Physics Major (BA/BS)

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 BS in physics emphasizes the traditional theoretical, experimental and mathematical basis of physics and provides a solid foundation for graduate work in physics or related fields, such as engineering, astrophysics, biophysics, physical oceanography, geophysics and meteorology. Students may also use the physics major as preparation for attending professional school in fields such as medicine, dentistry and law.

The BA in physics is for students planning to enter a profession needing a technical or scientific background and is particularly appropriate for students interested in a double major with another field or those completing a major in inclusive childhood or secondary education. It is also ideal for those wishing to study medicine, practice law as it relates to science or technology, or earn an MBA and enter a technical business field.

Why Major in Physics?

  • Learn physics by doing physics in our research-based, hands-on program.
  • Gain critical experience with high-tech equipment used regularly by practicing physicists (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/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 adviseor 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.


Alumni Outcomes

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


Student Research

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

Kirby Runyon

Featured Testimonial

The rigor of Houghton’s undergraduate physics program skirted the line between undergrad and graduate level. As such, it taught me how to think critically and really prepared me for graduate school.

Kirby Runyon ’08 postdoctoral research scientist in planetary geology at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory


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