I write regarding the future of physics at the University of Southern Maine.

Physics is the most fundamental of the sciences. It represents the quest to understand the deepest attainable truths about reality and life. Further, physics is a foundational science that supports other departments, such as engineering, chemistry, even biology. A university that removes its physics department is crippling its stem fields in the same way removing the English department would cripple the humanities.

A university is different from a trade school because it fosters departments that engage in the study and creation of big ideas — philosophy, mathematics, the humanities, and physics. All of western civilization owes its existence to those areas of study. They are humanity’s most important project. What else is a university for if not to facilitate those most lofty of human endeavors?

For those hard-nosed types who think education should be viewed as strictly a fiscal investment, here is something else to consider — physics students become veritable powerhouses of mathematical problem solving. They learn to program at a high level and understand advanced technology. They can analyze and manipulate large data sets. Physics graduates can break down just about any problem into small quantifiable components.

In Maine, and across the nation, there is a need for more people with those skills, not less.

I deeply hope USM’s administration will reconsider the path it appears to be undertaking. They need to stand up for science education in Maine.

Derick Arel, Lewiston

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