Physics is the underlying science of all other sciences. The study of all fundamental forces and processes from the subatomic to the "astronomic" size scales is the purview of physics. For students of science other than physicists the purpose of learning physics is both the understanding of basic concepts and the application of problem solving skills developed during that process. For physics majors they may be preparing for careers from basic research, teaching, medicine, engineering, law, or a myriad of other careers where problem solving skills are valued. Current "hot topics" are energy and fusion research, astrophysics, atmospheric physics, lasers, plasmas, optics, nano-technology, biophysics and radiation.
All of the fields listed above as hot topics as well as solid state physics, atomic and molecular physics, low temperature phenomenon, chemical physics and as yet unknown new specialties are being developed at this very moment. Experimental physicists design and carry out experiments to discover new phenomena and to test existing theories and models. Theoretical physicists develop new models or adjust current models to fit observed phenomena. Both must have a thorough understanding of what the other does since their combined efforts lead to progress and understanding.
The physics department at The University of Nevada, Reno is a small department by enrollment but operates a large enterprise in terms of research and "service" education for engineering and other science departments. Currently with 16 teaching faculty and 16 research faculty, approximately 30 undergraduate majors and approximately 50 graduate students, the department is one of the leaders of the university in external grant funding and teaches hundreds of students from other disciplines every semester. In addition the department has a continuing collaboration with the Desert Research Institute's atmospheric sciences program which grants advanced degrees in Atmospheric Physics through the physics department and is currently developing an atmospheric physics track BA degree through the physics department. The department is proud of the fact that students at all levels are encouraged to become involved in research and many undergraduates have publication before graduation.
As indicated above, physicists find careers in industry, government, and universities doing teaching and research. Physics grads may also pursue patent law, bio technology research or many other seemingly unrelated areas because of their problem solving skills.