If you're fascinated by the hows, whys and what-ifs of the physical world, a major in physics might just be for you. Physicists study the laws and patterns that govern God's world.

Overview

With in-depth course offerings and small class sizes, a Calvin physics degree is excellent preparation for careers in research, high-tech industry and high school teaching. Alumni have been accepted into top graduate programs in physics, applied physics and astronomy. 

A number of academic options allow you to tailor your program to your specific goals, including:

  • A 32-credit-hour program that combines well with minors such as scientific computing and engineering
  • An in-depth 58-credit-hour program that leads to a bachelor of science in physics 
  • Minors in optics and astronomy

Other opportunities

  • On the "Astronomy in the Southwest" January interim course, you can visit major telescopes throughout New Mexico and Arizona, visit major geological sites to study the history of our own planet and work with Calvin's own telescope in Rehoboth, New Mexico. 
  • In a summer research project with a professor, you will gain hands-on experience in studying an open-ended question on the frontiers of physics and astronomy. Recent examples of projects: computer simulations of helium atoms, measuring electrical signals in neurons, and discovering new types of variable stars.  Learn more »

"Calvin physics has more than prepared me for graduate classes. ...I was awarded the 'excellence in teaching' award for graduate students, which I completely attribute to the wonderful examples I had at Calvin for how to teach physics."
—Charlotte DuLaney '11

Careers in Physics

See job placement rates for Calvin grads.

Student involvement

Join the department for seminars on cutting-edge research and meals at professors' homes; gain valuable experience as an observatory assistant (operating Calvin's telescopes), homework grader, or lab assistant.

Keep Exploring

Visit the department's website

Related News


Goldwater tradition continues: Students earn top research award

from News and Stories

By the numbers

Top 5%
Calvin’s ranking among baccalaureate colleges whose graduates go on to earn PhDs.
75%
Physics majors who do summer research with a professor
55
journal articles and books produced by physics faculty 2002–2012

Course Requirements 2013-14

Physics major

(at least 32 semester hours)

  • PHYS-133 Introductory Physics: Mechanics and Gravity
  • PHYS-134 Matter, Space, and Energy
  • PHYS-235 Introductory Physics: Electricity and Magnetism
  • PHYS-246 Waves, Optics, and Optical Technology
  • PHYS-306 Introduction to Quantum Physics (or higher level substitutes)
  • Two or more advanced theory courses from:
  • Two or more advanced laboratory courses from:
  • Departmentally approved electives to bring the total to at least 32 hours
  • Two semesters of PHYS-195 Physics and Astronomy Student Seminar
  • Two semesters of:
    • PHYS-295 Seminar in Physics, Technology and Society
    • PHYS-296 Studies in Physics, Technology and Society

Cognates (at least 13 semester hours)

  • One course from:

    • CS-104 Applied Computing
    • CS-106 Introduction to Scientific Computation and Modeling (recommended)
    • CS-108 Introduction to Computing
  • One course from:
  • MATH-172 Calculus II
  • One course from:
    • MATH-270 An Introduction to Multivariable Calculus
    • MATH-271 Multivariable Calculus (recommended)
  • MATH-231 Differential Equations with Linear Algebra (recommended)

The 32-hour major is intended primarily for students seeking a flexible program, e.g., who are also majoring in another discipline or earning an engineering degree but have an active interest in physics. The major satisfies the college?s concentration requirement for graduation with a BA degree.

Students wanting a BS degree must complete a total of at least 58 semester hours of science and mathematics. Students interested in a physics-related career who want to earn a BS degree based upon a physics major should complete the above minimum requirements plus:

  • at least one more advanced theory course
  • PHYS-395 Physics Research, Writing, and Presentation
  • MATH-231 Differential Equations with Linear Algebra
  • One integrative studies course from:
    • IDIS-310 History of Physical Science
    • PHIL-203 Understanding Natural Science: Its Nature, Status, and Limits

Students planning to pursue graduate study in physics should take the above, plus :

  • all the advanced theory and laboratory courses
  • MATH-333 Partial Differential Equations
  • as many as possible of:
  • Students are also strongly encouraged to participate in summer research.

Students interested in a career in astronomy or astrophysics should major in physics, minor in astronomy, and plan their programs with L. Molnar.

Physics minor

(at least 20 semester hours)

  • PHYS-133 Introductory Physics: Mechanics and Gravity
  • PHYS-134 Matter, Space, and Energy
  • PHYS-195 Physics and Astronomy Student Seminar
  • PHYS-235 Introductory Physics: Electricity and Magnetism
  • PHYS-246 Waves, Optics, and Optical Technology
  • One two-course pairing from:
    • PHYS-306 Introduction to Quantum Physics and PHYS-295 Seminar in Physics, Technology and Society
    • PHYS-296 Studies in Physics, Technology and Society and PHYS-335 Classical Mechanics
  • higher level physics courses may be subsituted with the approval of the deparment.

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Calvin College Course CatalogCurrent students please download your course catalog for complete degree requirements.

