Jun 15, 2021  
2019-2020 Undergraduate Catalog 
    
2019-2020 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Physics


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120 Pasteur Hall
507.457.5260
Physics website
Andrew Ferstl, Chairperson

Faculty

Carl Ferkinhoff, Assistant Professor; BA, Gustavus Adolphus College; MS, PhD, Cornell University; 2016 -
Andrew Ferstl, Professor; BS, University of Wisconsin; PhD, University of Minnesota; 2000 -
Nathan Moore, Professor; BS, Grove City College; PhD, University of Minnesota; 2005 -
Frederick Otto, Professor; BA, BS, Humboldt State University; PhD, University of California-Berkeley; 1990 -
Sarah Phan-Budd, Associate Professor; BA, Lewis and Clark College; MS, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; 2012 -

Mission and Philosophy

The Physics Department strives to serve the diverse set of learners throughout the community and the University by promoting scientific inquiry. The faculty endeavor to mentor all students to become lifelong learners and productive members of a sustainable, scientific, and technological society. In pursuit of this mission, the Physics Department:

  • Provides a high quality post-secondary education in a field that is both challenging and rewarding.
  • Creates a learning environment that helps students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Serves as a scientific resource for the University and the community.
  • Supports student and faculty research.

Why Study Physics?

There are three reasons:

  • Curiosity
  • Career
  • Research Opportunities

Curiosity

Are you:

  • interested in discovering how things work?
  • interested in discovering how the same idea can explain a variety of different devices or problems, not just a single one?
  • interested in finding exact quantitative explanations instead of being satisfied with generalities?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, then physics might be the field of study for you.

Career Opportunities

Physics is sometimes referred to as the “liberal arts” degree of technology because physics majors can go into various careers including computer science, engineering, research and development, chemistry, biology, and geoscience. Others refer to the bachelor’s in physics as the “Swiss Army Knife” degree because of all the skills student acquire during their course of study. Because of the breadth of the physics discipline, physicists can be found serving in a broad range of seemingly disparate functions-from modeling the financial markets to creating their own companies. Some physicists go on to become lawyers, doctors, and engineers. Students majoring in physics learn to start with an ill-posed problem, formulate it quantitatively, solve it, and communicate the results clearly. These skills transfer readily to many fields. In short, a major in physics is a way to keep your options open.

Physics majors have a reputation for solid mathematical skills, strong problem-solving abilities, and good work ethic. These fundamental skills allow physics majors to work successfully in many different areas. An undergraduate degree in physics tells prospective employers that the graduate has what it takes to succeed. 

Research Opportunities

Having students experience the process of science through the coursework and the culminating undergraduate research project is an invaluable learning experience. Students benefit from the experience of planning, conducting, and completing a coherent undergraduate research project. They add to their skills and understanding in a particular area of physics and practice communicating their results to their peers and the physics community. It is important that students be familiar not only with the body of knowledge that physics encompasses, but also with the procedures of scientific inquiry used to advance this body of knowledge. Successful completion of the physics research project enhances students’ opportunities for admission to graduate school or for scientific employment following graduation. 

Programs

The Physics Department offers two physics options, two engineering options, and two pathways to teacher certification:

  • Option I is the traditional physics major, designed principally for students who wish to pursue graduate study in physics and related fields.
  • Option II is for those who have interests in electronics. Many students in Option II take additional coursework in computer science.
  • Physics Teaching certifies graduates to teach high school physics and physical science for grades 9-12.
  • Physical Science Teaching certifies graduates to teach high school physics, chemistry, and physical science for grades 9-12.
  • General Engineering: Electronics is for those interested in electronics engineering.
  • General Engineering: Industrial Statistics is for those interested in industrial engineering.

Note: Students can only earn one major or minor from the physics department. For example, students cannot declare a PHYP major and a GENE major but are welcome to declare a physics major and another major outside the department (such as math or computer science).

Pass/No Pass Credit (P/NC) Courses

Except for internships and practica, students must take all courses in their major, minor, options, concentrations and licensures on a grade-only basis. Any course not required for a major or minor may be taken on a pass/no credit basis. Courses offered on a pass/no credit-only or grade-only basis are so designated in the course descriptions.

Honors in Physics Program

Eligibility: To be accepted into the Honors in Physics Program, a student must:

  1. Be a physics major and have completed 20 semester hours of physics.
  2. Have at least a 3.0 GPA both overall and within the major.
  3. Identify a WSU faculty member who is willing to serve as a research advisor.
  4. Apply to the Physics Department for admission to the program.

Participation: Students who are accepted into the program are expected to:

  1. Maintain a 3.0 GPA overall and within the major.
  2. Make steady progress toward the goals of the research program.
  3. Write an acceptable honors thesis describing the research.
  4. Give a seminar describing the research to fellow honors students and faculty.
  5. Present the results of the research study at an appropriate regional meeting.

Completion: Upon graduation, students who successfully complete the Honors in Physics Program receive the following recognition of their accomplishments:

  1. Official transcripts are stamped with the words “Graduated with Honors in Physics.”
  2. Transcripts include the title of their honors thesis.
  3. Graduation status (Honors in Physics) is acknowledged on the graduation program and during the graduation ceremonies.

General Education Intensive Requirements

Students may use intensive courses to satisfy both General Education Program (GEP)  and major requirements. Intensive courses will usually be in the student’s major or minor program. The following are offered as GEP intensive courses in the Physics Department:

Intensives

Oral (◎)
Math/Critical Analysis (◆)
Writing (△)

Intensive courses that can be used to satisfy major/minor requirements are identified in the lists of required courses and electives.

Programs

    Bachelor of ScienceBachelor of Science - TeachingMinor

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