# Physics

Interested in subatomic particles, gravitational waves, dark matter, and supernova explosions millions of light-years away? By studying Physics and Astronomy at Dordt University, you’ll explore the theories that describe physical reality. You’ll uncover surprising and satisfying insights into the beauty of Creation. You’ll learn to design experiments, build mathematical and computer simulations, and create models that describe and predict physical behaviors of the world around us.

Whichever aspects of physics and astronomy you’re interested in, our program will prepare you for a career in research, in industry, or for a post-grad position in nanotechnology, medicine, or even law.

## Program Overview

Dordt’s physics and astronomy program focuses heavily on the connection between the fundamental laws of physics and God’s handiwork throughout all of creation. Students do more than simply learn from a textbook. Physics and astronomy students conduct tests and research in Dordt’s top-of-the-line facilities, which include multiple labs, a dome observatory, experimental equipment, and more. Students also find unique internship opportunities, have opportunities to present at national conferences, or get published in scientific journals.

Our physics and astronomy faculty members are committed to high-quality teaching and the department’s student-to-faculty ratio is excellent. That means you get more focused and individualized teaching and instruction throughout your time at Dordt. To put it simply, Dordt graduates leave school fully prepared for a long and successful career in physics or astronomy.

### What can I do with a major in physics and astronomy from Dordt University?

Along with learning through Dordt’s challenging physics coursework, most physics majors work as laboratory or teaching assistants. This combines student employment with on-the-job training in research and teaching. Through those opportunities, students learn to run labs and help sessions for introductory-level courses. You’ll learn to apply theories, solve problems, read, write, and speak about physics and astronomy with excellence, and weave your Christian faith into every aspect of your work.

##### Applications Engineer

An Application Engineer develops and improves software.

##### Systems Analyst

System Analysts develop diagrams that aid in the development of computer systems.

##### Astronomer

An Astronomer uses equipment to study the different aspects of space.

## Career Preparation

Dordt University's 2023 Career Outcome Rate was 99.4%! “This data point tells us that Dordt graduates are prepared for the careers of their choosing,” said Amy Westra, director of Career Development. “A Dordt education provides students with industry-relevant courses and connections that make a difference.”

## Physics Major

Dordt’s physics and astronomy program focuses heavily on the connection between the fundamental laws of physics and God’s handiwork throughout all of creation. Students do more than simply learn from a textbook. Physics and astronomy students conduct tests and research in Dordt’s top-of-the-line facilities, which include multiple labs, a dome observatory, experimental equipment, and more. Students also find unique internship opportunities, have opportunities to present at national conferences, or get published in scientific journals.

To learn more, you can also view the program strengths and learning outcomes for this program.

Along with learning through Dordt’s challenging physics coursework, most physics majors work as laboratory or teaching assistants. This combines student employment with on-the-job training in research and teaching. Through those opportunities, students learn to run labs and help sessions for introductory-level courses. You’ll learn to apply theories, solve problems, read, write, and speak about physics and astronomy with excellence, and weave your Christian faith into every aspect of your work.

A degree in physics will require students to complete various physics, chemistry, computer science, and mathematics courses. This coursework includes at least four credit hours of lab work.

**Introductory Physics I**: An introduction to the study of the physical aspect of reality for students intending to continue in the physical sciences and engineering.

