Featured Department: Physics

The Physics Department serves essentially every Science and Engineering student at CBU. In addition to its service courses, the department offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and in Engineering Physics. Most people recognize that you can teach with a physics degree, and we do have a program for teacher licensure in physics. There are lots of other career options with a physics degree. Our recent majors have entered graduate programs in physics and other related disciplines at institutions including Harvard, Tufts, Vanderbilt, University of Tennessee, University of Arizona, University of Kansas, and University of Memphis.

Dr. Varriano is running the Science Trivia contest last fall

Dr. Varriano is running the Science Trivia contest last fall

As with other Sciences’ departments, the Physics Department has a student organization on campus. The CBU chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) is open to all students with an interest in physics. Dr. Ted Clarke serves as the faculty moderator. The chapter has been active this year holding a Science Trivia Night with CBU and Rhodes SPS in fall, helping out with the Science Olympiad where they served as supervisors for 3 events and assisted with 5 other events, and assisting with the Science Fair.

Faculty members in the department are committed to teaching physics and continually “hone their craft”.  Dr. Clarke was elected TAAPT president for the 2014-15 year.  CBU will host the conference in the coming spring (2015).

The department will offer honors sections of Physics I and Physics II beginning in the fall 2014 semester.  These sections are open to students that participate in the Honors Program (http://www.cbu.edu/academicsupport/honors/)  at CBU.  These two courses, PHYS 150 and 251, are calculus-based introductory physics courses designed for physics, chemistry, mathematic, computer science, and engineering majors.  In addition to the coursework that all students are assigned, the students must complete extra assignments that are at a more advanced level to receive the honors credit.  The addition of these two physics courses will facilitate the completion of the honors requirements for science and engineering majors.  Dr. Ted Clarke readily supported this initiative saying that, “It will be a pleasure to help these students earn their honors certificate while showing them how physics can be used to describe more complicated problems.”

The department members are continuing their efforts of incorporating computer-aided instruction into physics education. Dr Johnny Holmes and Dr. John Varriano have worked on a project called Computer-Assisted Homework for Physics (CAHP) that consists of 48 individual programs that provide physics homework problems for students in which the computer immediately grades and provides feedback to the students. Drs. Holmes and Varriano updated these programs to run more easily in the Windows environment, and these programs are available to the public for free. So far over 750 people world-wide have downloaded these programs. CBU students have consistently indicated on student evaluations of courses that these programs are a valuable learning tool. Dr. Varriano recently prepared video presentations of solutions to over 90 practice problems for his Physics I and II classes. The videos show the solutions being worked out by hand with audio commentary. They are posted on-line and can be played from any browser. Dr. Varriano reports that many of his students found the videos to be very helpful. Dr. Ted Clarke uses an on-line textbook with electronic resources including web-based assigned problems.  The department members also have worked out various simulations for labs and for upper level courses.

Moment of Inertia Lab in Physics

Students working on a moment of inertia lab for Physics I. (Students normally work in groups of 2, but we had some camera hounds!)

PHYSICS LABS: We have many lab courses to accompany our lecture courses (PHYS 150L, 251L, 252L, 201L, 202L, 415L, 452) so students get to investigate in a hands-on way the theories that are discussed in class. The department has designed the lab experiments to directly support the lectures, and the faculty have written their own lab manuals (10 of them!). The manuals are very efficient since they are custom made for our experiments and our equipment. The manuals are posted on-line for students to download free of charge.

While physics majors “enjoy” their many hours of coursework, they seem maybe more excited when they get to perform their senior research projects.  A senior project is required for graduation because of the enriching experience that students gain.  Students can do their research either at CBU or at some other institution.  Rebekah Herrman, Physics & Mathematics 2014, was inducted into the CBU chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honor society, this month.  Sigma Pi Sigma honors outstanding scholarship in physics, encourages interest in physics among students at all levels, promotes an attitude of service of its members, and provides a fellowship of persons who have excelled in physics.  Rebekah will be returning to Oak Ridge National Laboratory this summer to continue her work on quantum computing.  She then begins her graduate studies in physics at Louisiana State University this coming fall.