Physics involves the determination of the basic laws which allow one to predict natural behavior; indeed, physics originates from the Greek word for nature. These basic laws form the foundation for all the natural sciences. The department offers a program for physics majors, physics majors who seek an emphasis in astronomy, physics minors, pre-engineering students, students who require a physics cognate, and non-science students. The faculty have backgrounds in atomic, solid state, low-temperature, and quantum physics, electronics, and in astronomy and planetary science. Students have the opportunity to participate in faculty research projects in mesoscopic patterned magnetic thin films, quantum computing, low-temperature physics, photonics, origins of the solar system, extraterrestrial sample analysis, and low-energy ion-atom scattering. Facilities include a cryogenic photon counting lab, a thin film deposition chamber, a 5 kV ion-atom accelerator, a low-level nuclear gamma ray counting system, a 14-inch Celestron telescope with a CCD camera, and a historically significant Alvan Clark telescope.
The department sponsors the dual-degree program in engineering.