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Physics and Engineering Physics

Senior physics majors Matthew Tuttle-Timm, left, and Jacob Herman at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory in Michigan in the summer of 2016. They participated in an experiment to measure a new form of radioactivity.
  • Careers/internships
  • About the program
  • What students say

Physics majors study a range of physics topics — including thermodynamics, mechanics, astrophysics, electricity and magnetism, and quantum physics — with much flexibility, depending on interests.

The engineering physics major is designed for students interested in the applied side of physics or the 3-2 program.

Many physics graduates pursue technology careers, while others enter graduate programs in physics, engineering or education. Engineering physics majors can take advantage of the college's coordinated-degree program, through which a student can earn both a bachelor of arts from Augustana and a bachelor of science in engineering from an engineering school. Currently, Augustana has agreements with Washington University and Northern Illinois University. Other popular choices include the universities of Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota, Iowa State, Michigan State and Purdue University.

A sampling of recent graduates

Mark Hoffmann '14 is vice president of analytics and co-founder at 38th Street Studios in East Lansing, Mich., a software company.

Peter Draznick '14 is a co-founder at 38th Street Studios.

Abdul Rahman Merhi '15 is a graduate teaching assistant at Iowa State University.

Steven Ash '11 is the co-Owner at Exclusive Saver, Moline, Ill.

Amelia Wietting '09 is an IT Analyst IV at John Deere, Moline, Ill.

Gabriel Caceres '08 is a graduate research fellow in the department of Astronomy and Astrophyics at Penn State. He received a Ph.D. there in 2016.

Augustana College offers a major and minor in physics, a major for teaching physics, and a major in engineering physics. The five full-time faculty all hold a Ph.D., and teach all laboratory sessions as well as regular coursework.

Augustana ranks in the top 10 percent of small colleges in the U.S. for its number of physics majors.

Physics majors study a range of physics topics, including thermodynamics, mechanics, astrophysics, solid state and quantum physics.The engineering physics major is designed for students interested in the applied side of physics or the 3-2 program.

Physics majors who want to pursue engineering can take advantage of the college's coordinated degree programs with engineering schools in the Midwest: Purdue, Iowa State, University of Iowa, University of Minnesota and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Through these programs, a student can earn both a bachelor of arts degree from Augustana and a technical bachelor of science degree in engineering from the university.

Augustana's variety of study-abroad options includes the physics and German learning community, Science in Society: Switzerland and Germany. During this 6-credit spring course, students explore some of the most important European sites for technology, innovation, physics and engineering.

Physics facilities include the college’s John Deere Planetarium and Carl Gamble Observatory, along with four area-specific laboratories in the Hanson Hall of Science: basics lab, optics and modern physics lab, electronics and acoustics lab, and the scanning electron microscopy lab.

Abdul Rahman Merchi '15, engineering physics and computer science; Winner of the Swedish Council of America's 2015 Glenn T. Seaborg Science Scholarship; pursuing a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Iowa State University of Science and Technology

"I am always and will always be grateful to Augustana College for the great education it gave me-especially the physics and astronomy department for its great generosity and amazing professors. "

Natalie Viscariello '15, physics and applied mathematics; Graduate student in medical physics at the University of Wisdonsin-Madison.

"When I came into Augustana, I thought I wanted to study German, biology or maybe physics. I definitely didn't expect to be going to graduate school in medical physics, but my time here helped me find my passion.... I'm in a much more exciting place than I thought I would be. All of my professors and friends have given me opportunities and support throughout my time here. They've helped me to become a better person and a better thinker. I've learned to be more confident in my ideas and that I can actually be an effective leader. I've learned that I can handle a lot, academically or otherwise."

Stuart Casarotto '14, engineering physics major, environmental studies and mathematics minor; Graduate student in mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder.

"Many professors and administrators helped me to reach the point where I am. Professors helped me construct and complete a crazy schedule. Administrators helped me start two clubs and allowed me to sit on two important committees. Because of the group I helped start-called AugiePonics-a hydroponics wall for growing food was installed in the dining center. I will miss some of the great professors most. Many of them have really changed my future for the better, and I will miss being able to go into their offices just to hang out."

Gravitational waves? Q-C experts weigh in

A team of scientists announced they officially found gravitational waves — but, why exactly is that a big deal? “This is like finding a needle in a haystack, except probably on a bigger scale,” said Dr. Cecilia Vogel, professor of physics at Augustana. “Let’s say there’s a conversation going on three miles away and you can suddenly hear it with your ears. The event of the black holes colliding from so far away is really hard to detect, so it’s really impressive."

Internship on, off the court brings growth to Motzel's game

Senior Brandon Motzel, a pre-medicine and physics major, interned at the Texas Medical Center last summer. In addition to the academic benefits of the internship, he tested his skills against players from Rice University in pick-up basketball games. That experience is paying off for Motzel, whose play has helped set a tone for the Vikings since he moved into the starting lineup earlier this month

Students present poster, co-author paper

Two research students working with Dr. Nathan Frank presented a poster, "Unbound Resonance of 26F," at the American Physical Society's Division of Nuclear Physics meeting in October 2015. They also are co-authors on a recently published article, "Two-neutron sequential decay of 24O."

Frieze Lecture: a new universe

Dr. Cecilia Vogel, Augustana professor of physics, discusses how the publishing of Einstein's Theory of Relativity in 1915 revolutionized thinking about the universe. This is the fourth in the 2015 Frieze Lecture Series, an 18-year partnership between the Rock Island Public Library and Augustana College. The series theme this year was "1915 - A Landmark Year."

Merhi earns scholarship, will attend Nobel ceremonies

Abdul Rahman Merhi '15 will mingle with Nobel Laureates this December. He's the latest recipient of the Swedish Council of America's prestigious Seaborg Scholarship, which comes with a trip to the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar. Merhi is one of 25 young scientists from around the world to attend this year's seminar and Nobel ceremonies.
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