Seamus Lagan

Professor of Physics
Department of Physics and Astronomy

Science & Learning Center 222
562.907.4200, ext.4458

Academic History

B.A., Dublin University, Trinity College, Ireland
M.S., Ph.D., Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA

Academic Interests

  • The use of computer technology in the teaching of undergraduate Physics, especially in an interactive environment with students working in groups
  • The incorporation of computation into the undergraduate Physics major, especially at the upper level
  • Complex behavior in simple systems e.g. chaos, self-organization
  • Statistical Physics


Professor Seamus Lagan has taught at Whittier since 1988. In 2000 he was awarded the Harry Nerhood Teaching Excellence Award. He served as Associate Dean for the Liberal Education Program from 2001 to 2003.

He has taught classes at all levels in the Physics department ranging from courses for non-science students (Astronomy, The Physics of Light) to introductory calculus-based Physics to upper-division Quantum Mechanics. He has team-taught a course, Chaos in Science and Literature, has “paired” a Physics course with a Science Fiction class and has taught in the Whittier Scholars Program several times.

Throughout his career he has been very interested in pedagogical and curricular issues in Physics. In 1990 he converted the traditional calculus-based physics course into the activity-based format which combines lecture and lab and emphasizes “learning by doing,” involving the students in discussions, computer simulations and experiments that lead them to discover the physics in a more active manner. All introductory physics classes at Whittier College are now taught in this format. Currently he is at the forefront of a national movement toward incorporation of computational techniques into the undergraduate physics curriculum and has created a sophomore-level class that introduces students to these techniques. He incorporates computation into all the upper-division physics courses he teaches, as do the other members of the Physics Department.

Professional Activity


American Physical Society, American Association of Physics Teachers


“Computational Oscillations and Waves,” An invited poster presentation given at the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) National Summer Meeting, Syracuse University, July 26, 2006


“Chaos: Connecting Science and the Humanities,” by Seamus Lagan and David Paddy. Journal of College Science Teaching, January/February 2005, 31-35.

Workshops Attended

“Computing in Undergraduate Physics Visioning Workshop,” Argonne National Laboratory, IL. May 3 - 6, 2007

Ask an Expert: Chaos vs Randomness