Physics Department Mission Statement

The Physics Department strives to educate all of its students, from humanities and social science students fulfilling the science perspective to physics majors planning to do graduate work, about the fundamental laws of the physical world through experimentation, creative problem-solving and critical analysis. We accomplish this in an active learning environment including laboratories, appropriate educational technologies and opportunities for faculty-guided research. We have the additional goals of preparing physics and physical science majors for graduate school, and careers in research, engineering and education.

Goals and Outcomes for Physics Majors

Program Goals:

  • Students understand the fundamental principles of physics in the four areas of Mechanics & Relativity, Thermal Physics, Electromagnetic fields, and Wave Motion & Quantum Mechanics.
  • Students have strong mathematical skills.
  • Students acquire computer literacy appropriate for work in physics and the other physical sciences.
  • Students become basic experimentalists.
  • Students have basic experience with different means of disseminating scientific results.

Goal I. outcomes: Fundamental Physics Principles

  • Students employ appropriate problem solving techniques to solve problems.
  • Students systematically apply principles when faced with challenging, unfamiliar problems.
  • Students can reason conceptually to make qualitative predictions without doing a full calculation.
  • Students interpret results of experiments to assess whether they are consistent with the hypothesis and whether the overall experimental technique was good.

Goal II. outcomes: Mathematical Fluency

  • Students can perform calculus operations in multiple dimensions, including full and partial derivatives, ordinary integrals, and line, surface, and volume integrals.
  • Students effectively use the vector operators of gradient, divergence, curl, and Laplacian in rectangular, cylindrical and spherical coordinate systems.
  • Students can expand functions using various techniques--Taylor, binomial, trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic.
  • Students can solve simultaneous equations using determinants.
  • Students can solve simple first and second order differential equations.
  • Students are familiar with complex numbers and their application to physics.
  • Students can perform various techniques for solving differential equations in multiple dimensions, such as separation of variables, and can apply boundary conditions to find solutions.

Goal III. outcomes: Computational Skills

  • Students develop facility with Microsoft Excel, including the ability to import and fomat data properly, and to plot and model data with a variety of curve fits.
  • Students can use one or more dedicated science or mathematics software package such as Matlab, Maple, or LabView to analyze physical systems.
  • Students understand programming algorithms for solving differential equations numerically.
  • Students can select the most appropriate software tools for a given task.

Goal IV. outcomes: Lab Skills

  • Students can perform error analysis of experimental data, including calculating a standard deviation, fitting a curve to data, and evaluating quality of fit.
  • Students know how to keep a well-organized lab notebook.
  • Students can use a wide array of standard lab equipment, such as multimeters, force probes, motion sensors, etc.
  • Students can read basic circuit diagrams and set up basic circuits.

Goal V. outcomes: Dissemination of results

  • Students write up experimental or theoretical results in scientific papers (although not for publication).
  • Students prepare and present posters.
  • Students give oral presentations.
  • Students draw appropriate conclusions based on data, and present that data in meaningful graphs and tables as part of their papers, posters, and oral presentations.