Physics

Get To Know Us

Physicists study the fundamental laws and building blocks of nature by creating quantitative models of complex systems.

About half of Alma College physics graduates go on to use the sophisticated problem-solving skills developed in this scientific context in graduate programs in physics and engineering. But the same underlying skills are also in great demand in business, law, medicine, education, and other fields. The technical expertise and liberal arts breadth of an Alma College physics degree will give you the flexibility and skills to succeed in a wide range of careers.

Curriculum

Your physics major begins with a two year survey of classical and modern physics: from forces and energy to electromagnetism and on to relativity and quantum mechanics. In these courses you will practice analytic problem solving while getting hands-on experience in well-equipped labs. You will also study math up through multivariable calculus and differential equations and learn some computer programming.

Your upper-level physics courses will give you deep expertise in four core areas of physics: classical dynamics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, and thermal/statistical physics. You will also explore other topics of interest such as these recently scheduled electives and independent studies:

  • Astrophysics
  • Medical Physics
  • Optics
  • Electronics
  • QED: Light and Quantum Mechanics
  • Intro to String Theory
  • Physical Computing

Full details of our program can be found on the Requirements & Courses page.

Facilities: Labs & Planetarium

The physics department is housed in Dow Science Center, which features modern laboratories in general physics, electronics, optics, and modern physics, as well as laboratories in other sciences including biochemistry, biology, chemistry, environmental science, geology, and physiology. Individual space for independent research projects is available evenings and weekends.

The Alma College Planetarium hosts star shows for campus and local groups, as well as other events including Physics Club movie nights.Dow is also home to the Alma College Planetarium, a 7 meter dome featuring a Spitz star projector. The Planetarium is used by a variety of classes on campus and often hosts visits from local schools. The Physics Club runs occasional events with movies projected onto the dome.

Alma faculty and facilities have also been involved with a variety of other astronomical activities, loosely associated with the Planetarium. Our faculty hosted a public viewing of the 2012 “Transit of Venus” that drew hundreds of people from the community. The Physics Club and Alma faculty have also hosted a variety of star viewing parties on campus and in association with the Alma Public Library.

Faculty–student research

Alma’s Physics faculty members maintain active research programs, often involving students. As one example, the poster below summarizes Prof. Jensen’s research in string theory. (Click to zoom.)

A summary of Prof. Steuard Jensen's research in string theory.