Physics at Gustavus
The Gustavus Adolphus College physics
department has an active Society of Physics Students (SPS)
chapter which sponsors events such as student and visiting scholar
seminars, weekly walleyball or softball, as well as many fun social
events. Students, faculty, and the faculty's family members
enjoy one of the semi-annual physics picnics at which football or
softball are typically played (above). Additional highlights include
the Super Physicist Contest and the consumption of large quantities
of food. A good time is had by all.
The physics department in its curriculum, its student-centered research
projects, and its co-curricular activities endeavors to fulfill the immediate
and future needs and interests of a variety of students.
For those students who enlist in a regimen to become physical scientists or
engineers, we provide a comprehensive, unified, rigorous curriculum of
courses, collaborative research, and mentoring that will prepare them to
succeed in graduate studies at institutions of high standing and in flexible
For those students who study physics as a cognate discipline or in
preparation for careers in teaching or interdisciplinary fields, we provide
distinct courses to engage and enhance their skills for seeing the
connectedness among physical phenomena and theories and their primary field.
Olin Hall of Science is the home of the Gustavus Physics Department.
The Physics Department at Gustavus Adolphus College is located in the recently
dedicated (May 1991) Olin Hall of Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science.
Physics occupies approximately one-half of this 60,000 square-foot
Part of the eight-station Classical III Laboratory. It is dedicated for use by the introductory
electro- magnetism course.
The physics areas in Olin Hall were designed to meet the needs of the physics
faculty and students, with separate laboratory space being provided for each
course in the introductory sequence as well as upper level laboratory courses.
Additionally, research space is provided for each faculty member's
student-centered research program. A distinctive feature of the facility is
the incorporation of student office space for sophomore, junior, and senior
physics majors. These offices play a central role in fostering a sense of
common identity and camaraderie among our students. It is common to see
collaborative learning taking place at all hours of the day or night.
Students in the physics program at Gustavus have a clear sense of identity
and community usually found only in graduate or professional schools.
The facilities available to the physics majors also include an extensive
inventory of modern equipment that is continually being expanded, often with
the support of external grants. Beginning at the introductory level, the
laboratories are equipped with a variety of computer-controlled data
acquisition instruments that enhance and speed up data collection,
allowing the student greater freedom to explore the physical phenomena
being studied. In keeping with the department's philosophy of preparing
students for a wide variety of careers, the advanced laboratories are
equipped with instruments typically found in research or industrial
settings. Students not only graduate with a knowledge of physics, but are
also prepared to take the next step in their career, whether graduate study
Optics Laboratory containing modern optical equipment typically found in the research environment.
Eleven members of the Class of 1995 along with physics faculty at Gustavus.
Students who are considering a major in physics often ask, "What can I do
with a physics major?" A physics major at Gustavus prepares you for a wide
variety of technical or even non-technical careers. It provides you with a
multitude of options. In fact, one of the best ways to answer this question
is to point out what past graduates have gone on to do.
Members of the graduating class of 1995 have been accepted into advanced
degree programs in applied physics, electrical engineering, law, materials
science, medical physics, medicine, and physics at major universities. As
in previous years, other members of the graduating class have secured
employment in related fields.
Past graduates are pursuing a truly diverse representation of careers
from Architecture to Biophysics, from Computer Science to Engineering
Management, from Chemical physics to Space physics, from Navy officer to
Tennis instructor, and from Agricultural to Mechanical Engineering. A
Gustavus education with a major in physics prepares you for your future.
The Physics Department at Gustavus Adolphus College offers a comprehensive
undergraduate major that is directed toward preparing students for graduate
work in physics, engineering and a variety of sub-specialties. The major is
built upon courses which are designed to be taken in a specific sequence.
These courses, together with others in mathematics, chemistry, and computer
science, will account for approximately half the academic credit earned by
majoring students during their four years.
In the first two years, students will study the principles of classical and
modern physics, using differential and integral calculus throughout. The
four-course sequence of Classical I, II, III, and Modern Physics constitutes
an elementary yet quantitative and thorough introduction to the basic
principles of classical mechanics, thermal physics, wave phenomena, optics,
electromagnetism, special relativity, quantum mechanics, condensed matter,
atomic and nuclear physics. During the same four semesters, students will
normally take four corequisite and prerequisite mathematics courses (Calculus
I, II, Differential Equations and Linear Algebra), plus a half-course in
Applied Calculus, offered in cooperation between the Mathematics / Computer
Science and Physics Departments. Students with demonstrated proficiency in
calculus may be able to start with Calculus II or a more advanced course.
