Physics 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

Objective 1 – Phenomenology
Develop knowledge of a wide variety of physical phenomena. Students will display their understanding of  physical phenomena in the following ways:

  • In a written thesis
  • In an oral presentation of a research project
  • In key advanced courses
  • On the physics GRE exam

Objective 2 – Theory
Familiarity with the key theoretical concepts that unify and describe physical phenomena. Students will use physical principles to interpret and explain complex physical phenomena and behavior:

  • In a written thesis
  • In an oral presentation of a research project
  • In key advanced theory courses
  • On the physics GRE exam

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

Objective 3 – Mathematics
The ability to apply a broad array of sophisticated mathematical and computational techniques to a variety of problems. Students will

  • Use appropriate mathematical and computational tools to approach physics questions
  • Make reasonable approximations and check units in calculations and estimates

Objective 4 – Problem Solving
Analytically define and solve a complex physical problem. Students will define, think through and solve complex problems.

Objective 5 – Laboratory Skills
Skills in the laboratory, electronics and machine shop techniques used regularly by practicing physicists. Students will

  • Use a logbook to record experimental work and ideas
  • Demonstrate laboratory, computer, machine shop and electronics skills by carrying out a research project with a faculty collaborator

Objective 6 – Measurement
Analyze a measurement and its associated uncertainty, including understanding the usefulness of accurate measurements and the limitations of the measurement process. Students will recognize uncertainties inherent in measurements.

Objective 7 – Communication
The written and oral communication skills necessary to professionally present ideas in the scientific world. Students will write and speak:

  • Utilizing appropriate language and vocabulary,
  • Using appropriate visuals
  • Being able to clearly state results and conclusions

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

Objective 8 – 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.

Objective 9 – 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.