New physics major offers momentum for sciences

Melanie Todd, Staff writer

This year marks the first full academic year for the new physics major introduced last spring.

Over the last few months the physics program has expanded and is expected to continue to provide innovative opportunities for students. The major grew from an existing minor to a major at the request of a few students.

“We did not meet much resistance in creating this new major,” said Dyan Jones, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Physics. “A physics major is something all good science programs have. A lot of schools in our area are closing their [physics] programs which will help Mercyhurst to grow its major and enrollment,”

Eight students are enrolled in the physics major. So far, Jones is not concerned with the program’s sustainability.

“That’s a lot for a school our size. We also promote double majors, science and another science or science and math,” said Jones. ”It will never be very big because physics is never really a big major. Mercyhurst values smaller class sizes and interactions with our students”

Jones said she is proud very proud that the major has attracted a lot of women students, which is atypical for a Physics department.

“Mercyhurst values diversity and believes all the students are capable of succeeding in any field they choose,” Jones said.

Senior Autumn Walter is among the new physics majors and one of the students who lobbied for its creation.

“There were five or six of us that talked to Dr. Jones about making it [physics] a major. She took it from there and approached the administration,” Walter said.

Starting as a Forensic Science major, Walter moved to Biomedical Science with a Physics minor to a degree in Physics. Even though she changed her major last spring, she will graduate on time this upcoming spring.

“We were really prepared going into the physics major,” said Walter, “A lot of the classes overlap too. Having a degree in physics will really set us apart when applying for jobs.”

The Physics department has grown from last spring. There are now two national organizations the major is affiliated with: the Society of Physics students and Sigma Pi Sigma Honor Society.

Currently, there are three physics faculty members, two of them share time between physics and other science departments.

“Professor Dave Wick is a new hire and working with the physics department as well,” Jones said.

“The optics lab is running for the first time, which is a studio course where students build their own microscope,” Jones said.

This class is new this year and is open to both Physics major students and as a core requirement. In the spring, Quantum Physics will be offered for the first time.

Additionally, during the J-term, students have the opportunity to go to Switzerland with their class to see the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) laboratory.