Physics at Gustavus

Olin Hall
SPS Picnic

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 Department

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 careers thereafter.

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
Olin Hall of Science is the home of the Gustavus Physics Department.

The Facilities

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 state-of-the-art building.

Classical III Lab
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 or employment.

Optics Lab
Optics Laboratory containing modern optical equipment typically found in the research environment.

The Graduates

1995 Graduates
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 Program

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, chemistry.

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 their professions.

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.

The Faculty

Dick Fuller

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 Celestron telescope.

Dennis Henry

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

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

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

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

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.

Ice Cream Social
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,
Admissions Department
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:
Additionally, the physics department is always happy to meet with potential students and provide a guided tour of our facilities.
Three Crowns