, or by working on a student research project.  

Student research at TU 

At TU, you’ll get the chance to do real, meaningful work in the lab. Undergraduate research is a hallmark of our program. In the past, TU students have won Goldwater and National Science Foundation scholarships and awards. And the experience has served countless students who have gone on to grad schools and beyond. 

Some of these opportunities include: 

Experiences like these do more than round out a résumé. They lead to even bigger opportunities down the road, and give you a head start on finding the health science career that fits your goals. 

Engineers discover innovative role of water in renewable fuel production

University of Tulsa engineers, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Oklahoma, have discovered a new approach for water-assisted upgrading of the renewable chemical furfural. The presence of water can double and sometimes triple furfural conversion rates and to improve bio-oil production.

Renewable Energy TU Collaboration

TU Professor of Physics and Engineering Physics Sanwu Wang collaborated with OU researchers in the catalytic conversion of furfural. The discovery of water as a participant in the conversion preserved the reaction while enhancing the conversion rate. Wang worked closely with Assistant Professor Bin Wang, former OU graduate student Wenhua Xue and research associate Yaping Li in the OU School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering.

“My group focused on large-scale quantum-mechanical calculations based on density functional theory for the atomic-scale mechanism of the hydrogenation of furfural. We paid particular attention to the role of liquid water. Large-scale quantum-mechanical calculations performed on supercomputers provide powerful solutions to chemical reactions, especially where the atomic scale mechanism and information about the electronic structure are concerned,” Sanwu Wang said.

Renewable fuel production requires energy to extract, purify and distribute water, and water is an environmentally-friendly solvent that can accelerate the rate of hydrogenation. In the chemical production of energy in conventional refining, the presence of water in the reactors is undesirable. Normally, when water is present in a reacting system where a catalytic reaction is taking place, it typically is absorbed where the reaction should occur, which inhibits the rate of conversion.

“This project is significant for two reasons,” Sanwu Wang said. “The first reason is that furfural is an oxygenated compound commonly found in bio-oil and it is also an important intermediate in various approaches for biofuel production. Studies of furfural conversion are helpful for improving bio-oil production and storage stability. Catalytic reactions involving biomass often occur in solvents including water, and our investigations of water in furfural hydrogenation could be generalized to other catalytic reactions.”

Working with teams across different universities brings about innovation in a field that impacts daily life. Read more about similar initiatives at The University of Tulsa here.