Scholarships

Dollar amounts reflect awards given for the 2013-14 academic year.

Ivan E. and Rebecca J. Boerman Scholarship
  • award amount: $1,250
  • first-year
  • HS GPA of 3.3+
  • financial need considered
  • apply through the physics department
Debra Deur Scholarship
  • award amount: $3,800
  • sophomore, junior or senior
  • GPA of 3.0+
  • financial need required
  • apply through the Calvin Portal
Gabrielse Scholarship
Roger D. Griffioen Physics and Astronomy Scholarship
  • award amount: $1,650
  • first-year
  • GPA 2.5+
  • financial need not required
  • prospective students apply through the Physics Department; automatic consideration for returning students
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Scholarship
R. and J. Iwema Education Scholarship
  • award amount: $3,000
  • junior or senior
  • GPA of 2.5+
  • financial need required; intending to teach math or science in grades 6-12
  • apply through the Calvin Portal
William J. and Glenda Masselink Scholarship
  • award amount: $2,100
  • junior or senior
  • GPA of 3.0+
  • financial need required; pursuing pre-dentistry, pre-medicine or physics
  • apply through the Calvin Portal
NSF Scientific Computing Scholarship
  • award amount: $4,000 to $8,000
  • any class level
  • GPA of 3.0+
  • financial need required; US citizen; full-time student; demonstrate an interest in scientific computation and modeling
  • apply through the Integrated Science Research Institute
Secondary Science Education Scholarship
  • award amount: $2,400
  • sophomore, junior or senior
  • financial need required; major in secondary science education
  • apply through the Calvin Portal
Steensma Family Physics and Astronomy Scholarship
  • award amount: $2,500
  • sophomore, junior or senior
  • financial need considered
  • apply through the Calvin Portal
Tetzloff Scholarship
  • award amount: $1,250
  • sophomore, junior or senior
  • GPA of 3.0+
  • financial need required; preference given to those from Minnesota or the midwest
  • apply through the physics department
VanDerWoude Science Scholarship
  • award amount: $3,500
  • junior or senior
  • GPA of 3.3+
  • financial need not required
  • apply through the Calvin Portal
John and Lillian Van Oosten Scholarship
  • award amount: $2,900
  • junior or senior
  • GPA of 3.0+
  • financial need required
  • apply through the Calvin Portal
Howard and Betty Van Till Scholarship
  • award amount: $1,400
  • sophomore, junior or senior
  • GPA of 3.3+
  • financial need not required
  • apply through the physics department
Veltkamp Secondary Science Education Scholarship
  • award amount: $2,100
  • junior or senior
  • GPA of 3.2+
  • financial need considered; declared major in the secondary science education program
  • apply through the Calvin Portal
View all scholarship opportunities

Faculty

Stanley Haan

Stanley Haan
Professor
Dean for Natural Sciences and Mathematics
SC 325 | SB 180
haan@calvin.edu
(616) 526-6442

Deborah Haarsma

Deborah Haarsma
Professor
Department of Physics and Astronomy
SB 181
dhaarsma@calvin.edu
(616) 526-6340

Loren Haarsma

Loren Haarsma
Associate Professor
Department of Physics and Astronomy
SB 260
lhaarsma@calvin.edu
(616) 526-8517

Paul Harper

Paul Harper
Associate Professor
Department of Physics and Astronomy
SB 161
pharper@calvin.edu
(616) 526-6408

Larry Molnar

Larry Molnar
Professor
Department of Physics and Astronomy
SB 173
lmolnar@calvin.edu
(616) 526-6341

Steve Platt

Steve Platt
Lab Services Coordinator
Department of Physics and Astronomy
splatt@calvin.edu
(616) 526-6329

Steven Steenwyk

Steven Steenwyk
Professor
Department of Physics and Astronomy
SB 175
ssteen@calvin.edu
(616) 526-8542

David Van Baak

David Van Baak
Professor
Department of Physics and Astronomy
SB 150
dvanbaak@calvin.edu
(616) 526-6275

Matthew Walhout

Matthew Walhout
Professor, Dean for Research and Scholarship
Department of Physics and Astronomy
SC 327
mwalhout@calvin.edu
(616) 526-6566

Talk to us

Matthew Walhout Matthew Walhout
Department Chair
Department of Physics and Astronomy
SC 327
mwalhout@calvin.edu
(616) 526-6566

Admissions

Connect with your counselor via email, phone, or in person. They'd love to hear from you and answer your questions!

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In the fall and spring our counselors travel throughout the world to meet with students—see if they'll be in your area!

Teach This

Interested in teaching? You can gain certification in Physics as a:

Calvin's teacher education program also contains education-specific course requirements that you must complete prior to certification. See course requirements for:

Professor Robert Keeley talks about the education program.

Learn More

Explore Calvin's teacher education program.

Contact Loren Haarsma for more information about teacher certification in Physics

Read the teacher education guidebook for more detailed information about certification.

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