2014-2015 Catalog


Division I Chair: M. Saderholm

Program Chair : T. Hodge

Faculty: T. Hodge, T. Messina, and M. Veillette




The mission of the Physics program at Berea College is to provide unparalleled opportunities for learning and research in physics supported by the highest quality teaching and mentorship.  The Physics program offers a rigorous, comprehensive curriculum that is designed to (a) prepare students to enter graduate schools or private industry en route to careers as professional physicists; (b) provide a liberal arts degree to students who are interested in careers for which a background in physics is advantageous, such as engineering, medicine, computer science, and secondary science teaching; and (c) provide service courses for majors in other sciences, including chemistry, pre-medicine, technology, and agriculture.  Our courses introduce students to the nature of scientific inquiry, grounded in problem solving that calls on both practical and quantitative reasoning skills.

We are committed to the idea that students should participate in significant research experiences as part of their undergraduate curriculum, culminating with the independent Senior Seminar research project.  The physics curriculum begins with a foundational three-semester sequence in classical and modern physics that includes a significant laboratory component.  The Advanced Laboratory course offers the opportunity for students to become familiar with modern research instrumentation and techniques. In addition, all Physics faculty direct undergraduate research projects, and we encourage students to apply for undergraduate research opportunities at other institutions. The Physics Program’s resources include a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded X-ray diffraction instrument; a fully equipped optics laboratory; a digital electronics laboratory; a laser-ablation setup; a Time of Flight (TOF) mass spectrometer; an observatory with a 16-inch Cassegrain telescope; and a planetarium. Computing facilities are also available to students, including laptops and a few PCs running Linux as well as those running Windows, operating systems.

Upon completion of the Physics major, students will be able to

  1. Describe important historical developments in physics, and explain the importance of physics within the wider context of a liberal arts education.
  2. Demonstrate a working knowledge of the fundamental concepts, theories and problems in classical mechanics, thermal physics, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics at the intermediate level.
  3. Analyze and solve contextually rich, real world problems in physics using appropriate mathematical and computational techniques.
  4. Design, construct, and carry out a scientific experiment and report on the results through both written and oral communication.
  5. Read, analyze, and summarize primary sources in physics, astronomy, and related disciplines.

A strong background in Physics is essential in any Engineering field, so the Program also offers a dual-degree 3-2 Engineering Program through which students can become certified engineers. The interdisciplinary Applied Science and Mathematics major (see separate program in this section of the Catalog & Student Handbook) is recommended for students planning to pursue the dual-degree program. In this program, a student attends Berea College for three to four years, and then completes the Engineering degree at the University of Kentucky (Lexington).