Physics and Earth Science
Department Mission

Preparing physicists and engineers to solve real-world problems.

We believe that the best way to learn physics is by doing physics.  To this end, we offer a curriculum that, in addition to solid coursework, emphasizes the practical experience.   Our goal is to provide a much richer background for our students by having them spend several years becoming deeply involved in a "real-world" research problem -- a problem that requires them to use all of the skills, tools and knowledge they have accumulated throughout their educational career.  Our goal is to inspire our students to work at their highest level, and to accept nothing less than their very best.  We do this in a warm, supportive, Christian environment.

Our Objectives

A.  To develop a working knowledge of physics, that is, an in-depth understanding of the fundamental principles that govern the physical world around us.  This encompasses

  • Phenomenology.   An acquaintance with a wide variety of physical phenomena.  
  • Theory.   Familiarity with the key theoretical concepts that unify and describe these physical phenomena.  
  • Perspective. The ability to see physics in proper perspective relative to other sciences and human endeavors.  
  •  Appreciation.   An appreciation for the intricate design and order of God’s creation.

B.  To provide a set of practical skills using the tools of a working physicist.   These skills include

  • Mathematics.  The ability to apply a broad array of sophisticated mathematical and computational techniques to a variety of problems.
  • Problem Solving.  The ability to analytically define, think-through and solve a complex physical problem.
  •  Laboratory Skills.  Skills in the laboratory, electronics and machine shop techniques used regularly by practicing physicists.
  •  Measurements.  The ability to analyze a measurement and its associated uncertainty.  This includes understanding the usefulness of accurate measurements and the limitations of the measurement process.
  • Communication.  The written and oral communication skills necessary to professionally present ideas in the scientific world.

C.  To develop personally in ways that will lead to a successful life as a physicist or engineer.  

  • Character Development.  To develop the traits that will lead to a successful career.  These include being hard working, creative, meticulous, persistent, tenacious, and self-confident.
  • Faith Integration. The ability to integrate an understanding of physics with Christian principles, and to articulate a Christian perspective in the professional scientific arena.

Each year we evaluate our success in reaching these goals.  We monitor student performance in classes and success on standardized tests, such as the physics graduate record subject exam, to identify weak points in the curriculum.  Students typically spend at least two years working one-on-one with a faculty advisor on a research project.  Before graduation each student produces a research thesis and makes a research presentation at a scientific meeting, allowing us to appraise the cumulative effect our major has on student preparedness.  We survey and interview students about their experience prior to graduation, and stay in contact with our graduates entering jobs or graduate school about any perceived weaknesses in their preparation.  All of these allow us to make an informed assessment of the success of the various components of our program, and guide us in making modifications when needed.

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