Physics and pre-engineering

John Ross Buschert, Department Chair, Professor of Physics
Paul Meyer Reimer, Associate Professor of Physics


The Physics department prepares responsible physicists, engineers and teachers for academic, research and industrial positions. Student involvement in active research within the department fosters an understanding of the philosophical and structural concepts of physics as well as an ability to apply the science itself. The department consciously promotes an active participation in the wider scientific and engineering communities. Visit the physics department website at

In addition to a physics major, the department also offers a 3-2 pre-engineering program described below and certification for secondary education in physics or physical sciences

Career and postgraduate opportunities

Upon graduation, the physics major is prepared for graduate study in physics or engineering. Other possibilities include science secondary education or the combination of a physics baccalaureate degree with a master’s degree in business administration, as background for a management career in technology and engineering industries. Study of physics also provides the training and experience for careers in biophysics, neurosciences and many careers beyond the standard boundaries of science and engineering.

Goshen physics majors who have chosen to pursue a graduate degree have an excellent graduate school admission rate. More than 70 percent of the physics majors elect this path. Individual professors at research universities have testified to the excellent preparation received at Goshen College. Recent Goshen graduates have chosen schools such as Purdue University, Princeton University, the University of Notre Dame, Drexel University, Pennsylvania State University, Northwestern University, and the University of Illionis.

Engineering 3-2 program

The combination of a liberal arts background and an engineering degree from one of the leading engineering schools in the nation is the optimal education for the modern engineer. In this program the student spends three years at Goshen College and two or two and a half years at the engineering school, receiving a bachelor of arts degree in physics, chemistry or computer science from Goshen and a bachelor of science degree from the engineering school.

Goshen College has program agreements with University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Ind.) and Case School of Engineering of the Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio). Admission to the engineering school is granted to a student with a 3.3 overall grade point average, upon recommendation of the physics department.

Transfer to other schools is possible and common, but is done on an individual basis. Goshen College will grant the B.A. degree when the student completes the engineering course and the Goshen College requirements.

While at Goshen College, the engineering student is enrolled as a physics, chemistry or computer science major. Studies of science and mathematics to fulfill the requirements of the first two years in the engineering school are undertaken. In addition, the student completes the Goshen College core requirements, including the Study-Service Term (SST).

A large percentage of the Goshen students pursuing this program receive cum laude degrees from the engineering school and continue graduate study. Employment opportunities are excellent for graduates from this program.

Teacher education certification

Teacher certification is available for grades 5-12 in two related areas. Courses needed in addition to the standard track physics major are:

Physics – Phys 208, Phys 210

Physical Science - Chem 200, Chem 303, Phys 210

Also required are 30 credits of education courses, including a semester of student teaching. The first education class, Educ 201, should be taken in May term of the first year or spring of the sophomore year. See the education department pages and the Teacher Education Handbook for more details about requirements.

Major in physics

50 credit hours

  • Chem 111-112, General Chemistry 8
  • Math 211-212, Calculus I & II 8
  • Math 213, Multivariate Calculus 4
  • Math 321, Differential Equations 3
  • Phys 101, Research Seminar 1
  • Phys 203-204, General Physics 8
  • Phys 302, Analytical Mechanics 3
  • Phys 303, Classical Field Theory 3
  • Phys 310, Thermodynamics 4
  • Phys 313, Quantum Theory 3
  • Phys 410, Senior Seminar 3
  • Physics electives 2

Student learning outcomes

Graduates in physics will:

  1. Apply principles from primary physical theories: mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, and quantum mechanics.
  2. Demonstrate facility with mathematical and computational tools of a physicist: calculus, differential equations, programming languages, computational environments, and spreadsheets.
  3. Demonstrate facility with laboratory equipment and ability to analyze and visualize data using tools such as graphing, curve fitting, and statistical analysis.
  4. Carry out independent projects and research, both individually and collaboratively.
  5. Demonstrate oral and communication skills to present technical matters to a variety of audiences.
  6. Exhibit thoughtful awareness of basic issues and questions in the relations between science, religion, and ethics.

Planning guide for engineering 3-2 track

First year

Goshen Core
Calculus I & II
General Physics
Research Seminar
Info 230, Programming I*

Second year

Goshen Core
General Chemistry
Multivariate Calculus
Differential Equations
Quantum Theory
SST (summer)

Third year

Goshen Core
Engineering Statics*
Analytical Mechanics
Optics and Holography*
Classical Field Theory

Planning and advising notes

*Note that the three-year engineering plan above includes some courses required for engineering, but not required for the standard physics major.

