Do you like to get lost in the stars or figure out how objects move through time and space? Are you curious about electrons, laser holograms, computer chips, electronic gadgets, satellites, radios or superconducting magnets? Explore the physics behind these concepts with a major that studies the basic principles and laws of the universe, on which engineering and technology are based.
The physics program at Central College prepares students for industrial jobs, graduate school and research, teaching, engineering jobs and other technical areas. Students benefit from the one-on-one attention provided by faculty devoted to teaching and working with students. Many physics majors continue directly to graduate school to study engineering on the graduate level at various universities across the nation.
Senior chemistry and physics major Andrew Johnson likes learning how things work, and fixing things that don’t. He’s heading to graduate school for biochemistry or chemical biology.
Central offers courses in physics theory, problem-solving skills and experimental techniques, with an emphasis on science as a method for learning about the world. Students are prepared to be able to reason from the general fundamental principles to specific applications in physics and engineering. Central students trained in physics are highly qualified and work in a variety of technical and engineering specialties.
Introductory courses such as General Physics I, General Physics II and Modern Physics I lay the foundation for the physics major. Both the junior and senior years include electives chosen by students based on their specific areas of interest. The physics major culminates with two semesters of advanced physics laboratories.
Many Central physics majors continue their education in various areas of engineering. Central College offers a dual-degree program in engineering with Washington University, Iowa State University or the University of Iowa. The program culminates in a B.A. degree from Central and a B.S. in engineering from the engineering institution. Students spend three years in the small-class, liberal arts setting at Central and then enroll at the engineering institution.
A broad background in science, mathematics and the liberal arts, as well as Central’s emphasis on communication skills, helps students become thoughtful, creative and productive engineers. Central’s engineering program is highly regarded by engineering graduate school faculty members, as Central’s graduates have a reputation for being well prepared.
Central’s Vermeer Science Center was awarded the silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating from the United States Green Building Council, the first LEED-rated building in the state. Students have direct access to classrooms and laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation and equipment.
A lab for the electronics course allows students to experiment with a variety of analog and digital circuits, and even build microcomputers. The advanced labs support a large variety of experiments including cloud chamber, Cavendish balance, laser optics, bomb calorimeter, Compton Effect, photoelectric effect, radioisotopes, Michelson interferometer and optical pyrometer.
The Central physics department is licensed by the state of Iowa to own and use a plutonium-beryllium neutron source and a cesium gamma-ray source for experiments in atomic and nuclear physics. The on-campus observatory with an 11-inch reflector telescope allows students to observe planets, stars and other celestial objects.
Students can use an x-ray diffractometer and a high-vacuum system with a mass spectrometer to conduct additional research projects. The physics program is also supported by a mechanical shop with a mill, lathe and welding equipment.
Funding for research in physics is made possible through the Arthur J. Bosch Endowment for Student Research, which supports collaborative research projects with faculty and alumni during summer breaks.
Students are encouraged to study abroad with one of Central’s international programs to enhance their development as global citizens, or with partner programs in Chicago, Washington, D.C. or New York City. Learn more about Central’s study abroad programs.
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