During the upper-class years, the student will see virtually all of the basic
principles extended in topical courses at a more advanced level of conceptual
and mathematical sophistication. The student's experience with modern
laboratory instrumentation and techniques is similarly extended through
required courses in electronics and experimental modern physics as well
as various laboratories associated with the topical courses.
Although it is possible to fulfill the minimum graduation requirements for a
major in physics during the last three years in residence if the mathematics
courses (Calculus I and II) are taken in the first year, it is the strong
recommendation of this department that any student considering a major in
physics enroll in PH30 Classical Physics I and either MC21 Calculus I, MC25
Honors Calculus I, or MC22 Calculus II in the fall of their first year.
Alternately, the baccalaureate and graduate degrees in engineering or applied
science may be earned through several combinations of course and degree work
at Gustavus and at schools of engineering. Gustavus offers dual-degree
programs in engineering with Washington University School of Engineering
and Applied Science, St. Louis, the Institute of Technology at the University
of Minnesota, and Mankato State University. Dual-degree programs, may be
completed in five or six years, and offer joint studies leading to a B.A.
degree from Gustavus and a B.S. engineering degree from the university.
Professional registration in engineering usually requires a B.S. degree in
engineering. However, the combination of a Gustavus B.A. in physics with
the M.S. and/or Ph.D. in engineering is one often exercised by Gustavus
graduates. Students wishing to pursue graduate studies in engineering
without earning a baccalaureate degree in engineering should complete the
Gustavus degree with a strong major in physics or, for chemical engineering,
Traditional course work is just one facet of the educational experience in
the physics department at Gustavus. Most physics majors make use of this
knowledge base through their participation in a research experience. Such
experience pays many dividends including increased self-awareness,
motivation, and knowledge. Students graduate with a real sense of how and
why physicists and others involved in research and development carry out
Gustavus physics majors take advantage of this
opportunity (both Partners in Scholarship recipients and non-recipients alike)
through on-campus and off-campus research. The fields offering on-campus
research opportunities are many and varied, and include applied physics,
astronomy, astrophysics, biomechanics, condensed matter physics, nuclear
physics, optics, philosophy and history of physics, and the physics of
sound. All faculty members in the department are eager to have students
work with them. Many of these projects continue into the summer months,
with students receiving a stipend from an external grant secured by their faculty mentor. Publications or presentations are often the result of this
effort, thus enhancing the student's record for graduate and professional
school or employment.
Off-campus research opportunities typically take the form of summer
internships or assistantships, and are usually undertaken during the summer
before the junior or senior year. Gustavus students have had very good
success obtaining these competitive positions. Our students have conducted
summer research at many state and private university campuses, national
laboratories (e.g. Argonne, Los Alamos, Ames), private industry (3M, Cray
Research, GM, IBM), and other major professional settings (Mayo Clinic,
law firms, government agencies).
Additionally, the department has a long tradition of giving its majors
opportunities to assist other students and faculty in carrying out the mission
of the department. Sophomore, junior and senior majors, supported under
Work-Study, Special Approval, or Departmental Assistant funding, provide peer tutoring, assist in setting up and monitoring laboratory courses and
the observatory, grade some homework, and work in the department's shops.
These assignments, as well as faculty-student research, are recognized with
office privileges for many physics majors.
Richard M. Fuller B.A. DePauw, 1955; M.A. Minnesota, 1960; Ph.D.
Michigan State, 1965. Dr. Fuller joined Gustavus in 1968 and is a professor
in the physics department as well as the Dorothy Peterson, Mildred Peterson
Hanson and Arthur Jennings Hanson Professor in Liberal Studies. He is the
founding member of the current Gustavus physics department. Professor Fuller
is interested in the history and philosophy of physics (complementarity;
complexity and emergence) and has conducted research in biomechanics
(instrumentation studies of sports and motion) as well as solar energy.
