Overview

Why major in physics at a liberal arts college like The College of Wooster?

Using the language of mathematics, physicists try to understand the patterns and rhythms of nature, from atoms to galaxies. Majors can take their careers in a lot of directions after graduation. Majoring in physics at a liberal arts college like Wooster gives students the opportunity to learn in small classes and conduct original research under the guidance of faculty mentors. The multidisciplinary atmosphere at Wooster allows physics majors to double major or participate in a pre-professional program in preparation for graduate or professional schools. Many physicists work as engineers, and many engineers have physics degrees, but physics majors can be found in a number of fields. The problem-solving abilities and analytical skills provided by a physics education equip physics majors to work in schools and on college campuses, in corporate settings and government labs, in the astronaut corps, or even on Wall Street. Many graduates make their way to top-tier graduate or professional programs to build careers in research, law, and more. Wooster ranks sixth among U.S. institutions where women doctorate recipients in the physical sciences earn bachelor’s degrees according to a 2019 report published by the Council of Independent Colleges based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics and National Science Foundation.

Physics at The College of Wooster

With one-on-one guidance from a faculty mentor, each physics major has the opportunity to experience the excitement and rewards of a year-long research project, culminating in a senior independent study thesis. The labs and facilities at Wooster range from a state-of-the-art computer-based lab for introductory physics courses to a scanning probe microscope used in student and faculty research. In the past, three Wooster physics majors have been selected as finalists for the American Physical Society’s national LeRoy Apker Award for outstanding undergraduate research in physics, as a result of their senior independent study work. In addition, seven students won the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for college sophomore and juniors and five students won a Graduate Research Fellowship Program Award from the National Science Foundation, which provides three years of support for their graduate education.


Faculty & Staff

Laura DeGroot

Laura DeGroot

Assistant Professor of Physics

ldegroot@wooster.edu

Craig First

Craig First

Administrative Coordinator, Physics and Mathematical & Computational Sciences

cfirst@wooster.edu

Manon Grugel-Watson

Manon Grugel-Watson

Visiting Instructor and Laboratory Coordinator of Physics

mgrugel-watson@wooster.edu

Cody Leary faculty in physics at College of Wooster

Cody Leary

Associate Professor of Physics

cleary@wooster.edu

Susan Lehman

Susan Lehman

Victor J. Andrew Professor of Physics; Pre-Engineering Advisor

slehman@wooster.edu

Niklas Manz

Niklas Manz

Associate Professor of Physics, Department Chair of Physics

nmanz@wooster.edu

Jhony Mera

Electronics & Instrument Technician - Biology, Chemistry, Physics

jmera@wooster.edu

Megan Nieberding head shot

Megan Nieberding

Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics

mnieberding@wooster.edu

Timothy Siegenthaler

Timothy Siegenthaler

Instrument and Lab Tech/Machinist - Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Physics

tsiegenthaler@wooster.edu


Latest Physics News

Chemistry Lab

Wooster receives $475 thousand HHMI grant to support inclusive excellence in research mentoring in STEM

The College of Wooster has received a grant of $475,000 from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence 3 (IE3) initiative for work over […]

EGLS awards

Wooster students share research at American Physical Society regional meeting

Two students who participated in The College of Wooster’s 2022 Research Experience for Undergraduates summer program earned awards for their research at a recent […]

Kirsten Larson '08 at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore

Physics alumna joins international team to launch Webb Telescope

Kirsten Larson ’08 knew that she wanted to study science and do research. When attending The College of Wooster, she chose to major in […]

Niklas Manz, associate professor of physics

Professor Manz publishes article as part preservation, part celebration

Niklas Manz, associate professor and department chair of physics at The College of Wooster, recently co-authored an article in Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of […]

More Physics Articles

Major

Physics Major

A Physics major provides a rigorous grounding in the scientific process and a firm scientific understanding of the world. It fosters critical thinking and provides broad practical training in science and technology. It can lead to graduate study and basic research (in a variety of disciplines), to stimulating jobs in industry, or to challenging and rewarding careers in teaching. Our faculty is engaged in original research, and our students are drawn early into collaborative research projects with faculty.

Fifteen courses in math and physics are needed to complete the requirements for a physics major.

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Chemical Physics Major

Chemical physics provides an interdisciplinary approach to the fields of chemistry and physics using mathematical techniques. The major allows students to explore the interface between chemistry and physics by studying structure, surfaces, bonding, atoms and molecules. By combining the methodologies and knowledge of physics and chemistry, many intriguing scientific questions can be addressed by a student with a strong predilection for mathematics and the physical sciences.

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Minor

Six courses in math and physics are needed to complete the requirements for a physics major.

View Courses

Independent Study

The yearlong senior thesis project, or senior Independent Study (I.S.), allows you to experience the beauty and cohesiveness of physics by working on an extended project closely with a faculty advisor. There are few projects, even though narrow in scope, that do not require a breadth of understanding and a dependence on the lecture and laboratory material covered in the major courses. Thus, the senior thesis is an integral part of your education. It can provide a stimulating climax to your college career while, at the same time, it can be a defining introduction to your profession.

Search the I.S. Database

Student Year I.S. Title Major 1 Major 2 Advisor
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Name: Melita Wiles Majors: Physics and Mathematics Advisors: Dr. Christina Horr, Dr. Drew Pasteur (second reader) The purpose of higher education is to contribute to the […]

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Alumni

The multidisciplinary atmosphere at Wooster allows physics majors to double major or participate in a pre-professional program in preparation for graduate or professional schools. Many physicists work as engineers, and many engineers have physics degrees, but physics majors can be found in a number of fields. The problem-solving abilities and analytical skills provided by a physics education equip physics majors to work in schools and on college campuses, in corporate settings and government labs, in the astronaut corps, or even on Wall Street.


