“For all those considering physics, the best kept secret of Guilford’s physics department is the profound relationship that develops between students and professors.”
- David Jackman ’09
Physics is the study of how nature works from the tiny parts that make up atoms to the largest structures in the universe. It forms the foundation of knowledge used in astronomy, computers, electronics, engineering and has numerous applications in biology, chemistry, geology and medicine. Physics also represents a way of solving problems that relies on clear, analytical and often abstract thinking. This discipline is grounded in reality as demonstrated by experiment.
At Guilford, the physics program emphasizes active experimentation and student-driven research throughout its curriculum. The laboratory sequence stresses experimental techniques and collaborative research as well as communication skills. As students progress, they learn how to design their own experiments, write proposals and present their work to fellow students in the department’s weekly department-wide seminar. Through this process, faculty work closely with students and help them develop necessary critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
As a capstone experience, students create, design and carry out their own original thesis projects. Students present their work both as a written paper and as a public talk and frequently also present their thesis at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) or other conferences. Graduate schools and employers are attracted by applicants who can work independently, effectively address and solve complicated problems and communicate well with others. This thesis experience—unusual for undergraduate students—prepares our graduates for success in a wide range of fields and sets them apart from other applicants.
Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and have a broad spectrum of interests and career goals. The department maintains a strong alumni network that provides numerous employment opportunities; graduates come back every two years to share research and work experience and scout for potential colleagues among current Guilford physics students. Our graduates know how to think critically and solve complicated, long-term projects. You can find them obtaining advanced degrees in computer science, engineering, geography, mathematics, medical physics, medicine and security studies. Other alumni are running software companies, doing research in academia and industry, teaching high school math and physics or serving in AmeriCorps.
“The lesson that continues to surprise me most of all is how to think about a problem. There is a fine line between considering too many elements of a problem and not considering enough.”
- Kif Rivera
Recent internship sites for physics majors include:
American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.
College of Wooster
Institute for Systems Research at the University of Maryland
Max Planck Institute for Space Physics in Germany
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
PROMPT: Panchromatic Robotic Optical Monitoring and Polarimetry Telescopes” at UNC Chapel Hill
Various study abroad locations around the world
The physics program at Guilford emphasizes research and experimentation throughout its curriculum. Students in introductory courses learn to work with equipment, quantify experimental uncertainties and present results in journal format. The experimental physics sequence stresses laboratory techniques, cooperative research and clear, thoughtful presentation of results. In this sequence of courses, students design experiments, act as principal investigators, write journal articles and give talks for peer review.
This research experience culminates in a thesis research project that must be original and designed by the student. The results are presented in a written thesis and public talk. Students frequently present papers at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) and other conferences. Each year the department grants the Jeglinski Physics Award, in memory of Boleslaw Jeglinksi and Michael Jeglinski, and the Helen and Winslow Womack Physics Research Award, to those students whose research projects were selected from all proposals submitted to the department. These awards may be used to help purchase equipment, fund a stipend and support travel to a professional conference.
Students are also given the opportunity to present original research projects at Guilford’s Undergraduate Symposium.