Physics at Carleton


The scope of physical studies--from atoms to galaxies--is well represented in the imaginative curriculum of Carleton's physics and astronomy department, as well as in the specialties of individual faculty members here. Interested students can choose from 38 regularly-offered courses. A low student-faculty ratio means many opportunities to interact with teachers. 

Physics studies are centered in Olin Hall, with spacious teaching laboratories, research areas, and computer facilities. Students have ready access to modern research equipment, including extensive electronic instrumentation and laboratory computers, a high-purity-germanium gamma detector, a seven-inch laboratory electromagnet, an optical spectrograph, multipurpose diffractometer, an ultra-high vacuum system, and a cryogenic system.  Staff members with electronics and computational expertise maintain the experimental and computational tools and assists assist students and faculty members with special projects. Located in adjoining Mudd Hall is the physics machine shop with the services of an experienced instrument maker. Students can participate in the Robotics Club, take AutoCAD classes, and work with various levels of research robotics, as well.

Students with a special interest in astronomysummer4 normally complete a physics major, with emphasis on courses and projects relevant to astronomy. Goodsell Observatory, where many of these activities are carried out, was built in 1887. It contains a 16 inch Brashear visual refractor and an 8-inch Alvan Clark refractor which can be converted to do digital photography. Other equipment includes seven portable Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes with optional computer control, seven CCD cameras and a spectrograph. In addition, students have the opportunity to do computer analysis of optical and radioastronomical data gathered at various U.S. national observatories and to travel to these facilities for observations.

Students interested in engineering careers can take advantage of Carleton’s Combined Plan in Engineering, offered in cooperation with the Columbia University School of Engineering and Washington University in St. Louis.