Physics

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Program Overview

The study of physics teaches students the laws that govern nature and the interaction of matter and energy that underlie all physical phenomenon. It is the study of how the world works, from fiber optic communications to bridges and radio antennas to subatomic particles and the galaxies and stars.

Fairfield’s physics program introduces students to the foundational theories of physics, including gravity, electricity, and magnetism, as well as quantum, classical, and statistical mechanics. Through the applied components of the curriculum, students receive a comprehensive education focused on the physical methods that create modern technology and learn to apply physical principles and theoretical models to logically predict the behavior of the universe. Lab work, along with independent and team research, teach critical thinking and problem solving skills accompanied by experience in the use of instrumentation.

The foundational science in engineering and technology, physics also has deep connections to medicine and material science. Upon completion of the program, students will gain the necessary skills for entrance into graduate study or to pursue careers in health, computer science, medicine, law, and education.

STEM at Fairfield University

Requirements & Curriculum

Required Courses

General Chemistry I & General Chemistry I Lab
General Chemistry II & General Chemistry II Lab
General Physics I & General Physics I Lab
General Physics II & General Physics II Lab
Classical Mechanics
Modern Physics
Modern Experimental Methods Lab
Computational Physics
Modern Optics & Modern Optics Lab
Thermal and Statistical Physics
Electricity and Magnetism
Quantum Physics
Three (3) 2000-level or higher Physics elective courses
Five (5) Math courses
Theoretical/Experimental Capstone
General Physics I & General Physics I Lab
General Physics II & General Physics II Lab
Modern Physics
Modern Experimental Methods Lab
One (1) additional 2000- or 3000-level Physics course

A detailed list of course requirements, offerings, and more can be viewed in the University’s course catalog.

Faculty-Student Research

The College of Arts and Sciences empowers and encourages undergraduate students from all disciplines to conduct innovative, in-depth, and collaborative research under the guidance and encouragement of faculty experts. Each year, more than 300 faculty-student research projects are conducted in the areas of STEM, the humanities, arts, and social sciences, more than half of which are presented at national scholarly meetings and/or published in professional journals and manuscripts.

After sophomore year, physics majors have the opportunity to work as research assistants during the academic year or the summer months. During the summer, research assistants receive a salary for their intern work and gain invaluable experience in the laboratory while making worthwhile contributions to faculty research activities .

Over the last few years, students have participated in studies of:

  • The physical properties of diamond films
  • The construction of calorimeter models for elementary particle detection systems
  • Photoluminescence of porous silicon and other advanced materials
  • Transport phenomena in semiconductors
  • Neutron activation analysis and gamma-ray analysis applications in environmental science studies.

Check out some of our recent physics research projects below, then visit the College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate research webpage to learn more.

Impact of Social Mixing in Submarine Canyons

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Impact of Social Mixing in Submarine Canyons

Physics majors Christian Burns ’20 and Jordan Hamilton ’22 participated in a summer long research study alongside Assistant Physics Professor Robert Nazarian, PhD, on the global impacts of ocean mixing in submarine canyons. Often tens of miles long, submarine canyons are suggested to be regions of intense ocean mixing, a process that is responsible for sustaining the ocean’s circulation, as well as the global climate system.

Utilizing a high-resolution ocean topography map and computational model for energy fluxes to calculate the total amount of ocean mixing occurring in submarine canyons located along the continental shelf, the researches set out to determine the total amount of energy that is lost in marine canyons as a result of this mixing.

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Detector Simulation & Data Quality at Jefferson Laboratory

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Detector Simulation & Data Quality at Jefferson Laboratory

The internal structure of nucleons, called protons and neutrons, are still vastly unknown to scientists. Many laboratories dedicated to the field of nuclear physics are still trying to get a better understanding of these particles, including Jefferson Laboratory in Virginia, one of the leading facilities in the world studying how quarks, the fundamental components of most particles, are distributed within the nucleons.

For his research project, physics major Richard Capobianco '19 worked under the mentorship of professor Angela Biselli, PhD, to study the optimal configuration for an upcoming experiment at Jefferson Lab that would reduce the background noise coming from nuclear electrons – noise that could inhibit the physicists’ ability to produce legible results. He also aided researchers by performing data quality tests for each run of the detector. Towards this end, he compiled relevant data tables displaying significant results from each run into a centralized location, making the results more accessible, in addition to providing an easier method of seeing how the results of the experiment vary between runs of the detector.

