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.
Star Party at the Austin College Adams ObservatoryFriday, October 25th10:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. | Come-and-go eventFREE and Open to the Public, Rain or Shine!
- RooProducts: 3D Design and Printing in 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?
- 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.
Unique Student Opportunities
At Austin College, 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.
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 tack the unknown problems of tomorrow.
Diverse, Collaborative Environment
Our students help each other. The atmosphere is collaborative rather than competitive, learning from everyone’s diverse strengths. Many physics majors double-major in another subject, while others are involved in extracurricular activities on campus such as student government, choir, theatre, 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.
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.
- Vince Gregoric, Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics
- Andra Petrean, 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.
Meet Our Alumni
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.
Major: Physics – Minor: Math and Chemistry – Bio: Amy was a senior majoring in physics and minoring in mathematics and chemistry. From a young age, I was drawn to the stars, and by the time I was a teenager, I knew that I wanted to study astronomy. Knowing how beautiful and mysterious the universe… [Read More]
The learning experience that Austin College provided me has been INVALUABLE. By providing a completely customizable education that allowed me to select the courses I was interested in and projects I wanted to work on, Austin College prepared me for roles I did not yet know I would take on. I feel that Austin College… [Read More]
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.”
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.
John Donor graduated from Austin College in 2014 with a B.A. in Physics. He received an MS in physics from TCU in 2017 and his PhD is pending in 2020. He currently works as a graduate assistant at TCU in Ft. Worth.
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.
My experience at Austin College successfully prepared me for doctoral study. Experiential learning gave me the ability to quickly acclimate to varying teaching modalities used by my graduate professors and developed skills in critical thinking that allowed me to hit the ground running when I begin my dissertation research. I am proud to be an… [Read More]
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.