Department of Physics

 

Holloway Hall

Welcome to the Physics Department

Why Physics?

 
   “SU physics prepared me for my career in electronics by providing hands-on instruction in a fun atmosphere. the professors are down to earth people with top-notch expertise in their fields.”
— Jessica (Thompson) McCarthy, NASA Electrical Engineer

The pursuit of physics is to understand and explain how nature works, from the unimaginably small world of atomic particles to the fantastically vast realm of galaxy clusters. Physicists observe nature and try to categorize and understand the phenomena they observe. Physics is a basic science that is the foundation of many other scientific disciplines and therefore has an important impact

on almost all the problems facing modern society. Many people think that physics is something new—but it started before recorded history when people first discovered recurring relationships in the environment. Through careful observation of these relationships and because of nature’s dependability, they found they could make reliable predictions that would seem to give them some control over their surroundings. Physicists solve problems and make discoveries directly through research and indirectly by teaching and inspiring others to look for explanations for the events happening in the physical universe.

The Physics Program

 
  The knowledge and skills I received from SU physics opened unbounded possibilities, landing me a world traveling position at NASA and preparing me for a master's degree.
Sebastian Stewart, NASA Instrument Engineer

The Physics Department offers a multi-track program of study, giving students the flexibility to pursue a challenging curriculum of inspiring courses best suited to their individual dreams and chosen career. A major in physics prepares students for careers in a variety of high-technology fields, teaching and further graduate studies in physics, engineering, medicine and other fields. Students can complete the physics major in one of four ways: general physics track, microelectronics track, secondary education track or 3-2 dual-degree engineering program.

Physics Research

Taking classes is not the only experience available in physics. We provide undergraduate research opportunities because they are important to the advancement of student understanding, allowing the student to apply the techniques that an active hands-on environment promotes. With close faculty mentoring during the research experience, the students gain skills necessary to organize and communicate scientific results and become successful science professionals. Virtually all physics majors become involved in scientific research related to current topics under active investigation within the scientific community and industry. Students have conducted research on a variety of topics including extragalactic elemental abundances, stellar evolution and supernovae, robotics building and design, alternative energies such as wind and solar, computational surface physics, biomedical physics, quantum mechanics, remote sensing, high-altitude balloon electronics, and a plethora of other scientific topics.

Our Mission

 
  SU physics provided me with all the necessary skills to enter into and contribute to a successful career treatment group.
  Douglas Vile, Medical Research Assistant

The faculty’s mission is to prepare students to work confidently and effectively in physics or a related field, to develop the power to think critically, judge soundly and communicate effectively. With the assistance of physics faculty advisors, each student selects a program of theoretical and experimental courses. Students gain an understanding of the broad range of principles which characterize the discipline of physics. Additionally, students acquire the ability to apply theoretical and experimental techniques to explore a wide variety of ideas. Faculty have a personal interest in the success of students and mentor students as they progress to a degree.

We want to have our majors complete the physics curriculum with an appreciation of physics as a unified field of study rather than a collection of unrelated courses. The classroom environment is intended to be an intellectually safe yet challenging learning space for both the faculty and student that should facilitate student learning and properly engage the student. The role of the instructor is to help a student become an independent life-long learner and to facilitate a thorough exploration of physics.

A Diverse Field

Diversity among faculty and students is not only respected but encouraged because physics is an interdisciplinary field that relies on a diverse spectrum of individuals and ideas. The Physics Department values global, societal and individual differences and has a commitment to equal opportunity.

A Perfect Fit

The department is relatively small, and upper-level major courses rarely have more than 15 students. We support an environment that encourages student involvement, faculty-student interaction and close student-student collaboration with a central idea that physics courses should include hands-on activities integrated with discussions and lecture. In such integrated courses, the traditional notions of lecture, laboratory, computer simulation and other classroom activities are fully blended in practice and conception and are not individual separate entities.