Department of Physics

Overview

The Department of Physics at USM offers a B.A. in Physics with three faculty members pursuing research topics in Physics and Astronomy such as Light Scattering, studies of Asteroid Composition and Dynamics, Stellar Classification, Computational Physics, Brownian Motion, and Torsion Pendulum Physics. 

Many of our graduating seniors have gone on to Ph.D. programs, some have taken jobs in industry. If you're interested in studying the most fundamental of sciences, this is the place to be. If you are interested in going on to graduate school, we encourage you to work hard and pursue work on a research project with one of our faculty members. You can see more information on research in the department on our Research page.

 

Mission

The departmental goal is to develop and maintain a high quality undergraduate physics program with graduates emerging with a high degree of skeptical and critical thinking skills. We do this by offering a rigorous physics major emphasizing fundamental concepts and building the more advanced tools needed to understand theoretical and experimental physics. We strive to prepare all physics majors with the knowledge and tools they need to be successful in graduate study, industry, or any field where critical thinking and quantitative reasoning skills are valued—these tools include data and error analysis, writing and typesetting professional papers and making presentations, and working together as a team to complete scientific research projects. We’d like our physics program to be counted among the best in Maine. In addition, we strive to offer engaging and rigorous service and core curriculum science courses, we encourage original research involving undergraduates, and we provide service to the greater community through public lectures, volunteering at high schools, and providing researching opportunities for high school students. We offer six different introductory courses (each with an associated laboratory) which contribute to the mission of the institution, and several upper level courses (Non-Classical Physics (211), Intermediate Laboratory (240), and Computational Physics (261) which are frequently taken by students in other majors.

Student learning outcomes

We want physics majors to emerge from our program with a solid understanding of the structure of the rules by which nature operates, and also to simultaneously develop the quantitative and analytical skills needed to work with these rules to make predictions about the behavior of physical systems. We work on building these skills through a multitude of means: lectures, discussion, socratic questioning in lecture and laboratory, problem sets, peer instruction, laboratory reports and oral presentations, as well as through computer simulations. We encourage students to work together while working on problems, for this peer interaction promotes enhanced learning of the material; we also encourage students to work on research with a faculty member. The following are our learning outcomes and have been adapted based upon the recommendations of the Institute of Physics. Graduates of our program will be able to 1) tackle problems in physics and formulate an appropriate solution; 2) use mathematics and computational tools to describe the physical world; 3) plan, execute, and report the results of an experiment or investigation; 4) evaluate obtained physics results critically with predictions from theory.