Why study Physics? The aim of physics is to study nature at its most fundamental level—to discover and apply the general laws that govern force and motion, matter and energy, space and time.
Physics can be as concrete as the stresses in a bridge or as abstract as the curved spacetime near a black hole. It studies systems ranging in size from the smallest elementary particles to the entire universe. Physics lies at the heart of the natural sciences. Almost any piece of modern scientific instrumentation is based on principles of optics, electronics, or nuclear physics—and such apparatus usually has its origins in basic work done by physicists. Almost any scientific problem can be approached using the ideas and methods of physics, which is why there are many "hybrid" disciplines such as astrophysics, biophysics, and geophysics. The central position of physics among the sciences means that it is an ideal starting point, not only for physics research, but for many kinds of scientific and engineering work. It also means that physics is a perfect academic focus for a liberal arts education.
Why study Physics at Kenyon? The Kenyon Physics Department is staffed by six full-time faculty members , with interests ranging from condensed matter physics to colliding galaxies, from quantum information processing to advanced medical technology. In addition, we have two part time faculty members and a director of laboratories who also has a Ph.D. in physics. That is nearly one-to-one support for the 6-8 physics majors we graduate each year. We teach a wide range of classes, including "general education" physics and astronomy courses, introductory surveys of physics, and advanced courses in theoretical and experimental physics. Our home is the new Rutherford B. Hayes Hall at Kenyon, opened in the fall of 2000, where we enjoy state-of-the-art classroom and laboratory facilities.
As proud as we are of our building and equipment, the most important thing in our department is something less tangible: the process of learning and discovery that makes a first-rate physics education. We try very hard to create an atmosphere of collaboration among the faculty and students in the department. Students work together in many courses and participate as colleagues in physics research and in departmental projects. They find here a rigorous grounding in fundamental physics, together with opportunities to pursue their own interests and investigate fascinating scientific problems.
The best measure of our department is the success of our students, both in their undergraduate work at Kenyon and in their pursuits after graduation. Many of our students go on to graduate school in physics, related sciences, or engineering, and they wind up at some of the best graduate institutions. Others pursue medical school, computer science, teaching, or a career in business.
Along the way, we also manage to have a great deal of fun! To get some of the flavor of life in the Physics Department, you might take a look at our photo album.