Jan 29, 2023  
2013-2014 Undergraduate Catalog 
2013-2014 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Colleges & Departments

120 Pasteur Hall (507.457.5260)
Nathan Moore (Chairperson)


Andrew Ferstl, Professor; BS, University of Wisconsin; PhD, University of Minnesota; 2000 –
David E. Hamerski, Professor; BS, St. Mary’s College of Minnesota; MS, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities; PhD, Washington University (St. Louis, Missouri); 1961 –
Nathan Moore, Associate 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, Assistant Professor, BA, Lewis and Clark College; MS, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; 2012 –
Richard H. Shields, Professor; BS, MS, Eastern Illinois University; PhD, University of Missouri-Rolla; 1973 –

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


If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, physics might be the field of study for you:

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

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, and biology. 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. 


The Physics Department offers two 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 engineering. 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.

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 Program Intensive Requirements

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


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

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

FAA Airway Science Certification Program

146-162 S.H. (FAA Airway Science Certification)
120 Pasteur Hall (507.452.2220)
George Bolon (Advisor)


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), along with the aviation industry, has recognized the need for a cadre of well-qualified men and women to support the national airspace system of the future. Therefore, the FAA initiated the Airway Science curriculum to prepare the next generation of aviation technicians, managers, and aircraft crew members. The FAA has approved WSU as an Airway Science University; WSU offers an Airway Science Program with two options: Computer Science Option and Management Option. When students in the Airway Science Program satisfy the respective major department degree requirements, they are granted either of the following degrees:

  • BS in Computer Science with a Physics/Airway Science/Aviation minor
  • BS in Business Administration with a Physics/Airway Science/Aviation minor

To fulfill the curriculum for FAA Airway Science Certification, students must complete additional requirements beyond the bachelor degree as outlined in this section.

Airway Science Options

The FAA Airway Science curriculum requirements are subject to change by the Federal Aviation Administration. Therefore, this catalog may not show the latest requirements. See the Airway Science faculty advisor for more information.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Colleges & Departments