In the first half of the 20th century, the College of Philosophy of Minas Gerais State, created in 1939 by a group of professors and intellectuals of Belo Horizonte, educated physics high school teachers.
In 1947, the College was incorporated into the State University of Minas Gerais (UMG), which became the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) in 1965. At the time, there were no appropriate facilities and infrastructure for experimental physics.
In the 1960s, several initiatives began to define the direction of physics research in our state. The Physics Department of UFMG was founded in 1963, under the leadership of Professor Francisco de Assis Magalhães Gomes.
The Degree of Master in Physicsstarted to be granted in 1966, thanks to the efforts of Engineer Ramayana Gazzinelli. He was the first PhD researcher in Physics of Minas Gerais State. His degree was granted by Columbia University in the City of New York, USA, in 1964.
In 1968, a reform of UFMG led to the creation of the Institute of Exact Sciences (ICEx), under the direction of Professor Francisco de Assis Magalhães Gomes. He brought together the Departments of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry under the same administrative structure.
At the time and given the lack of resources, the Department of Physics functioned at the Institute of Radiation Research (IPR), which then belonged to UFMG. This was later (1972) moved from UFMG to the National Energy Nucler Commision (CNEN). As compensation to UFMG,federal funds were provided for the construction of a new building for the Physics Department.
The 1970´s were dedicated to the formation of physics researchers and the creation of research infrastructure. The Physics Department building was planned meticulously to receive laboratories, classrooms and an administrative complex, as well as to provide space for the development of research in the following decades. The field of Physics in Minas Gerais witnessed the inauguration of the Astronomy Observatory of Serra da Piedade, in 1972, and the creation of the Doctorate in Physics, in the same year. Various investments in equipment and infrastructure were made in the period, as the acquisition of the first Hewlett Packard computer of Latin America to the Magnetic Resonance Lab, coordinated by professor Gazzinelli. In 1976, physics had a big project financed by FINEP, which resulted in the acquisition of the first X-ray diffraction equipment of the Department, still in operational in 2018.
The creation of the machine shop, cryogenics lab and the library were fundamental to the establishment of the research at that time. The first generation of faculties was educated abroad and started to return to Brazil keen to develop cutting-edge research. They strengthened the research laboratories over the following decades. In the past 80 years generations have witnessed the increased in academic education and research in physics at Minas Gerais State, with laboratories being consolidated and expanded.
The creation of regional development agencies, such as Fapemig, founded in 1985, also strengthened our Department. In the early 1990´s the deployment of fiber optic computer networks at UFMG, as well as automation of the libraries and other academic facilities, enhanced the internationalization of UFMG.
In the year of 2000, the Department of Physics of UFMG oversaw a period of new group projects and national networks and led several of them. The enlargement of the building made it possible to increase the number of experimental facilities. In 2016 the PhD in Physics program celebrated 50 years with the highest grade being granted by the Brazilian Science National Coordination (Nota 7 – CAPES). Currently our Masters and PhD programs offer degrees in various theoretical and experimental areas of Physics and Astrophysics.