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Physics

Physics seeks to explain the natural world with a comprehensive set of fundamental laws. It teaches you how to describe the universe mathematically.

Randolph College students study the physics of rollercoasters

Why Study Physics at Randolph?

A physics major earned in the context of a liberal arts education prepares you for a wide variety of careers.

Governmental, academic, and industrial research are obvious options, but the training you receive in analytical reasoning also prepares you well for medicine, engineering, law, and business.

Randolph offers bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees as well as teacher licensure with a physics emphasis and a powerful 3-2 engineering program.

The program at Randolph is based on learning by doing.  Our students have numerous opportunities to conduct advanced research with professors, participate in internships, present their research and projects, and participate in one of the nation’s best student physics clubs.

Degrees offered

Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics

Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering Physics

Bachelor of Arts Degree in Physics

Bachelor of Arts Degree in
Physics Education

Minor in Engineering

Minor in Physics

Teacher Licensure with an emphasis in Physics

View the Physics Curriculum and Course List

Opportunities for Experience

Research

Students have many opportunities, on and off campus, for research. Recent research topics have included, among others, “Host Galaxies of Active Galactic Nuclei,” “Monte Carlo Simulations of Electron Cascades in Solids,” and “Surface Adsorption of Polymers.” 

Internships and Study Abroad

Many students participate in internships and study-abroad and summer research programs. Physics and engineering majors have participated in summer programs at:

  • NASA
  • University of Virginia
  • College of William and Mary
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Lehigh University
  • Bucknell University
  • Kansas State University, and
  • Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory

 

Summer Research Program

Spend the summer working closely with a professor and focused on a specific aspect of physics.

Randolph’s intensive eight-week Summer Research Program enables students to conduct research that is complemented by a thorough review of the relevant literature; live in a residence hall on campus, participate in on-campus summer events, attend special seminars with guest speakers; and share the progress and results of their research.

Learn more about the Summer Research Program.

Senior Capstone

Physics and engineering seniors cap their major by researching and presenting topics to faculty and students. Recent topics have included:

  • Measuring the Variable Star VZ Cancri
  • Design and Construction of a Nitrogen Laser
  • Scripting Interactive Physlets for Use as Teaching Tools
  • Cellular Automata as a Means of Modeling Physical Phenomena
  • Monte Carlo Modeling of JLab Spectrometers
  • Adsorption Isotherm of Nitrogen on a Nuclepore Surface at 77K

The Society of Physics Students

The College has an active chapter of the Society for Physics Students, dedicated to celebrating the fun side of science and promoting STEM through community service.

Consistently recognized as one of the most outstanding chapters in the nation by the national organization, recent activities include building a human-sized hamster wheel, giant Newton’s cradle, hosting a science festival for local schoolchildren, and attending conferences of the American Physical Society.

Community Service: Randolph College SciFest

Every year the Society of Physics Students organizes and hosts SciFest, a 3-day science and learning festival for local schoolchildren.

Randolph student and faculty volunteers lead activities, exhibits, labs, and talks designed to get young girls and boys interested in and excited about science, technology, engineering, and  math (STEM).  

In addition to science activites for both elementary and preschool students, guests enjoy national guest speakers, a Pi Day fun run, women in science panel,  poetry jam, LEGO league, drones and robots, petting zoo, and more.

The free event draws thousands of children and families to campus every year. 

SciFest

Historic Preservation Law

Janie Campbell ’12, history major
Preservation Consultant, law firm of Rogers Lewis Jackson Mann & Quinn, LLC, Columbia, South Carolina

Janie’s group works with developers seeking tax credits for rehabilitating historic properties.

“I work closely with project architects to ensure that historic, character defining elements of each building are preserved and restored, which can vary tremendously as what is significant to a 1929 airplane hangar is vastly different from what makes a 1963 mid-century modern motel unique!”

She writes National Register of Historic Places nominations and Historic Preservation Certification applications, which detail the property’s significance.  She also conducts site visits to ensure work is being completed as described and photographs the before, during, and after conditions of each project.

“Randolph certainly laid the foundation for my research and writing skills. The Summer Research Program, in particular, prepared me for the type of place-based research I do now. “

Opportunities

Only at Randolph

Randolph students can take advantage of unique programs which give them a more enriching education than can be found anywhere else.

TAKE 2

Two courses per half-mester means you get to focus in and dig deep into your coursework while still having time for the rest of the college experience. Two classes. Seven weeks. Repeat.

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The Liberal Arts Advantage

Randolph graduates learn to think critically, solve problems and work well with others. They are prepared to succeed in all aspects of life.

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The Randolph Plan

Randolph students work with faculty mentors to explore a broad range of disciplines as they chart their academic path.

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Money for Your Research

The Randolph Innovative Student Experience (RISE) program provides every student a $2,000 grant to fund research, creative work, experiential learning or other scholarly pursuits.

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Top Ranked Professors

Randolph College’s faculty are consistently recognized as among the best in the nation. The Princeton Review ranked the College 18th for most accessible professors in the 2020 edition of its flagship college guide, The Best 385 Colleges.

Randolph has been ranked in the top 20 for most accessible professors for three consecutive years.

