Applied Physics Major

The applied physics major will prepare you for engineering-related careers or graduate school in engineering or physics.

When you study physics and engineering at Houghton, you’ll learn about the most basic principles at work in the physical universe and how to serve God by applying these principles to meet people’s needs.

We believe that physics should be more than an academic exercise and that the best way to learn is by doing! Our courses are designed to give you hands-on experience right from the first-year Introduction to Engineering course all the way through to the final research project.

The applied physics major is designed to give you a broad background in general engineering principles and skills. Unlike a specialized engineering degree, it will allow you to explore a variety of engineering fields while keeping your options open for the future. After graduation, you would be qualified for engineering-related careers in industry yet maintain the option to earn an engineering or physics master’s degree in as little as two years.

Why Major in Applied Physics?

  • Learn physics and engineering by doing physics and engineering in our research-based, hands-on program.
  • Gain critical experience with high-tech equipment used regularly by practicing physicists and engineers (e.g., a cyclotron [particle accelerator], Farnsworth Fusor [nuclear fusion chamber], scanning electron microscope [6 nanometer resolution], x-ray diffractometer, wind tunnel, and/or one of the nation’s fastest supercomputers [for simulations in aeronautical engineering]).
  • Spend the summer doing real, cutting-edge research—and get paid for it.
  • Develop practical new skills that are useful in physics research, such as operating machine tools, welding, soldering, electronics or using new computer languages or operating systems.
  • Work collaboratively with your professors on research projects aimed at solving real-world problems, then publish and present your research at national conferences.
  • Join the 100 percent of Houghton physics graduates who are employed or attending graduate school within one year of graduation.
  • Develop close mentoring relationships with Christian faculty members who care about your academic, emotional and spiritual growth.

Major Requirements

Applied Learning

As soon as we talk about a subject, we put our knowledge into practice! In our introductory course, we combine lecture and lab into a seamless experience—no more waiting a week to carry out the lab. Instead of just lectures about mechanics, Houghton students plan orbital space missions to the moon, asteroids and outer planets. In the Science Honors Program, students work with an interdisciplinary team of professors from physics, chemistry, biology, communication and writing to study climate change—not just from a textbook, but by designing and building instrument packages and launching them to the edge of outer space.

Real World Experience

Physics majors at Houghton get experience in the real world. As early as their sophomore year, students may choose an adviser and a research project. By graduation, they will have completed a significant, multi-year project they present at a scientific meeting. Houghton students have carried out nuclear physics experiments at Los Alamos National Laboratory, nuclear fusion projects at SUNY Geneseo and Ohio University, and nanotechnology research at Cornell University.


Our physics program allows professors and students to develop close working relationships with each other as we strive together toward the goal of academic excellence and spiritual growth. The student offices are right next to the professors’ offices. After the formal classes end, we spend our afternoons working together at the office chalkboards, discussing research problems and encouraging one another.

Undergraduate Research in Physics

The best way to learn physics is by doing physics. To this end, at Houghton, we offer a curriculum that, in addition to solid coursework, emphasizes the practical laboratory experience. Our goal is to provide a much broader experience 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, from electronic design to quantum mechanics to machine shop. Students present their work at professional scientific meetings and prepare a thesis. Summers are often spent working on research with Houghton faculty as well, most recently on experiments at Ohio University and SUNY Geneseo for the inertial confinement fusion programs at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) and the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) and nanotechnology research at the Cornell Center for Materials Research at Cornell University.




Percent of physics majors employed or in graduate school within nine months of graduation



Number of research talks and posters presented by students in the past five years



Number of physics meetings and symposiums at which Houghton students have presented their research in the past five years

Joshua Mertzlufft

Featured Testimonial

I look at inventions from across the spectrum of science and engineering. One of the keys to understanding an invention is to know why it functions – what purpose it serves. [Drs.] Mark Yuly and Brandon Hoffman always made a point to explain the ‘why,’ which is something that I always think about.

Joshua Mertzlufft '13 Patent attorney, Hodgson Russ LLP


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