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Physics

Linking the mysteries of science with everyday life

Scientists cannot hope to understand the universe without first comprehending physics. Elon’s physics program offers one of the most versatile and broadly applicable majors because it is interdisciplinary and gives students impressive skills that are valuable in any career or field of graduate study.

The physics curriculum includes study of the social sciences and humanities, as well as other sciences, mathematics, computer science and engineering. The scholarly interests of physics faculty are also interdisciplinary, spanning the spectrum of physics disciplines. Students pursue research into the mysteries of deep space and the subatomic world as well as the physics of everyday objects. Graduates succeed in business, engineering and other careers because of the intellectual rigor they experience while studying the profound and engaging material of physics.

“Whether it is through research, lab work or the Physics Club, physics has become not only something I experience in the class, but an everyday experience.”

                                                     Daniel Glass ’11    

Dynamic curriculum

Elon offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in physics, a dual-degree in physics engineering and minors in physics and astronomy. The strength of the program lies in small class sizes and the close mentoring relationships that develop between physics faculty and students. The department’s faculty are effective and innovative instructors who incorporate varied teaching techniques and technologies into the classroom to enhance understanding. 

"I know from personal experience that Elon physics prepares its students for success by providing opportunities for genuine research experience and outstanding mentorship, the value of which should never go overlooked."

                                                                                                     Ali Deatsch '13

The major course of study begins with a three-semester sequence of courses, ranging from mechanics through electricity to basic nuclear physics and particle theory. Building on this base, students select courses in the advanced theory of electromagnetic phenomena, the mysterious world of quantum mechanics and a range of other topical courses, including classical mechanics, circuit design, thermodynamics and astrophysics. 

Learning through research

Research is a vital part of Elon’s physics program. Like internships, lab research opportunities help students develop important professional skills and give them the chance to experience life as a scientist.

Junior physics majors take a year-long Research Methods course that focuses on experiment design, data analysis and the presentation of scientific information. Physics majors are also asked to do at least one semester of independent research. This experience has led the physics program to success in placing students at research sites nationwide through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, as well as other national lab and research institution programs.

Physics majors have conducted research at a laser facility in Florida and research labs at the University of California at Davis, Bucknell University, University of Rochester, the University of Iowa and Brookhaven National Labs, among other major institutions.

Recent student research projects include:

  • Investigations of electrons in different alloys of nickel and manganese
  • Observation of asteroids with a radio telescope
  • Atomic imaging of the surface of materials
  • Acoustic analysis of concert halls
  • Study of the chaotic behavior of granular materials
  • Exploring new perturbative techniques in quantum field theory. 

Expert faculty

Elon’s outstanding physics faculty have a broad array of scholarly interests and expertise, including nanotechnology, computational theory, engineering, astronomy and environmental studies. Physics faculty actively pursue research in astrophysics, chaos theory, particle theory, quantum gravity, the physics of crystals and solids, physics teaching and engineering. They also have secured grants to enhance the physics curriculum from the National Science Foundation and NASA, among others. Faculty members routinely lead study abroad courses, including topics such as the astronomy of ancient civilizations, engineering of Rome and scientific history of England.

“Almost all of my classes at Elon were small, which helped me to develop learning relationships with my professors. I value those relationships more than I’ll ever value a class.” 

                                                      Jim Fischer ’00 

Excellent facilities

Located in stunning McMichael Science Center, Elon’s physics program gives students access to advanced scientific equipment, including X-ray and spectroscopic devices as well as atomic force and electron microscopes that magnify objects at molecular and atomic scales.  

Physics majors also have access to extensive computer facilities, including workstations for computational physics, mathematical analysis and computer-aided design. An astronomy observing platform and a range of telescopes on the roof of Koury Athletic Center are also available to physics students.  

Special opportunities

Academically talented students who plan to major in physics are encouraged to apply for the Elon College Fellows and the Honors Fellows programs. Fellows receive scholarship support and study abroad grants, and participate in special courses and travel opportunities. Visit the Elon Fellows programs Website for more information.

Physics majors are encouraged to present their research findings at Elon’s annual Spring Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF). Students may also join the Society of Physics Students and become eligible for the national physics honor society, national awards and grants. Several Elon students have participated in GlaxoSmithKline’s Women in Science program, which offers scholarships and mentoring opportunities between female students and experienced female scientists.

After graduation

Because the study of physics trains the mind for general problem solving, a degree in physics is highly prized among college degrees. Employers in every field that requires critical thinking and problem solving seek out physics majors. Elon graduates have gone on to successful careers in technology, business, finance and education, to name a few.

Many of our physics majors pursue graduate study in a variety of physics specialties. Elon graduates have pursued careers in astrophysics, particle physics, condensed matter physics, chaos and dynamical systems and theoretical physics, as well as electrical engineering, computer chip fabrication and design, and mechanical and civil engineering. A physics degree opens the door to a world of interesting career options.

Visit the Department of Physics Website.

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