Physics Faculty

Peter Sheldon

Professor of Physics, Director of the Center for Student Research

Read More... Peter Sheldon

Katrin Schenk

Associate Professor of Physics

Read More... Katrin Schenk

Department News

Randolph announces 2020-21 Academic & Leadership Awards

2020-21 award winners

Read More

Virtual Science Festival to feature ‘Physics of Superheroes’ author

During “The Uncanny Physics of Superhero Comic Books,” James Kakalios will discuss how the stories can be used to illustrate fundamental principles of physics

Read More

Alumna's foundation awards $30,000 grant to support SUPER

Randolph College has been awarded $30,000 from the Barbara C. Noyes Charitable Foundation, Inc., to support the Annual Fund for […]

Read More

Sheldon records lecture for College Board's AP program

Randolph College physics and engineering professor Peter Sheldon recently recorded an online lecture for the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) program.

Read More

National Science Foundation awards nearly $1 million to Randolph's SUPER program for mental health, inclusion initiatives

This is the third time the College has received a grant from the NSF in support of SUPER. In 2013, Randolph was awarded a $600,000 grant that helped expand the program, followed in 2016 by $1 million that funded it through 2021.

Read More

Randolph announces 2020-21 Academic & Leadership Awards

2020-21 award winners

Read More

Virtual Science Festival to feature ‘Physics of Superheroes’ author

During “The Uncanny Physics of Superhero Comic Books,” James Kakalios will discuss how the stories can be used to illustrate fundamental principles of physics

Read More

Alumna's foundation awards $30,000 grant to support SUPER

Randolph College has been awarded $30,000 from the Barbara C. Noyes Charitable Foundation, Inc., to support the Annual Fund for […]

Read More

Sheldon records lecture for College Board's AP program

Randolph College physics and engineering professor Peter Sheldon recently recorded an online lecture for the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) program.

Read More

National Science Foundation awards nearly $1 million to Randolph's SUPER program for mental health, inclusion initiatives

This is the third time the College has received a grant from the NSF in support of SUPER. In 2013, Randolph was awarded a $600,000 grant that helped expand the program, followed in 2016 by $1 million that funded it through 2021.

Read More
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Department Chair

Peter Sheldon

Professor of Physics, Director of the Center for Student Research

Credentials:B.A., Amherst College
M.A., University of Massachusetts
Ph.D., University of Massachusetts
Associated Departments:Engineering, Physics
Office:Martin 316
Phone:4349478488
Email:psheldon@randolphcollege.edu

Peter Sheldon is the Chair of the Physics Department, Director of the Dual-Degree Engineering Program, and Director of the Center for Student Research. He has a Ph.D. and an M.S. in Physics from the University of Massachusetts, and has a B.A. in Physics and a B.A. in Mathematics from Amherst College. Dr. Sheldon’s research net is wide: he is by education a low-temperature physicist, but has picked up the fields of ultrafast laser spectroscopy and physics education research in the last ten years. He has published in all of these fields.

Dr. Sheldon is currently working on two grant-funded projects. He has a grant from Verizon and the VFIC to improve technology education for under-represented groups, and a grant from SCHEV (State Council of Higher Education in Virginia) to train elementary and middle school teachers to better teach science.

Another of Dr. Sheldon’s specialties is bringing physics to the general public. He regularly gives talks to all age groups on Amusement Park Physics, Newton’s Laws, Pseudoscience, Why Cats Land on Their Feet, and of Innovative Uses of Technology. He is certainly a computer geek, and teaches and uses computers extensively. A selection of Dr. Sheldon’s publications include “Scientific Inquiry: Improved Learning,” with Peggy Schimmoeller, and Tatiana Toteva, Academic Exchange Quarterly 13 (2009); “3He spin diffusion measurements in 3He-4He mixture films,” P. A. Sheldon and R. B. Hallock, Physical Review Letters 85, 1468 (2000); and “Short pulse excitation and spectroscopy of KNbO3, LiNbO3, and KTiOPO4,” H. M. Yochum, P.A. Sheldon et al, Radiation Effects and Defects in Solids 150, 271 (1999).

Along with Kacey Meaker ’08, Dr Sheldon is currently writing a book that will appeal to a popular audience or an introductory physics class, on the physics of roller-coasters.

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Katrin Schenk

Associate Professor of Physics

Credentials:B.S., University of California at Los Angeles
M.S., Cornell University
Ph.D., Cornell University
Associated Departments:Engineering, Physics
Office:Martin 324
Phone:4349478489
Email:kschenk@randolphcollege.edu
Website:https://www.facebook.com/groups/234404713261414/

News Headlines

Katrin has a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Cornell University and now does computational neuroscience/ethology research. She received her training in computational neuroscience during her tenure as a Sloan-Swartz Postdoctoral Fellow in Computational Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco.

Her research is focused on understanding the underlying dynamics of animal behavior and how knowledge of these dynamics can inform us about the effects of disease processes and environmental and/or genetic perturbations. Her research makes use of real behavioral data taken by collaborators in the fields of psychiatry, physiology, neurology, neuroscience and medicine and her main plans involve long term collaborations with experimentalists in the fields of geriatrics, psychiatry, and physiology.

She came to Randolph College because she is passionate about involving undergraduates in original research and because Randolph College’s high faculty to student ratio, flexible administration, and committed science faculty make it an ideal environment for fostering collaborations with undergraduates.

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