Physics is the scientific study of how and why the natural world works. From the tiniest quark to the entire universe, physics uses a few fundamental principles to explain matter, energy, and their remarkable interactions. At Austin College, we believe that students learn physics best by DOING physics.
- RooProducts: 3D Design and Printing in Pre-Engineering Physics
- AC Physics Students Win Presentation Awards for Research on Variability in Massive Stars
- Watch David Baker’s Extreme TEDx Talk
- AC Students Help in Discovery of New Planet
- See the Previous Events
Did you Know?
Students explore out-of-this-world science with the largest research telescope in north Texas.
Austin College’s Society of Physics Students has been recognized as a “notable chapter” by the national SPS office. Our faculty have received numerous awards, including Dr. David Baker’s “Most Creative Teacher in the South” honor from Oxford American.
Dr. Petrean’s research lab contains a cryostat that can cool samples down to 10 Kelvin, almost absolute zero temperature!
Our new advanced laboratory is outfitted with a modern National Instruments Educational Laboratory Virtual Instrument Suite (NI ELVIS). This integrated platform has the latest industry-standard technology.
We teach physics in a unique, hands-on workshop format. Our students perform significantly better nationwide on conceptual physics exams than their peers in traditional classrooms.
Austin College ranked #2 in Texas and #4 in the Southwest for the number of physics degrees awarded as a percentage of total enrollment.
- We’re big on nanotechnology! As part of Dr. Andra Petrean’s Advanced Laboratory course, students grow carbon nanotubes in a hot furnace, roughly 4,000 times smaller than the human hair.
- Stars that pulse in the night: in Observational Astronomy, Dr. David Whelan’s students detect variable stars that shrink and grow over a period of several days.
- Dr. Don Salisbury explores the intersection of science and culture in his course Global Science, Technology, and Society. He uses a great example in the atrium of the IDEA Center — our “ancient" solar observatory!
- Extreme Adventure in January: Our classroom is nature itself. Dr. David Baker’s international January Term courses take students to places they only dream of in their “wildest” imaginations: Patagonia, New Zealand, Peru’s Machu Picchu, Galapagos Islands, Mayan ruins, and Iceland.
Student Research: At AC, you’ll conduct authentic scientific research as part of your physics major. You might explore strange behavior in massive stars, intriguing properties of gold at the nanoscale, extreme weather changes on Earth and other planets, or intense time dilation near a black hole. We don’t just want you to learn about physics, we want you to do it! Physics majors conduct two research projects with two different professors to gain experience with a variety of research techniques.
STAR Leadership: All physics majors and minors also participate in Austin College's STEM Teaching And Research (STAR) Leadership program. In this unique program, students develop vital leadership skills in the areas of interpersonal communication, collaborative learning, and problem solving. We hope to develop well-rounded leaders to tackle the unknown problems of tomorrow.
Diverse, Collaborative Environment: Our students really help each other out. The atmosphere is collaborative rather than competitive, learning from everyone’s diverse strengths. Many physics majors often double-major in another subject, while others are highly involved in other extracurricular activities on campus such as student government, choir, theater, or athletics. The Society of Physics Students sponsors campus-wide activities including outdoor picnics, telescope star parties, and an annual basketball tournament with physics faculty and students.
ACCESS Program: Austin College’s Career Empowering Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Scholars (ACCESS) program provides holistic support for STEM students with financial need. ACCESS scholars receive a scholarship (renewable for up to 3 additional years), participate in paid summer research, receive individualized STEM mentoring, and attend monthly professional development meetings to support success in STEM fields.
- David Baker, Physics Department Chair and Adams Observatory Director, explores extreme stuff on Earth and other planets.
- Andra Petrean, Pre-Engineering Advisor, investigates high temperature superconductors and nanofilms.
- Donald Salisbury is an intellectual descendant of Albert Einstein and focuses on quantum cosmology.
- David Whelan studies massive stars and the remarkable circumstellar discs that surround them.
- Larry Robinson, Professor Emeritus, explores the physics of lasers.
- Doug Hotalen is the Instrumentation Manager for the Science Division
Austin College offers students the opportunity to pursue a career in engineering by studying at Austin College for either three (3/2) or four years (4/2) and then studying at an engineering school for an additional two or three years.
A Future in Physics
Physics grads have gone on to Harvard, Michigan, Rice, Syracuse, Colorado State, LSU, Texas A&M, Stanford, Penn State, MIT, UTD, Northwestern, and Arizona!
They also work at prominent companies, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions, such as Texas Instruments, Apple, Dallas Semiconductor, Washington Safety Management Solutions, Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, Tyco Electronics Power Systems, Habitat for Humanity, Ft. Worth Independent School District, Austin Peay State University, LSU, and the University of Rochester.
Dilini Pinnaduwage, who graduated with a Ph.D. in applied physics from Harvard University, completed an honors project in physics with Dr. Larry Robinson as thesis director. The title of her thesis was “Constructing an External Cavity Diode Laser.”
Nathan Drake conducted research at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California on dust devil tracks near the North Pole of Mars under the supervision of AC’s own Dr. Baker. His work provided valuable information on possible landing sites for the Mars Phoenix lander, which was published in Geophysical Research Letters, a top-tier scientific journal.
Mark Hagge graduated from Austin College in 2013 with a B.A. in Physics and Mathematics. He went on to participate in a joint MS/MBA Program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in Electrical Engineering and Business.
John Donor graduated from Austin College in 2014 with a B.A. in Physics. He went on to pursue a Ph.D. at TCU in Astronomy.
Heather Quantz’s senior honors thesis investigated the vortex dynamics in a single crystal of the high temperature superconductor YBa2Cu3O7-d with Dr. Andra Petrean. Heather presented the results of this work at the Spring 2007 Meeting of the Texas Section of the American Physical Society.
Allison Schmitz won a Fulbright Scholarship to study general relativity in Barcelona, Spain. This research expanded on her senior honors thesis with Dr. Don Salisbury on quantum cosmology.