Linear and rotational kinematics and dynamics, statics, and gravitation will be covered. Three lectures and one laboratory period per week.**Introductory Physics II**: Continuation of Physics 231. Topics covered include fluid, oscillations, waves, heat and thermodynamics, and electricity. Three lectures and one laboratory per week.**Perspectives in Physical Science**: Historical, philosophical, and theological perspectives on the physical sciences are discussed and developed. The historical and contemporary roles of Christianity and other influential forces in science are considered. Prominent positions in the philosophy of science are examined. Aspects of the complex interactions between Christian faith and the physical sciences are discussed.**Introduction to Light, Energy, and Matter**: Advanced classical and introduction to modern physics topics. Optics, advanced waves, semiconductors, and modern physics topics in particle, nuclear, and quantum physics are covered.**Classical Mechanics**: Lagrangian and Hamiltonian dynamics, general rigid body motion, theory of vibrations and waves, planetary motion, and chaos are studied.**Electromagnetic Fields**: Review of vector calculus; divergence, curl, Gauss’ and Stoke’s theorems; electro- and magneto-statics; polarization; boundary conditions; Laplace and Poisson equations; magnetic vector potential; energy; Maxwell’s equations for time varying fields; wave propagation; and Poynting’s theorem.**Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics**: The study of heat, the laws of thermodynamics, thermodynamic generating functions, Maxwell’s relations, kinetic theory, partition functions, and classical and quantum statistics. Three lectures per week.**Modern Physics**: Developments in modern physics: special relativity, atomic nature of matter and electricity, wave and particle aspects of electrons and light, quantum theory and applications to the study of atomic and molecular structure, condensed matter physics, particle and nuclear physics. Three lectures and one laboratory period per week.**Physics Research and Methods**: A physics research course for senior-level physics students that focuses on developing problem solving and critical thinking skills involved in physics research. In collaboration with one or more faculty mentors, students will choose and conduct a research project. The course will be offered in a project-based format with regular progress reports, an integral literature review, and experimental design projects. Research results will be presented in a departmental seminar.**Principles of Chemistry**: A study of the fundamental principles of chemistry and an introduction to foundational issues in science. Topics include atomic and molecular structure, chemical equilibria, chemical kinetics, chemical thermodynamics, and electrochemistry. An introduction to laboratory safety and chemical hygiene is included in the laboratory. This is the first course in chemistry for majors in the physical and life sciences. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory period per week.**Programming I**: An introduction to computer programming. Basic notions of abstraction, elementary composition principles, the fundamental data structures, and object-oriented programming technique are introduced. Topics include variables, control structures, arrays, and input/output.**Calculus I**: A study of the basic concepts and techniques of calculus for students in all disciplines. Topics include limits, differentiation, integration, and applications. This course is intended for students without any previous calculus credit.**Calculus II**: Continuation of Mathematics 152; a study of transcendental functions, integration techniques, Taylor series approximations, calculus in polar coordinates, vectors, calculus of vector valued functions and applications of calculus. Students with one semester of calculus credit should take this course instead of Mathematics 152.**Multivariable Calculus**: A study of differential and integral calculus of functions of several variables, and line and surface integrals.**Differential Equations**: An introduction to the theory and techniques of solving elementary differential equations and the use of these techniques in applied problems.**Quantum Chemistry**: Quantum mechanics as applied to chemical systems. An introduction to quantum theory including a study of the postulates and simple systems. Application of quantum mechanics to atomic and molecular structure and bonding. Theoretical foundations of atomic and molecular spectroscopy. An introduction to computational methods of quantum chemistry. An overview and critique of philosophical theories relating to the meaning of quantum mechanics. Three lectures per week.**Solar System Chemistry**: A detailed survey of the chemistry of the Sun, planets, satellites, asteroids, and comets. Topics include the origin of the elements and clues regarding the formation of planetary systems including exoplanetary systems, the comparative geochemistry of the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars), and the atmospheric chemistry of the gas giant planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) based upon ground, orbital, and spacecraft observations, and implications for a Christian understanding of the origin and history of the Earth and the Solar System.**Programming II**: A continuation of Computer Science 115. The course includes advanced programming techniques, in-depth examination of object-oriented principles, good programming style including documentation, basic data structures including array lists and linked lists, and basic algorithm design, with attention to the sorting problem.**Elementary Linear Algebra**: An introductory study of vectors, matrices, linear transformations, vector spaces, determinants, and their applications, with particular emphasis upon solving systems of linear equations.**Numerical Analysis**: A study of numerical methods for integration, differentiation, calculus of finite differences, and applications, using the computer.**Discrete Structures**: A study of topics in discrete mathematics that are relevant to computer science and mathematics, including logic and proof, induction and recursion, elementary set theory, combinatorics, relations and functions, Boolean algebra, and introductory graph theory.**Introduction to Univariate Probability**: An introduction to the theory and techniques of general probability and common univariate probability distributions. Topics include but are not limited to basic set theory, introductory probability rules (independence, combinatorials, conditionals, Bayes theorem, etc.), common univariate distributions (e.g., binomial and normal) and expected value/variance. This course, along with Mathematics 216, also serves as preparation for Actuarial Exam P/1. Offered first half of the semester.**Introduction to Multivariate Probability**: An introduction to multivariate probability distributions. Topics include but are not limited to joint probability density functions, conditional and marginal probability distributions, moment generating functions, covariance and correlations, transformations and linear combinations of independent random variables. This course, along with Mathematics 215, also serves as preparation for Actuarial Exam P/1. Offered second half of the semester.**Advanced Linear Algebra**: An advanced study of vector spaces including matrices, linear transformations, orthogonality, the singular value decomposition, and applications.**Abstract Algebra I**: An introduction to algebraic structures focused on rings and fields. Connections between the ring of integers and the ring of polynomials over a field are developed and explored. Brief attention is given to groups.**Real Analysis I**: An introduction to the content and methods of single-variable real analysis: infinite sets, the real number system, sequences, limits, series, continuity, differentiation, and integration.**Complex Analysis**: A study of the complex number system, functions of complex numbers, integration, differentiation, power series, residues and poles, and conformal mappings.**Statics**: A mechanics course that examines the effects of forces and moments applied to rigid and deformable bodies in equilibrium. Students will analyze concentrated and distributed force systems applied to static particles, rigid bodies, trusses, frames, and machines.**Dynamics**: A mechanics course that examines the kinematics and kinetic analysis of particle systems and rigid bodies.**Linear Circuits and Electronics**: Assumes a prerequisite knowledge of DC electrical circuits, including the definitions of electrical quantities, circuit elements (sources, resistors, capacitors, inductors), understanding of Kirchhoff’s laws and basic concepts in AC circuits such as frequency and phase. Topics in this course include: general linear circuit analysis including Norton’s and Thevenin’s theorems; superposition; nodal and loop analysis; natural and forced responses in RLC circuits; and sinusoidal steady state analysis. The course also gives introductions to operational amplifier circuits, single stage BJT transistor circuits, and steady-state balanced 3-phase power calculations. The lab includes a formal design project.**Elements of Materials Science**: Studies the relationship between structure and properties of various materials, including metals, ceramics, polymers, and semiconductors. Students will learn how atomic and molecular arrangements, as well as manufacturing processes, influence the mechanical, electrical, and thermal properties of a material. Introductory topics in metallurgy in this course include the examination of effects of processing (heat treatment and manufacturing) and service environment on microstructure and properties. Laboratory explorations in materials engineering introduce concepts in experimental design and data analysis.**Individual Studies**

