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Major and Minor
Faculty and professional interests
Thomas Moses, chair
Liquid crystals, condensed matter physics, laser physics
Extragalactic astronomy and astrophysics, chemical evolution of galaxies, stellar populations
Magnetic resonance, Mössbauer spectroscopy, biophysics
Nuclear quadrupole double resonance, magnetic susceptibility, condensed matter physics
Physics has developed and grown throughout history as a result of the intricate but essential interplay of theory and experiment. Department programs emphasize this theme as the student takes courses involving both theoretical and laboratory work, which become progressively more complex and rigorous. At the same time, there is an emphasis on the development of a variety of skills and techniques necessary in the pursuit of physics and also highly valuable in almost any career in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) the student might choose. These skills include experimental design, instrumentation, data analysis and evaluation of experimental results; the application of mathematics and the computer to the solution of problems; communication of results and understanding to others; and, perhaps most important, the application of general principles to the analysis of specific problems.
The physics major in the context of a liberal arts program provides the student with great flexibility in the choice of a career. In the past five years, some physics majors have embarked on careers in research and/or teaching by entering graduate programs in physics or physics-related areas (such as biophysics, astronomy, astrophysics, or atmospheric science). Others have entered programs in engineering through Knox's pre-engineering program or have pursued graduate degrees in engineering or in business prior to joining the management group of a science-related industry. Some have gone directly into secondary education or industry, while others have entered medical, law or theological school.
One of the great advantages of the physics major at Knox is the opportunity to participate in a research project as an undergraduate. Knox faculty have active research interests in both experimental and theoretical physics, and experimental facilities are available at Knox for Mössbauer spectroscopy, magnetic susceptibility, differential scanning calorimetry, scanning electron microscopy, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, evanescent-wave ellipsometry and nuclear magnetic resonance experiments. The department also has a microprocessor controlled 10-inch Meade telescope, and a Nexstar 8-GPS with a CCD camera.
Astronomy at Knox explores our most fundamental questions: What is the universe made of? How did the universe begin, and how does it evolve? Although it is among the most ancient of disciplines, astronomy is now one of the hottest fields of science with some of the most important unsolved problems, as exemplified by the current attempts underway to investigate the nature of dark matter and to understand the accelerating expansion of the universe. A minor in astronomy together with a major in the physical sciences or mathematics would be a strong preparation for students interested in a career path in astronomy or astrophysics, in pursuing graduate studies in astronomy or astrophysics, or for students with an interest in secondary education in the sciences. Apart from professional objectives, a minor in astronomy is appropriate for anyone interested in learning about humankind's quest for a scientific understanding of nature at its most fundamental level.
Course offerings include introductory courses in astronomy and exobiology, an upper-level laboratory-based course in observational astronomy, and upper-level courses in astrophysics and cosmology. Some background in general physics (included in the minor requirements) and mathematics is needed to complete the upper-level courses. Department facilities include multiple telescopes with photometric and spectroscopic instrumentation and a small rooftop observatory on the Umbeck Science and Mathematics Center. Hands-on experience with research-grade equipment is a key aspect of learning astronomy which is provided to all students undertaking a minor in Astronomy.
The departmental curriculum contributes to the College's Key Competency Requirements as follows:
Departmental Learning Goals
Students completing a Physics major or minor will:
Students completing an Astronomy minor will:
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