Physics

Matter, energy, space, time

Physics provides a rich framework for appreciating the universe as well as a system for explaining the phenomena within it. Physics at Roanoke offers you a close-knit community, challenging coursework and the opportunity for genuine scientific investigation. Because physics impacts discoveries in astronomy, engineering, chemistry, mathematics, geology and biology, you'll be encouraged to pursue meaningful connections across the curriculum.

Whether you're a first-year student or an upper-level minor in physics, research experiences with individual faculty mentors abound.

Graduates in physics prosper in the employment market and graduate school programs, with recent students going on to excel in engineering, computer science, law and, of course, physics.

We offer both a major and a minor in physics.  We also offer a dual-degree engineering program and a concentration in materials & nanoscience

Physics at Roanoke College

Watch Video Students working on a physics problem
Students explore physics inside and outside of the classroom.

“Rather than being a vague face in a sea of students, each student receives personal attention, creating an excellent classroom environment and allowing for valuable research experiences.”

Jake Bennett ’08, physics graduate and current assistant professor of physics at the University of Mississippi

Why Roanoke?

  • Awarded the Nationally Distinguished Chapter of the Society of Physics Students in 2017.
  • Two of the College's four Goldwater Scholarship recipients are physics students. 
  • Four valedictorian and salutatorians over the past 11 years. 
  • Roanoke physics faculty have recently received awards to research at Harvard and Stanford Universities, as well as Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
  • Six physics majors presented their research at PhysCon, the international quadrennial physics conference.
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Lambert receives Goldwater Scholarship – the preeminent undergraduate science scholarship

Liam Lambert, a double major in physics and math, is Roanoke's fourth Goldwater. 

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Wonder in the sky

The new issue of Roanoke College magazine chronicles how a group of Roanoke faculty, students and alumni - equipped with knowledge and a desire to share it - helped Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitors safely view this summer's rare total solar eclipse.

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Students learn value of community outreach through work in schools

Members of the Society of Physics Students have been working with local elementary school students through an after-school STEM program. "We hope that getting kids excited about exploring science and math will help keep them engaged in their STEM classes," says club member senior Morgan Heckman. The opportunity to run this program has also been an educational experience for club members. "Learning how to communicate and foster excitement about STEM is a necessary skill for anyone in the STEM fields. Kids helps us find ways to do this more effectively, and their enthusiasm can be infectious."

Our grads work at great organizations

logos where grads work

Roanoke College physics majors have been valedictorian 3 times in the last 15 years.

Professor-Assistant Team Tackles Nanoscience

Dr. Rama Bala and her research assistant, Rachel Lindsay, have been working in the field of nanoscience. They hope to build nanomesh of graphene oxide to serve as a filtration system to remove salt and heavy metals. Roanoke College has provided them with the opportunity to work as a team and tackle this complex topic.

"This one-on-one time that I have with students is something that I really value and that is unique to us here at Roanoke College," says Dr. Rama Bala. "I know that students benefit a lot doing this kind of outside of the classroom experience. To see them out there and bloom is just an incredibly gratifying feeling."

"The Fellows Program is the reason why I'm able to do this research," says Lindsay. "It's been an amazing opportunity."

Student’s Love for Computational Astrophysics Explored Through Summer Scholars

Austin Bane was able to spend his summer working on research with Dr. Matthew Fleenor in the field of computational astrophysics through the Summer Scholars program. "I have a passion for computer science and physics and wanted to combine the two elements into one project," Bane says. Bane created a simulation that modeled protostellar disk formation, or the transition from a shapeless cloud of dust into a disk. "It's unlikely that I would have been able to do this research without being at Roanoke College. Undergraduate research isn't easy to get at large institutions with graduate students."

Sample Course Offerings:

  • PHYS 203: Modern PhysicsCloseup of calculations in a notebook
  • PHYS 299: Astrophysics 
  • PHYS 458: Optics & Spectroscopy 

    View all courses 

Many opportunities for independent study

Physics of Nanotechnology: Daniel Ballou synthesized Goethite nanotubes.

Physics of Galaxy Formation: David Guynn studied the influence of environment on galaxy clusters.

Physics of Material Science: Anne Kyner analyzed Mossbauer data from planet Mars.

Cam Cassady, Chris Valentine, Matthew Blackstone and Dr. Matt FleenorRoanoke physics majors Cam Cassady '14 and Chris Valentine '15 spent the summer engaged in research at Oak Ridge National Laboratories near Knoxville, Tenn. Under the direction of ORNL scientist Matthew Blackston and Roanoke physics Professor Matt Fleenor, their summer research focused on coded-aperture imaging, an indirect technique used in astronomy, medicine and nuclear security to observe materials that emit high-energy particles.

Photo from the high-resolution atomic force microscopePeering into the nano world

The Physics Group has purchased a high-resolution atomic force microscope (AFM). This instrument can produce high-resolution images of structures that are 1,000 times smaller than a human hair. Physics students and faculty use the AFM for mapping micro and nanostructures, studying surface properties of thin films, and manipulating matter at the nanoscale.

Who wants to lay on a bed of nails?

Professors hold a math and physics "magic" show to show off a few cool tricks, including laying on a bed of nails.