student looking into a microscope

Department of Physics

The Department of Physics is a community of faculty, staff, students and alumni dedicated to excellence in education in general and excellence in physics education in particular. As a physics student, you will 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).

The Department of Physics has developed a research-oriented culture for both its faculty and students. It is expected that most students will be involved with some level 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 your growth as a young scientist.

In the research laboratory, you 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 and biology and physics and chemistry, exposing them to how the methods of physics are central to addressing key problems in other disciplines.


Explore Our Department

Why study Physics?

  • Physics truly is one of the most exciting and interesting subjects one can study. Discoveries from physics have revolutionized the world and will certainly continue to do so. Between the innermost workings of the nucleus and the outer edges of the visible universe lies the playground of physics. Combining imagination with systematic reasoning, the physicist seeks to understand the laws of nature, the structure of matter and the behavior of physical processes — the keys to many of the universe's secrets. The area of physics covers such intriguing topics as lasers, superconductors, black holes, quantum mechanics, big bang theory, relativity and more. It also covers more basic but still fascinating questions such as why the sky is blue, why sunsets are red and why ice floats. In short, physicists are explorers trying to understand the world around them.

  • Physics is sometimes referred to as the "liberal arts" degree of technology because physics majors can go on to careers in fields such as computer science, engineering, research and development and biology. Obtaining an undergraduate degree in physics is a way to keep your options open. It tells prospective employers this person has what it takes to succeed. The physics major learns to start with an ill-posed problem, formulate it quantitatively, solve it and communicate the results clearly — skills that transfer readily to many fields. The American Institute of Physics has the latest data available on employment and career trends in physics

  • The physics department graduates about 3-5 majors each year which means that there are only 3-10 students in each physics majors course. This means that you'll get more personalized attention. 

  • Physics majors have a reputation for solid mathematical skills, strong problem-solving ability and good work ethic. It is these fundamental skills that allow them to work successfully in so many different areas.

  • According to data from the American Institute of Physics, students who major in physics often pull in high starting salaries. 

News and Announcements

Pennsylvania Space Fellowship is Awarded to Alex: Alexander Manduca '22 has won a NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium (PSGC) Undergraduate Scholarship which provides students interested in a career in this area with $4,000 for their undergraduate studies. Alex is the first Saint Joseph's student to win the award since it began in 2011!  A primary objective of NASA’s Space Grant Program is to attract, recruit and train U.S. citizens, especially women, underrepresented minorities in STEM and persons with disabilities, for careers in aerospace science and technology.

Sigma Pi Sigma 2021 InductionThe Saint Joseph’s University chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma, the Physics Honors Society, inducted four new student members just nine days short of the 70th anniversary of the chapter’s founding.

    Alexander Manduca '22 Wins the Goldwater ScholarshipAlex, a junior physics major, has been selected as the Barry M. Goldwater Scholar for the 2021-2022 academic year. Started in 1986 by Congress to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, this scholarship is the most prestigious U.S. undergraduate scholarship in math, engineering and the national sciences. He is the first physics major and the 10th St. Joe's student to win this research award since it started. Alex was also recently inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the oldest academic honor society and dubbed the most prestigious in the U.S.

    Physics Students Win National Recognition: Congratulations to the Society of Physics Students (SPS) Chapter mentored by Mark Scafonas, Ph.D. The National Council has reviewed all chapter reports and has awarded the Saint Joseph’s University SPS Chapter as a 2019-2020 Outstanding Chapter. All chapter award winners will be recognized on the Outstanding Chapter Award page. This is the highest level of distinction given to SPS chapters and is received by less than 15% of the top chapters annually, with just 96 of 844 chapters so honored this year. Keep up the great work!

    Physics Major Wins 2020 Summer Research FellowshipAlexander Manduca ’22 won a prestigious DAAD-RISE summer research fellowship to the University of Bonn in Germany. The DAAD-RISE is a highly competitive summer STEM research fellowship for undergraduate students from Canada, the UK, Ireland and the U.S. This year, only ~300 students were awarded fellowships out of ~1700 international applicants. Since the program was canceled due to the pandemic, Alex continued his research this summer with Mark Devlin, Ph.D. in the Department of Physics at the University of Pennsylvania. Congratulations, Alex, on this impressive accomplishment!

    Saint Joseph's Society of Physics Students Recognized as Distinguished Chapter: Saint Joseph’s University's chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) was recognized as a 2018-2019 Distinguished Chapter for its participation in regional SPS events and outreach to the University, community and physics alumni. Chapter president, Emily Lehman ’21, a dual major in physics and environmental science (center) and vice-president Alexander Manduca ’22, a physics major with music minor (left) were presented the SPS Distinguished Chapter certificate and congratulated for their efforts at the February 2020 chapter meeting by the SPS faculty advisor (Mark Scafonas, Ph.D., ’01).

    A Saint Joseph’s Scholarship Made Everything PossibleKen Young, Ph.D. ’72 has given several generous gifts to Saint Joseph's Physics Department and other areas of campus, including support for the Young Family Scholarship, the Summer Scholars Program and the Campus Transformation Fund. The Young Family Scholarship is for a student studying physics who has financial needs.

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    Alumni Spotlight

    ryan stull '15

    I graduated from Saint Joseph's in 2015 where I majored in physics and computer science. While at St. Joe's, I learned about physics, computers, software and mathematics. However, the most important thing I learned was to push myself. That work ethic is something that has helped me in every aspect of my life. Currently, I'm working at Impact Inc. as a big data engineer. I work on the data platform team where we deal with the movement, storage and processing of the vast amounts of data that come in."

    ryan stull '15

    Ryan Stull '15

    Data Engineer, Impact Inc.

    gianna valentino

    I received my B.S. in physics with a minor in mathematics from Saint Joseph's in 2014. Thereafter, I attended Johns Hopkins University and completed my Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. In June 2020, I joined the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) as a postdoctoral fellow in the Research and Exploratory Development Department. At APL, I'm part of the multifunctional materials and nanostructures group working on alloy design and development for high-temperature structural materials."

    gianna valentino

    Gianna Valentino '14

    Postdoctoral Fellow, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

    zachery brown

    I graduated from Saint Joseph's in 2017 after majoring in physics and philosophy. During that time, I worked on several research projects in Piotr Habdas’s lab investigating the physical properties of dense colloidal materials. After graduation, I moved to Rochester, New York where I am currently living and pursuing a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Rochester. In my current research, I use maps of the structure of the universe to look for signatures of baryon acoustic oscillations, which are enormous sound waves in the early universe that affect where galaxies form."

    zachery brown

    Zachery Brown '17

    Ph.D. Candidate, University of Rochester

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