About Physics & Astronomy

Physicists seek to understand nature at its most profound level.

From the behavior of quarks that are the constituents of protons and neutrons to superclusters of galaxies, physicists investigate nature’s inner workings – and in doing so, discover practical applications to bring about spectacular technologies.

The Department of Physics and Astronomy gives students a rigorous physics education in a small intimate setting. Majors enjoy introductory courses taught in an activity-based format where they learn by doing and take part in exciting undergraduate research with faculty who specialize in nanoscale materials science, quasar astrophysics, and computational physics.

Physics students take an active role in research, and have published papers and presented results at major conferences. Many alumni of the department go on to graduate school, while others go on to positions in teaching or industry. One of our graduates was part of the team on the Phoenix mission to Mars, and one was a coauthor of the recent discovery of a potentially habitable planet orbiting the closest star to the Sun, Proxima Centauri.

Department of Physics & Astronomy
Science & Learning Center, 211

At Whittier

Physics and Astronomy is a small department, attracting some of the College's best students to a friendly atmosphere, small classes, opportunities to participate in research, and close interactions with faculty. Courses are rigorous—designed to prepare students for entry into Ph.D. programs in Physics, yet flexible enough to offer students options that can help prepare them for careers in teaching and employment in industry after graduation. Many physics majors also complete a second major or minor in mathematics.

Physics courses are often taught in a non-traditional, workshop format that emphasizes learning by investigation and extensive use of the department’s excellent computing facilities. Majors enjoy access to a Physics/Math Study Lounge where students can work together on homework or simply put their feet up.

Whittier College’s student-run Physics Club is at the core of the intellectual and social life of the department. The club sponsors lectures by physicists from other colleges, universities, national labs, and industrial labs who discuss their research, as well as astronomy parties in the desert, trips to research facilities off-campus, pizza and movie nights, and other activities.

The physics department offers all of our majors the opportunity to participate in research with faculty and even publish papers together. These research experiences have helped our students gain admission to top graduate programs and secure positions of responsibility in industry. Moreover, participation in research is just plain fun.

We invite you to learn more about our major and minor in Physics, as well as our major in Physics with an emphasis in Astronomy. The Physics Department also participates in Whittier’s 3-2 Engineering Program and Scientific Computing minor.