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Physics

Associate Professors: Angiolillo (Chair), Habdas, Kurtze

Assistant Professor: Gu

Laboratory Coordinator: McElroy

Program Overview

Physicists study the properties and behavior of matter and energy in a wide variety of contexts, ranging from the sub-microscopic particles from which all ordinary matter is made (particle physics) to the behavior of the Universe as a whole (cosmology). Physics primarily is the science that deals with exploring the Rules of Nature and the fundamental understanding of nature that comes from the study of physics is central to all the natural sciences, applied sciences and technology, and thus profoundly affects the life of every human along with his or her environment.

The Department of Physics of Saint Joseph’s University offers students a comprehensive, challenging, and flexible curriculum in the discipline of physics. The program begins with a core grouping of courses (freshman and sophomore years) in the foundation of classical Newtonian mechanics and Maxwellian electricity and magnetism along with a two semester program in nonclassical (modern) physics which provides the student with the development of physics ensuing from the development of quantum theory and special relativity that occurred in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Each of these courses is accompanied with a laboratory program, which not only complements the didactic material but also indoctrinates the student into the methodology of doing experimental physics. Also during this time the student is mastering the language of physics, which is mathematics. The student will take three semesters of calculus along with a course dedicated to solving differential equations. These physics and mathematics courses will provide the student with the necessary background to explore a vast array of upper division courses, which include opportunity for taking physics electives in particular areas of interest. The upper division palette of courses includes the study of advanced mechanics, classical and statistical thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, and advanced laboratory. Elective material includes solid state physics, biophysics, nuclear and particle physics, computational physics, physics of fluids, and mathematical methods in physics.

The Department of Physics at Saint Joseph’s University has developed a research-oriented culture for both its faculty and students. It is expected that most students will experience some sort of research activity over their four-year development in the discipline of physics. The ability to put into practice what is learned in the classroom is paramount to the growth of the young scientist. In the research laboratory, the student will learn to ask appropriate questions, design and perform experiments to answer those questions, analyze data using computational methods, and draw appropriate conclusions. Students will also be exposed to the interfaces of physics where physics meets biology and chemistry and to that end, the student of physics will witness how the methods of physics are central to addressing key problems in the disciplines of biology and chemistry.

Undergraduates can participate in research in three different ways. They may decide to take research for academic credit. Within the major, students must take three physics electives and one or more of these may be used to perform scientific research under the guidance of our physics faculty. The student might opt to do research as a Summer Scholar. Saint Joseph’s University is well known for its 11-week Summer Scholars Research Program and students in physics, through the generosity of its alumni and the Dean and Provost, the university has been able to provide stipends for all physics students who have wanted to do summer research. It should be noted here that students selected to participate in the Summer Scholars Program not only receive a stipend but also are provided free housing by the University. Lastly, students may opt to volunteer in a laboratory at SJU or elsewhere.

Department Mission

At its core, the mission of the Department of Physics at Saint Joseph’s University is to educate students who are broadly trained in the discipline of physics and will have the ability to attack problems and enter professional areas not only in the field of physics per se but also in the areas of biology, chemistry, the applied sciences, and professional careers where the principles of physics and critical thinking skills associated with a degree in physics are used on a routine basis.

In the spirit of the mission of the university, we believe that our students, through the liberal arts training gleaned from the General Education Program, in particular the "ethical dimension in learning", in addition to the concentration curriculum in physics, will become lifelong learners and will use their knowledge and education for the betterment of mankind.

Goals

  1. The student will gain an appreciation and understanding of the foundations of physics including Newtonian mechanics, classical electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, and quantum theory.
  2. The student will appreciate the contributions of physics within an historical and sociological context and be able to articulate the development of physical thought in both oral and written form.
  3. The student will gain an appreciation for the central themes of physical thought as they apply to other areas of science.

Objectives:

Upon completion of the curriculum in the Department of Physics the student should have the expertise to:

  1. Translate problems in science into mathematical formulations utilizing calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra.
  2. Solve problems using classical Newtonian mechanics
  3. Solve problems in classical electricity and magnetism including wave phenomena and optics.
  4. Understand the development of quantum mechanics from the failure of classical mechanics under certain conditions and be able to solve paradigmatic problems using fundamental quantum theory.
  5. Understand the development of classical thermodynamics and in conjunction with quantum theory, appreciate the need for a statistical approach to thermodynamics.
  6. Be conversant with fundamental laboratory methodology including the use of electronic equipment, experimental design, analysis of data including computational methods of analyzing data graphically.
  7. Be competent in articulating ideas and laboratory research using oral and written forms of communication.