Our Program & Courses
Physics is a major with two different concentration tracks (Physics and Computational Physics) as well as a minor at F&M. In the Physics concentration track, you will study the natural world, exploring classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, and thermal and statistical physics. The Computational Physics concentration track allows you to blend knowledge of physics, computer science, and applied mathematics.
By studying physics at F&M, you’ll engage in deep critical reasoning and collaborative work to answer complex scientific questions. Using your grounding in the scientific process, you will be challenged to use your unique perspective and analytical abilities to understand and influence the world around you. You will engage in hands-on experimentation in the laboratory, test the limits of our theoretical models, and use computational tools to pursue research with support from your professors and F&M’s cutting-edge laboratory and computing equipment.
By the time you graduate, you will:
- Be able to find, interpret, and use already published knowledge in physics.
- Be able to communicate technical information effectively and clearly, using data analysis and critical argumentation.
- Be able to design and execute an experimental, theoretical, or computational approach to solving complex physical problems.
- Be able to design and effectively deliver presentations of your scientific work to multiple audiences.
- Be able to use advanced mathematical techniques to solve theoretical problems.
- Be able to create new or modify existing models to explain observations of physical behavior.
- Be able to take into account multiple perspectives and ethical considerations in doing physics.
Ready to see what physics classes at F&M are like? Explore our course catalog and get an idea of what to expect.
Our Faculty & Staff
Charles A. Dana Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Director of Grundy ObservatoryContact »
Associate Professor of Physics, Co-Director of the Creativity & Innovation Initiative, Department Chair of Physics & AstronomyContact »
Academic Department Coordinator
Philosophy; Scientific and Philosophical Studies of MindContact »
Learning Outside the Classroom
Are you interested in doing new physics, building on what others have done? You can at F&M. Every student at F&M has extraordinary opportunities to engage in independent or faculty-led research. Our students’ research has been published in leading scholarly journals, and your professors will be there every step of the way to mentor and advise you in your journey.
You’ll also find remarkable opportunities to join your professors’ research projects, allowing you to leave your footprint on what sometimes are years-long endeavors. Physics faculty are expert researchers working on a wide array of cutting-edge topics, including:
- Ultrafast and nonlinear optics
- Quantum optics
- Quantum field theory of hydrogenic atoms
- Foundations of quantum mechanics
- Physics education research
- The physics of knitted textiles
- The materials physics of insulators
- Remote sensing for landmine and unexploded ordnance detection
You’re encouraged to take advantage of F&M’s rich international study program. Our
students have studied abroad in Scotland, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand,
Explore off-campus study at F&M
Our Facilities and Resources
The William M. Hackman Physical Sciences Laboratories
The hub of physics at F&M is the William M. Hackman Physical Sciences Laboratories building. Hackman houses six instructional laboratories; 11 student/faculty research laboratories; two ultrafast Ti:sapphire lasers; state-of-the-art spatial light modulators, optical spectrometers, and CCD cameras; single-photon detection capabilities for quantum optics experiments; a spectroscopic ellipsometer; a cold-cycle refrigerator capable of cooling to temperatures of 4 K; a monochromator, a spectrophotometer, and a wide range of spectroscopic equipment; and a lounge for physics majors to gather to study and share thoughts and ideas.
Success Beyond F&M
A degree in physics is great preparation for a wide range of career and personal interests.
While some graduates with a background in physics go on to contribute to scientific
knowledge, many contribute to their communities in other ways. Some become teachers
and/or engage in outreach and science communication. Others bring their skills and
knowledge to different areas of interest, becoming analysts, lawyers, doctors, and
engineers or working to improve the world in their own ways.
Our faculty and staff take pride in helping students meet their personal goals.
Many of our graduates go on to graduate school after F&M, pursuing advanced degrees in experimental or theoretical physics and related fields such as mechanical engineering. Their individualized learning and hands-on experience F&M provides gives them an advantage in getting admitted into some of the nation’s top graduate programs.
Physics graduates embark on a wide range of careers including in:
They hold positions such as Computational Scientist, Data Scientist, Energy Industry Analyst, Materials Scientist, Medical Physicist, Physicist, Professor, Process Engineer, Research Engineer, Research Physicist, Quantitative Research Analyst, Seismologist, Teacher, and Technical Writer, among many others.
Discovering Discrepancies in Theoretical PhysicsStanding before a blackboard filled with equations, physics major Evan Shinn '22 discusses his research, using quantum electrodynamics to determine corrections to a theory on positronium energy levels. "The whole project is about correcting energy levels for positronium," Shinn said.
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Students Help Program Robots for Dangerous Mission in UkraineResembling a yellow toy dump truck, the "Jackal" is one of four prototypes in the world that has been under development at Franklin & Marshall College's physics lab. Students and their professors are researching Jackal's future assigned task—helping to remove landmines. "The robots will be cleaning up explosive remnants of war or maybe not these particular ones, but machines based on their design," says Tim Bechtel, director of F&M Science Outreach and senior teaching professor of geosciences.
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Physics at F&M in Action
September 26, 2023
Students Stargaze at Cherry Springs Retreat
Students attended a recent weekend retreat to Cherry Springs State Park for two nights of stargazing in September. Night sky enthusiasts flock to the park for its spectacular views of the Milky Way.
August 31, 2023
NATO Humanitarian Demining Robot Tested at F&M
A team of two cooperating robots roamed a field at Franklin & Marshall’s Baker Campus Aug. 29 to demonstrate to an international audience their capabilities at demining war-torn areas.
July 29, 2023
Students Tune Into a Cosmic Hum
A team of students search the starry skies for “cosmic clocks,” part of an international research project that this week reported evidence of gravitational waves that oscillate periodically from years to decades.
Related Fields of Study
Do you dream of an exploration far beyond our planet or even our galaxy? Astrophysics at F&M provides a dynamic mixture of necessary scientific foundation and leading research, empowering you to venture into the latest questions about our universe.
As technology evolves and our understanding of computerized systems increases, computer science has become more advanced. At F&M, you’ll explore this ever-changing field, learning the mathematical basis of modern computer science, gaining technical and programming skills, and understanding how to put theory into practice.
The study of mathematics is ancient, and its roots in clear and creative thought can still be seen today. While studying mathematics at F&M, you will learn both the fundamental foundations and theories of the field as well as how to apply these theories to real-life problems.