Westminster's Physics Program
The Department of Physics will provide its majors with the disciplinary knowledge and problem-solving and analytical skills necessary to succeed in the workplace or as graduate students in physics, engineering, or other technically oriented fields. The Department offers two closely-related tracks within the major: Physics and Physics with a concentratin in 3-2 Engineering.
The goals of the Department of Physics are:
- To help students develop an understanding of the fundamental laws and behavior of the physical universe through the study of primary areas of classical and modern physics;
- To promote aptitude in the procedures and techniques used by scientists in acquiring such an understanding through laboratory experiences;
- To develop the skills and values that will be useful in a wide range of careers.
What does all that mean for Westminster College physics majors?
- Physics is foremost about understanding big ideas. Through classroom discussion, demonstrations, and hands-on activities, our students will see an emphasis on the concepts--from Newton's Laws of Motion to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle--that will give them the tools to analyze any scientific issue.
- As the concepts fall into place, it's time to expand our understanding of the world by applying those concepts to problems of interest. That may mean using basic principles to mathematically derive results for interesting special cases. Students might calculate the optimal efficiency of a Diesel engine or the imaging properties of a complex series of lenses.
- Much of the time, when we apply our concepts, we do so with experimental laboratory work. Students build circuits, assemble optical devices, and make measurements of all kinds of physical phenomena--the period of a system of springs, the speed of light, the quantum mechanical energy levels of an atom,... And all Westminster physics majors complete their own personal research project as part of their senior capstone. See a list of recent capstone topics.
- While doing all of that, Westminster physics majors will receive extensive training in skills that will serve them well in a variety of science-related careers: scientific writing and public speaking, modeling of physical phenomena, advanced mathematical analysis, and computer technology.
See what our students are up to!
The Department of Physics is located in Hoyt Science Resources Center. (See map.) The department's facilities include laboratories for electronics, waves, nuclear physics, astronomy, general physics, and laser holography, as well as a machine shop and a darkroom.
Each professor maintains laboratory space for his/her own research activities, and there are several spaces reserved for student research projects. See what research projects are being done at Westminster.
Moreover, all physics students have access to a dedicated study space--The Infinite Square Well--just down the hall from the department offices.