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Student in Physics lab.


Why? How? Why? How? Why? How? For many people who study Physics, these questions play on a loop—a soundtrack that drives them to understand the seeming mysteries at the heart of how our universe works. As a McDaniel Physics major, you can nourish this drive with hands-on access to great laboratories, helpful professors, thoughtful course sequences, and deep-dive research experiences.

Degree Types
Complementary Programs
Distinctive Requirements
Graduate Program Opportunity
3+2 or 4+1 with Washington University

One of the hallmarks of our department is close student-faculty interaction through small classroom settings and hands-on collaborative research, frequently undertaken in the Nonlinear Optics Laboratory (featuring Nitrogen-pumped dye-laser system producing 7 ns pulses and a Melles-Griot air-cooled, tunable argon-ion laser system).

Real Research, Real Collaboration

In fact, every McDaniel Physics and Pre-Engineering student partakes in a significant directed Physics research project. These projects have included thermoluminescence, computer modeling, the physics of sports, and optics and lasers. In addition, interested majors play an active role in the research programs of faculty. Students gain hands-on experience with the latest research techniques in the fields of Solid State Physics, Nonlinear Optics, and Physics Education.

Future Career Paths

A large number of Physics majors have been admitted to highly ranked universities to pursue graduate studies in Physics at programs  including the following:

  • Duke University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Purdue University
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Washington University at St. Louis

Physics graduates are prepared to purse many types of careers, including:

  • Data Analyst
  • Design Engineer
  • High School Physics Teacher
  • IT Consultant
  • Lab Technician
  • Laser Engineer

Distinctive Courses

PHY 1101 - General Physics I

The course will introduce students to the fundamental ideas that govern kinematics and dynamic motion for both linear and rotational systems, concepts of energy and momentum, simple harmonic motion, wave phenomena and sound, and fluid statics and dynamics. The laboratory component of the course is aimed at developing data collection and analysis skills through a series of experiments in mechanics and must be enrolled in separately.

PHY 4401 - Quantum Mechanics

In this course, students will investigate the origins of quantum theory, the Schrödinger equation, physical interpretations of quantum mechanics, and solutions to one- and three-dimensional problems including spin. Topics include solving the time-dependent and time-independent Schrödinger equation, development of the uncertainty principle, solutions for the infinite and finite square well problems, study of the harmonic oscillator and free particle solutions. A large part of the course is devoted to developing the formalism of Quantum Mechanics, wavefunctions as vectors in Hilbert spaces, eigenfunctions and eigenvalues of operators, commutators of operators and the Dirac notation. Solutions are obtained for the hydrogen problem in 3-D, including the study of the angular momentum and spin operators.

PHY 2212 - From Lenses to Lasers

Optics is an influential branch of physics that deals with the origin and propagation of light as well as it interaction with matter. In this course, students will study how and why optical phenomena occur. We will cover theories that treat light as a bundle of rays (ray optics), as electromagnetic waves (wave optics), and as a stream of particles (quantum optics). We will explore phenomena of reflection, refraction, dispersion, scattering, polarization, interference, and diffraction in terms of these theories. Students will learn about the limitations of ray optics, the improvements in wave optics, and the triumph of quantum optics leading to the study of the laser. This course includes an integrated laboratory component to help students develop strong links between theory and practice.

PHY 3313 - Computer Modeling of Physical Systems

This course is an introduction to modeling complex systems through application of computational numerical methods and graphing techniques using the software package Mathematica. Specific topics include: numerical techniques of integration and differentiation, analytical and numerical solutions of systems of differential equations, iterative procedures, symbolic manipulation of equations, use and manipulation of lists, procedural and functional programming, the use of rules in Mathematica, structured programming using loops and lists, and development of computer animations. Students will model systems from a wide range of areas such as Newtonian mechanics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics.

Senior Capstone

Chuck Knower, a Physics major from Lansdale, Pa., designed and built the machine he used to study the physics of rock skipping.

Special Opportunities

Explore all your options in the Physics department, a diverse set of offerings designed to match your interests and passions.

Biology professor guiding students in 3D printing.

Physics – Specialization in Computer Science

Designed for students who wish to focus their study of physics in the field of computer science.

Physics professor Apollo Mian

Physics – Pre-Engineering Emphasis

Designed for students who want to apply their knowledge of physics to the field of engineering.

The McDaniel Commitment in Action

The McDaniel Commitment—a series of opportunities guaranteed to all students—provides enhanced mentoring and coaching, and ensures every undergraduate student completes at least two meaningful experiential learning opportunities.

Jeff Marx

Faculty Spotlight Jeff Marx Professor and Department Chair

Professor Marx is the recipient of a $170,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop a novel science course for non-science majors on “The Nature of Science,” which dovetails with his student-centered interests in developing curricular materials to minimize these student difficulties in learning physics and working with students to help them conceive, design, and analyze their own physics projects such as the physics of various sports.

Estimathon Kathalyn Urquizo and Dimitri Lezcano raising their arms in celebration.

A Contest of Logic Estimathon: A contest of logic and strategy Applying Your Knowledge

Team PChem — Physics major Dimitri Lezcano and Chem major Kathalyn Urquizo — snatched first place in the second annual Estimathon that saw science, Math and two Business Administration majors dipping deep into their information wells and mustering every ounce of their skills in logic to answer 13 questions.

Student wearing goggles in a dark lab using lasers.

A Compelling Partnership McDaniel launches Engineering track and partnership with Washington University in St. Louis Guaranteed Acceptance

In partnership with Washington University in St. Louis, McDaniel students have the option to enroll at the James McKelvey School of Engineering at WashU for a second degree, either a bachelor’s or master’s, in Biomedical, Chemical, Computer, Electrical or Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, or Systems Science and Engineering.