Physics, in the words of Albert Einstein, is a refinement of everyday thinking, and Einstein should know! After all, he refined our everyday thinking about the nature of space and time. While the natural world seems to be complicated and filled with a countless variety of phenomena, the refined thinking of physicists and their careful experimentation have shown us that the natural world can be well understood in terms of a strikingly small number of fundamental principles. As a physics student at Berry College, you will learn to refine your thinking, conduct careful experiments and develop a deep understanding of the workings of nature – from the very small (sub-atomic particles) to the exceptionally large (the entire universe). You will begin by learning the principles that govern everyday phenomena, but by the time you earn your degree, you will be initiated into the mysteries of relativity, quantum mechanics and chaos theory. These skills will be invaluable whether you opt for a career in physics, astronomy, engineering, medicine or another field.
Physics at Berry
Berry offers two different Bachelor of Science degrees in physics. One is for students who plan to pursue graduate study in physics or astronomy; the other is for students who want a strong physics background to prepare them for work in other fields. In either case, the course of study begins with a two-semester introductory course in physics and a number of mathematics courses. Building on this base, students can take advanced courses in modern physics, classical mechanics, electromagnetism, statistical mechanics, astrophysics, quantum mechanics, sub-atomic physics and advanced laboratory techniques.
The physics faculty members at Berry are young, energetic and interested in getting to know their students. They conduct research in gamma-ray astronomy, chaos theory, fundamental symmetries, computational quantum mechanics and photometry. They care deeply about teaching and are eager to involve undergraduates in their research.
The physics program is housed in Berry’s state-of-the-art science building. Physics majors learn in spacious classrooms and labs. They enjoy a dedicated student-projects room for experimental or computational work and often work side-by-side with faculty members in individual faculty research laboratories. Berry also has a small on-campus observatory.
Learning through work
Physics majors at Berry don’t just learn in their classes. They also learn through a wide variety of work experiences related to their studies. Whether they are tutoring students, setting up laboratory equipment, hosting “star parties” at the observatory or conducting original research, Berry physics majors get a chance to enhance their education while they earn a paycheck.
Undergraduate research is particularly emphasized at Berry, and physics majors are encouraged to get involved in research as soon as possible. Some students choose to work with Berry faculty on in-house research projects, either during the academic year or over the summer. Other students pursue summer internships elsewhere. Recent graduate Carly Donohue, for example, interned twice at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center while a student. In her case, the work actually was “rocket science.” Carly spent one summer performing computational research concerning the distribution forces in granular packing – research that was published in Physical Review Letters. The second summer, she performed experimental research into the scaling laws of rocket exhaust cratering and received NASA’s board action award for her methods. NASA funded Carly’s presentation of her work at a NASA workshop in granular materials in lunar and Martian exploration as well as her travel to Japan to present her research in a poster session at the International Astronautical Congress. Carly is not alone; other Berry physics majors have conducted research at such prestigious places as NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Washington and Rice University. In addition, a number of student-researchers on and off the Berry campus have become published authors in such journals as Physical Review E, Astrophysical Journal and the Journal of Chemical Physics. All students are encouraged to present their research at Berry’s annual Symposium on Student Scholarship, and some students present their work at regional or national conferences. Berry physics majors also can take advantage of a number of other opportunities to enhance their college experience. Physics majors lead both the Berry chapter of the Society of Physics Students and the Berry College Astronomical Society. Outstanding students are eligible for the McAllister Scholarship, which is awarded by the physics faculty. Some students also are selected to participate in Berry’s Honors Program.
Physics for your future
Many Berry physics majors have gone on to graduate study in physics, astronomy or engineering at schools like Cornell University, the University of Colorado, Duke University, Dartmouth College and the University of Virginia. Other students have pursued careers as physics teachers, research technicians or computer scientists. Regardless of your career choice, a degree in physics from Berry can prepare you for what lies ahead.