Related Articles

Kirsten Larson '08 at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore

Physics alumna joins international team to launch Webb Telescope

Kirsten Larson ’08 knew that she wanted to study science and do research. When attending The College of Wooster, she chose to major in […]

Collin Hendershot '18 analyzed data from Graham Rahal's car before the race.

Wooster graduates play significant role in Indy 500

Physics majors reflect on their time at the College and how their I.S. and liberal arts education prepared them for their motorsport careers.

Danielle Shepherd

It takes a lot of math (and physics) to win an IndyCar championship

Danielle Shepherd was just seven years old when she attended her first IndyCar race with her family.

Prizes & Scholarships

Departmental Awards

Ann C. Mowery Endowed Scholarship

The Ann C. Mowery Endowed Scholarship was established in 2018 with a gift from Ann C. Mowery, a chemical physics major and member of the Class of 1982.  Ann established this endowment in honor of her parents.  First preference is given to a senior physics major who has demonstrated the most improvement and growth in analytical studies over their final years at Wooster, as judged by the Physics Department faculty.  Income from this endowment will be awarded to a senior student who has demonstrated a genuine love of doing physics, creative thinking in a research project, and who intends to pursue a career in science, engineering, medicine, entrepreneurship or education. The scholarship will be given at the annual recognition banquet.

2022-23: Olivia Green
Previous Recipients

Karl T. Compton Endowed Scholarship

The Karl T. Compton Endowed Scholarship is the gift of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. It is awarded each year to a member of the sophomore class who has demonstrated ability in mathematics and in physics, and who gives evidence of continuing interest in these subjects. The scholarship is awarded for both the first year and sophomore year.

2022-23: Karmellah Buttler, Tali Lansing, Madelyn Noll
Previous Recipients

Mahesh K. Garg Prize

The Mahesh K. Garg Prize in Physics is awarded annually to an upper-class physics major who has displayed interest in and potential for applying physics beyond the classroom and is judged to have the traits for using science to serve society.

2021-22: Raisa Raofa
Previous Recipients

Joseph A. Culler Prize

The Joseph A. Culler Prize in Physics, established in 1942, is awarded to the first- or second-year student who has attained the highest rank in general physics.

2021-22: Luke Wilson
Previous Recipients

Arthur H. Compton Prize

The Arthur H. Compton Prize in Physics is awarded to the senior physics major attaining the highest standing in that subject.

2021-22: Ben Stern
Previous Recipients

Koontz Endowed Fund

The Koontz Endowed Fund will provide financial support to Wooster students who are engaged in experimental physics research projects.


National Awards

LeRoy Apker Award

The LeRoy Apker Award recognizes outstanding achievements in physics by undergraduate students, and provides encouragement to students who have demonstrated great potential for future scientific accomplishment. About six finalists are chosen each year (and two awards are presented, one to a student from a Ph.D. granting institution, and one to a student from a non-Ph.D. granting institution).

Wooster Winners
2016: Maggie Lankford
2007: Stephen Poprocki
2003: Jeff Moffitt

Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship provides a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who are US citizens or permanent residents and intend to pursue careers in these fields. Awarded annually to about 300 college sophomores and juniors nationwide, colleges and universities are allowed to nominate only four of their undergraduate students per year.

Wooster Winners
2014: Joey Smith
2008: John Gamble
2007: Danny Shai
2006: Stephen Poprocki
2005 Ryan Hartschuh
2003: Jeff Moffitt
2003: Amy Lytle

NSF - GRFP Award

The purpose of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is to help ensure the quality, vitality, and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing full-time research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements in STEM or STEM education.

Wooster Winners
2008: John Gamble
2007: Danny Shai
2005: Ryan Hartschuh
2003: Jeff Moffitt & Amy Lytle

Fulbright Scholarship

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program expands perspectives through academic and professional advancement and cross-cultural dialogue. Fulbright creates connections in a complex and changing world. In partnership with more than 140 countries worldwide, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers unparalleled opportunities in all academic disciplines to passionate and accomplished graduating college seniors, graduate students, and young professionals from all backgrounds. Program participants pursue graduate study, conduct research, or teach English abroad.

Wooster Winner
2022: Dylan Hamilton ’17, Spain

  • In 2003, 2007 & 2009, the Wooster Physics Club’s Outreach Program won the Marsh White Award from the Society of Physics Students of the American Institute of Physics. Also in 2007, our Outreach Program won a national Blake Lilly Prize and was awarded this prize again in  2009 and 2013, and yet again in 2014. In both 2008, 2009 and 2019, we were named an Outstanding SPS Chapter.
  • In 2001, 2003, 2004, & 2008 (four of eight consecutive years), a physics major was awarded Wooster’s Notestein Prize for highest scholarship and was selected as commencement speaker for the graduating class.
  • In 2000, one of our faculty was the recipient of the American Physical Society’s prize for Research in an Undergraduate Institution.

Faculty Emeriti

Head shot of Shila Garg

Shila Garg

Professor Emerita, Physics

sgarg@wooster.edu

Head shot of Don Jacobs

Donald T. Jacobs

Professor Emeritus, Physics

djacobs@wooster.edu

John Lindner

John Lindner

Professor Emeritus, Physics

jlindner@wooster.edu