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Contact Microscopy

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Contact Microscopy

Over the course of the summer, physics student Edward Wenzel ’10 worked alongside faculty mentor David Winn, PhD, to investigate methods of developing a form of lensless microscopy. The researchers worked together to write a design proposal for a specific kind of microscope that could look into the human body with a wider field of view.

For Field-of-View (FOV), Time, and Opacity, Wenzel proposed a contact microscope with an array of individual “pinhole camera pixels,” similar to the eye of a fly or a lobster, that would be in contact with a back-illuminated clear surface or one immersed in a clear, soft material/liquid, like the ones used on a microscope slide. To image opaque materials or objects in contact with the microscope, he also proposed an alternative design using half the pixel collimators to illuminate the adjacent pixels on the object.

If developed, a lenless microscope like the one proposed in his findings, could allow scientists to better determine and diagnose diseases within the human body, including various forms of cancer.

More About Physics

Life After Fairfield

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Life After Fairfield

Upon graduating with the BS in physics, students have a number of career options available to them, including graduate studies leading to the MS and PhD degrees in any subfield of physics, industrial careers in research and development, and professional careers where a physics background, or more generally, a science background is an asset. Examples include:

  • Medicine
  • Biophysics
  • Astronomy
  • Computer science
  • Science education

Many Fairfield physics graduates go on to pursue advance degrees at prestigious institutions across the country. Others have secured employment at major industrial organizations. Whatever their occupation, their degree in physics signifies a true intellectual achievement and is the basis for a financially and creatively productive life.

Physics majors at Fairfield are broadly educated in a liberal arts context and follow diverse career paths. Graduates of the last several years have chosen:

  • Medical School
  • Optometry
  • Environmental Education
  • Secondary School Teaching
  • Regulatory Affairs for Medical Instrument Manufacturers
  • Computer Engineering

A substantial portion of our graduates have gone on to pursure advanced study in physics at:

  • Georgetown University
  • Columbia University
  • SUNY - Stony Brook
  • Colorado State University
  • Tufts University
  • Yale University

Learn how Fairfield's Career Services can support your post-graduate goals, and how our tight-knit alumni network can build career and mentoring opportunities that last a lifetime.

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Student Activities

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Student Activities

A student majoring in physics at Fairfield has excellent opportunities for learning and maturing intellectually and professionally. Among the most important aspects of these opportunities are:

  • A close-knit relationship with other physics majors and with faculty who are routinely available to mentor students in class, in their offices, and in research laboratories
  • The opportunity to participate in the student-organized Physics Club, which arranges for various hands-on projects, guest speakers, and field trips
  • The opportunity to join the Society of Physics Students and the Physics Honor Society (Sigma Pi Sigma). These two organizations are student sections of the American Physical Society which numbers more than 40,000 members nationally and internationally
  • For qualified students, the opportunity to participate in the Honor's Program at Fairfield University, and for students with an exceptional academic record of achievement, the opportunity to be elected to the country's premier honor society, Phi Beta Kappa
  • Opportunities for summer research as paid research assistants on campus or in NSF sponsored summer intern programs at other institutions throughout the country.

Student Resources

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Student Resources

The Net Advance of Physics
Managed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), The Net Advance of Physics features a large collection of review articles and tutorials in many areas of physics that are arranged by subject.

AIP/APS Virtual Journals in Science and Technology
Jointly developed by the American Physical Society (AIP) and the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the Virtual Journals of Nanoscale Science and Technology collect relevant papers from a broad range of physical science journals, including those published by the APS and AIP, as well as selected journals from participating publishers in AIP's Online Journal Publishing Service.

The Exploratorium
The Exploratorium is a public learning laboratory exploring the world through science, art, and human perception. They create tools and experiences that help students become active explorers, inlcuding hundreds of explore-for-yourself exhibits, a website with over 35,000 pages of content, film screenings, and more. They also create professional development programs for educators and are at the forefront of changing the way science is taught.

NASA Science
The NASA Science website offers the latest news, reseach, and discoveries in all space-related sciences and technology.

American Physical Society
The American Physical Society (APS) is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 55,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world.

Faculty

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Faculty

‌‌The College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University is home to a vibrant community of engaged faculty, dedicated staff, and accomplished scholars devoted to the process of invention and discovery and excited by the prospect of producing knowledge in the service of others. Meet the dedicated members of our Physics Department.

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