An education in physics is vital to developing a better understanding of the physical world and honing key technical skills for a 21st-century workforce. In the Gettysburg College Physics Department, you will learn to apply physics theories by solving problems and making measurements to deepen your understanding of the world. Students engage in meaningful research from sub-disciplines such as biophysics, nuclear physics, astrophysics, and plasma physics.
Explore the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree programs offered through the Physics Department at Gettysburg College.
Why study physics at Gettysburg College?
Society needs individuals who are willing to solve complex problems through logical reasoning. The Gettysburg College physics major prepares students to face various challenges, from analyzing large swaths of data for a government agency to creating processes to streamline production or educating others on how to solve difficult problems.
The Physics Department at Gettysburg College offers majors in physics toward the B.A. and B.S. degrees, as well as a minor and a dual degree in engineering. Each component of the bachelor’s in physics degree program prepares you to branch out into the diverse sectors of business, education, engineering, government, research, or technology.
Through the Gettysburg Approach, physics majors receive A Consequential Education that imparts a breadth and depth of knowledge through a rigorous liberal arts and sciences curriculum. Meaningful experiences in coursework and co-curricular activities obtained through the Guided Pathways enable students to build enduring skills such as critical thinking and problem solving to serve them in all their endeavors beyond Gettysburg.
Major in physics
The physics program is highly flexible, allowing you to curate your upper-level courses around your scientific interests. Both the B.A. and B.S. in physics require you to enroll in labs, foundational physics courses, upper-level physics courses, and participate in a research experience either during a summer experience or in a senior capstone course. Students in the Bachelor of Science in physics degree program take additional physics and math courses and are well prepared for industry or graduate school in physics, astronomy, or engineering. Due to the close overlap between physics and engineering, the physics major provides an excellent preparation for dual-degree engineering programs as well as engineering graduate programs.
The integration of a liberal arts and sciences curriculum encourages physics majors to actively engage with their peers and the world around them to solve problems.
Review the complete physics major requirements.
Minor in physics
Our six-course physics minor allows you to enhance your understanding of physics through 100-level and 200-level physics courses. You may find a physics minor intriguing if you seek a fundamental understanding of the field.
Review the physics minor coursework.
To ensure you receive a solid foundation for entry into the workforce or graduate study, the bachelor’s in physics degree program emphasizes hands-on learning.
Both the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science in physics degree programs aim to hone students’ problem-solving skills through a diverse range of courses, electives, and labs. As a physics major, you develop your understanding of the basic principles of physics through computational techniques, laboratory competence, mathematical modeling, research, and oral and written communication.
Explore physics courses.
Dual degree in engineering
Physics majors seeking two bachelor’s degrees have the unique opportunity to enroll in the dual-degree engineering program. This program combines the communication skills and creativity of a liberal arts education of the B.A. in physics degree program with the rigor of a highly regarded engineering program through one of four affiliated universities:
- Columbia University
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
- Washington University
- University of Pittsburgh
Successful completion of the dual degree in engineering degree program awards students with a Bachelor of Arts in physics and a Bachelor of Science in an engineering discipline from one of the four affiliated universities listed above. Below are several of the engineering degrees offered:
- Biomedical engineering
- Chemical engineering
- Civil engineering
- Computer engineering
- Electrical engineering
- Environmental engineering
- Materials engineering
- Mechanical engineering
- Systems engineering
What makes Gettysburg’s Physics Department different?
The Gettysburg College Physics Department emphasizes experiential learning in our classrooms, in our laboratories, and during research experiences. We emphasize theoretical and experimental experiences through several upper-level theoretical and experimental courses. Through the Physics Department, physics majors and physics minors have opportunities to participate in Gettysburg College’s premier research program, the Cross-Disciplinary Science Institute (X-SIG), which aims to make students Research Ready, Research Active, and Research Connected.
Students have access to unique facilities, such as the newly renovated Hatter Planetarium, CPU and GPU clusters, a plasma lab, a biophysics lab, a quantum-optics lab, a nuclear lab, a plasma lab, an observatory, and an in-house proton accelerator.
Through our course design and strong community, the Physics Department welcomes all interested students and is dedicated to ensuring their success.
The physics major at Gettysburg places a significant focus on research. You can participate in independent research, off-campus research, and student-faculty research. If you do not participate in a mentored research experience during the summer, you will have the opportunity to do hands-on research in your senior capstone course.
Physics majors may also gain valuable, real-world experience as a student assistant within the Physics Department through the following roles:
- Laboratory assistants
- Laboratory equipment setup
- Research assistants
- Special services
- Student checkers
Students interested in becoming a student assistant are encouraged to speak with a physics faculty member at the start of each academic semester.
Facilities and laboratories
The Physics Department features several facilities and laboratories accessible to Gettysburg College students.
The Physics Department offers a 250keV PN Van de Graaff accelerator with associated vacuum systems and nuclear instrumentation.
Biophysics instrument suite
Physics students can discover an inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometer, an atomic force microscope, a circular dichroism spectrometer, an isothermal calorimeter, and a transmission electron microscope.
Both 100-core CPU and 100-GPU clusters and standalone computers run home-built and commercial simulation software.
Learn about alpha and beta spectroscopy with surface-barrier detectors. This lab also offers gamma spectroscopy with NaI and high-purity Germanium detectors.
Experience laser diagnostics for studying ion behavior in a plasma chamber.
Physics students can explore the nature of quantum photons, testing Bell’s Inequality and the single-photon double-slit experiment.
The Hatter Planetarium
Since its development in 1966, the Hatter Planetarium has served the Gettysburg College campus and surrounding Gettysburg community by providing immersive, free planetarium shows such as “The Sky This Month,” detailing upcoming celestial events and astronomy news. This planetarium offers public and private group shows for schools and community groups from September to mid-May. The Hatter Planetarium also serves as a fully functional classroom.
The Machine Shop
The Gettysburg Machine Shop is devoted to unique student-faculty research. It includes power machinery such as band saws, drill presses, lathes, and a new milling machine. The Machine Shop is also an excellent resource for physics students who want to use various tools to conduct their senior projects.
Located on the northwest edge of the Gettysburg College campus, this unique installation is used for imaging and photometry of variable stars. The observatory dome houses:
- A 16-inch f/11 Ealing Cassegrain reflector
- Six Meade telescopes
- Three 8-inch LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes
- One 10-inch GPS LX200 telescope
- One 8-inch GPS LX200 telescope
- One 7-inch Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope
- An adjacent classroom that functions as a workspace containing a collection of maps and charts of the skies to assist with sky observation
The Gettysburg College Astronomers’ participate and periodically host the annual Central Pennsylvania Consortium Astronomers’ Meeting. Learn more about this event.
Upon graduating from Gettysburg College, students are prepared to answer the complex questions of our evolving world.
Gettysburg’s physics majors have gone on to work in fields such as astronomy, astrophysics, business, computer programing, education, engineering, health physics, law, mathematics, medicine, meteorology, and various sub-disciplines of physics. Whether you seek a B.A. or a B.S. in physics, you’ll have ample career options from which to choose.
Explore career options to learn more about post-Gettysburg employment.
Strong Gettysburg alumni network
All physics students have access to the Gettysburg Network via the connectGettysburg platform. Serving as the College’s online engagement, networking, and mentoring platform, connectGettysburg offers endless connections for networking with Gettysburg’s more than 32,000 alumni.