He is pictured in the Olin Observatory with the computer-controlled 14-inch
Dennis C. Henry A.B. Wabash, 1967; M.S. Purdue, 1970; Ph.D. Iowa,
1978. Dr. Henry joined Gustavus in 1979 and has been chair of the department
since 1988. He currently serves as the pre-engineering advisor and
dual-degree officer. He particularly enjoys teaching the electronics
sequence, electromagnetic theory, and occasionally a U.S. railroad history
course. He set up much of the electronics laboratory with the assistance of a
National Science Foundation grant. Professor Henry's research is in the
areas of applied physics and electrical engineering, with emphasis on
low-frequency electromagnetic effects and magnetic materials. Many of his
research projects with students have arisen out of problems he has addressed
as a consultant to various industries. Recent projects have included
magnetic interference with CRT displays and measurements with
magnetorheological fluids. He is pictured in the electronics laboratory.
Thomas Huber B.S. St. John's, 1983; Ph.D. Wyoming, 1989.
Dr. Huber came to the department in 1989 and has been active in enhancing
the Nuclear Physics laboratory with the support of a National Science
Foundation grant. Professor Huber is a member of an international
collaboration studying Muon Catalyzed Fusion at the TRIUMF accelerator in
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Over the past five years, with support
from Research Corporation and the National Science Foundation, he and his
students have participated in the experiment during the summer and have
developed a Monte Carlo Simulation which is critical in understanding the
results of the experiment. Another project has him and his students
measuring the transient tones which occur as a pipe from a pipe organ
begins to speak. The data obtained from the computerized acquisition
system will be compared to simulations run on a Cray Supercomputer.
He is shown with one of his Silicon Graphics workstations.
Steven Mellema B.A. Gustavus Adolphus, 1972; Ph.D. Ohio University,
1983. Dr. Mellema returned to Gustavus in 1985 after serving in the Peace
Corps (in Malaysia) and then completing his graduate education. He developed
much of the experimental modern physics laboratory under a National Science
Foundation grant. Professor Mellema's principal area of research is
low-energy, experimental nuclear physics. He has been involved with
problems of polarization observables in few-body nuclear reactions and also
with a microscopic folding-model study of elastic and inelastic nucleon
scattering. Recently he has become interested in medical applications of
nuclear physics and radiation biophysics. In a completely different area,
he is interested in problems of astronomy and atmospheric physics related to
sky illumination and visibility of the young crescent moon. He also has a
strong interest in international education and Asian cultures. He is shown
in the Nuclear physics laboratory.
Charles Niederriter B.S. Gannon, 1978; M.S., Ph.D. Ohio University,
1985. Dr. Niederriter joined Gustavus in 1985 and has been extensively
involved in developing the introductory physics laboratories with the aid of
a National Science Foundation grant. Professor Niederriter's research
interests are many and varied. He currently is working on projects in
Condensed Matter Physics (measuring optical and electrical properties of
glasses), Surface Science (studying thin films with Scanning Probe
Microscopes), and Experimental (using CCD cameras) and Theoretical
Astrophysics (simulating solar system formation). He is also involved in
developing new exercises and simulations for laboratory and classroom use.
He is pictured in the Condensed Matter research laboratory.
Paul Saulnier B.S. University of Hartford, 1983; M.S., Ph.D.
University of Delaware, 1991. Dr. Saulnier became a member of the department
in 1993 and has been involved in the development of the Optics course and
associated laboratory with the aid of a National Science Foundation grant.
Professor Saulnier's research interests include light propagation in highly
scattering media and related topics. These disordered materials have
randomly distributed inhomogeneities contained in a uniform background
material (milk is an example of a naturally occurring disordered highly
scattering medium). Such systems are pervasive in nature, with examples
being found in biology, chemistry, electronics, geology, medicine, and
physics. Recent studies have included coherent back scattering of light,
low-coherence imaging, angular resolved scattering, photon temporal
distribution measure- ment, and photon correlation spectroscopy. He is
pictured in the Optics research laboratory.
Two physics majors at the Society
of Physics Students (SPS) ice cream social. They are making
ice cream using liquid nitrogen to cool the ingredients. It actually
tastes very good !
Need More Info ?
If you would like more information about or an application to Gustavus
Adolphus College contact the,
Gustavus Adolphus College
800 West College Avenue, Saint Peter, MN 56082-1498
Telephone: (507) 933-7676 or (800) GUSTAVU(S), Admissions Fax: (507) 933-6270
More information about the physics program can be obtained by writing
to the Physics Department at the college address or calling the
department at (507) 933-7308. Physics Department information can also
be obtained electronically,
WWW Homepage: http://physics.gac.edu
Additionally, the physics department is always happy to meet with
potential students and provide a guided tour of our facilities.