##### OPPORTUNITIES

Most Dordt physics majors work as laboratory or teaching assistants. They combine student employment with on-the-job training in research and teaching as they learn to run labs and help sessions for introductory-level courses.

Physics majors have opportunities to do summer research with faculty mentors on- or off-campus. Often these projects lead to national conference presentations or published journal articles. Some examples of recent student research activity include:

- A research internship at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- NASA-funded research on the dynamics and transport of air within the polar vortices of the stratosphere
- Studying laser light scattering through stretched polymer films
- Investigation of the radiation dose on CT imaging-based measures of lung tissue mechanics
- Analysis of chest impacts with and without chest protectors to understand the link between impacts and Commotio Cordis
- Experimental modeling of various viscous fluids inside a cylinder rolling down a ramp
- Simulations of dark matter particles accelerated by Fermi Boosting in Supernovae shock waves

##### RESOURCES

The physics and astronomy program offers:

- Two laboratories, one for introductory and one for upper-level courses and student projects
- An optics lab
- A 12-foot dome observatory on the roof of the science building
- Computer workstations and experimental equipment to study such areas as holography and laser optics, high-temperature superconductors, nuclear radiation, acoustics, electro-magnetism, fluid mechanics, and astrophotography
- Laboratory equipment for modern physics experiments such as atomic absorption spectrophotometer, nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, Fourier-transform infrared spectrophotometer, fluorescence spectrometer, gas chromatograph, ultra-violet/visible spectrophotometer, high-pressure liquid chromatograph, and gas chromatograph.

## Physics Minor

If you have an interest in stuff like subatomic particles, gravitational waves, and dark matter, but plan to pursue a career in another major, consider a minor in physics and astronomy. You’ll better understand the physical behaviors of the world around us. You’ll explore the theories that describe physical reality. And you’ll uncover surprising and satisfying insights into the beauty of Creation. All while supplementing whatever major you choose with practical skills and insights gained from a physics and astronomy minor.

Learn More## Noyce Scholars Program

Physics students can also learn to teach STEM subjects at the secondary or post-secondary level. The Dordt Noyce Scholars Program has been established to encourage STEM students to consider a teaching profession.

Noyce Scholars receive $15,000 scholarships each year to support their progress toward teaching licensure in a STEM field.

## Education Emphasis

An education emphasis is also available with the physics program. As you study physics you'll also train in education, giving you the tools to teach others.

Learn More### Ready to take the next step?

## Faculty

With experience in a variety of fields, our faculty members are equipped and ready to help you succeed.

Faculty Info## Science and Technology Center

As a Physics and Astronomy Major, you'll have the opportunity to spend time in Dordt's Science and Technology Center. Informally known as the "Science Building", the Science and Technology Center is home to large and small laboratories for **organic and physical chemistry** and two **physics** laboratories.

## Student Stories

Dordt students and alumni use their gifts to make a difference in the world. Check out their stories to see how Defender Nation lives out our mission to work effectively toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life.

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## Related Programs

Still looking for the right fit? Here are some additional program options that we think might interest you or are often paired with this program. You can also view the programs page to keep exploring your options.