Physics department advisers will assist each student in creating a suitable four-year plan. Students in a four-year program should choose SST units freely, anticipating that course schedule adjustments can be made to accommodate the choice.

Special resources and opportunities

Goshen College offers multiple opportunities for undergraduate research in physics, both during the school year and also during the Maple Scholars program in summer. Working on a research project with a faculty member allows the student to encounter the real world beyond the classroom. Student authors present papers at the annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research and at professional conferences.

Active research areas of the physics department include optical holographic interferometry and finite element modeling of musical instruments, phospholipid bilayer studies in biophysics, x-ray diffraction measurements of heterostructures, and manipulations of elastic waves in metamaterials.

There is no explicit internship requirement in physics, but internships have been arranged for interested students. Most students are involved in some form of research, frequently undertaking summer NSF-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) at major universities. A thesis may be undertaken in consultation with the research faculty adviser. Thesis abstracts are integral parts of graduate and professional school applications.

Cooperative (Co-op) experiences are available for engineering students.

Physics courses

PHYS 101 Research Seminar 1
An introduction to the department and to physics and engineering as careers. Presentations by faculty and students of research, introduction to the scientific literature and scientific writing, individual research on a chosen topic.

PHYS 154 Descriptive Astronomy 3
An introduction to astronomy, with emphasis on basic sky patterns and their historical explanations. Considers the Copernican revolution, simple Newtonian physics, and contemporary understandings of stars, galaxies and cosmology. Includes a field trip to a Planetarium and (weather permitting) an overnight observing trip to Merry Lea. Taught in May term. A Natural World course in the Goshen Core. Pre or Corequisite: Quantitative Literacy.

PHYS 203 General Physics 4
A calculus and vector treatment of basic physics including mechanics, sound, electricity, magnetism and light. Required of physics majors and recommended for majors in the physical sciences. Lectures and laboratory. Prerequisite or Concurrent: Math 211.

PHYS 204 General Physics 4
A calculus and vector treatment of basic physics including mechanics, sound, electricity, magnetism and light. Required of physics majors and recommended for majors in the physical sciences. Lectures and laboratory. Prerequisites: Math 211, Phys 203.

PHYS 208 Introduction to Research 2
An introduction to the techniques and practice of experimental research. Students participate in laboratory work in the Turner Laboratory. Course is considered training for future research in the physics department. Prerequisites: Phys 203-204 or consent of instructor.

PHYS 210 Modern Physics 3
An introduction to the basis of modern physics. Special relativity, experimental origins of the quantum theory, nuclear physics, condensed matter physics, elementary particle physics, and cosmology. Prerequisites: Phys 203-204 or consent of instructor.

PHYS 215 Climate Change 3
How can and should humans relate to nature? This question raises vigorous, passionate, and political discussion. Using an interdisciplinary approach, students explore (a) how information is generated, refined, and debated in scientific disciplines, (b) how science, archaeology and other disciplines shed light on Earth's climate beyond the horizon of a few generations' experience, and (c) how past cultures reacted to environmental challenges. The class includes laboratory activities, but within the constraints of a 3 credit hour course. Required for elementary education majors. A Natural World course in the Goshen Core. Pre- or Corequisite: Quantitative Literacy.

PHYS 240 Physics of Music 3
A study of the physics of a variety of musical instruments including the voice, the physical origins of musical scales and temperaments, perception effects in the ear and brain and room acoustics. Many class sessions will be laboratory experiences and each student will do a major project. Prerequisite: Phys 203 or high school physics, Mus 102 or equivalent ability or consent of instructor.

PHYS 302 Analytical Mechanics 3
Newtonian Mechanics based on the formulation of Lagrange and Hamilton. Applications to oscillations, orbital motion, scattering, rigid body motion. Special topics include chaos theory and relativity. Prerequisites: Phys 203, 204, Math 211, 212, or consent of instructor.

PHYS 303 Classical Field Theory 3
Study of electric and magnetic fields using the formulation of Maxwell. Maxwell's equations are developed with reference to experiments followed by selected applications including wave propagation in dispersive media, and magnetic and dielectric phenomena. Prerequisites: Phys 203-204, Math 211, 213, or consent of instructor.

PHYS 304 Electronics 4
Introduction to analog and digital electronics and robotics. The focus is on design and construction of practical circuitry which can be used to build useful devices. After the analog and digital groundwork is laid, students learn to program microcontrollers to interface with a variety of sensors and outputs on mobile robotic platforms. Weekly laboratories culminate in individual projects presented in the biannual electronics show. Lectures and laboratory. Prerequisite: high school physics.

PHYS 305 Optics and Holography 4
Electromagnetic theory, geometrical optics, interference and diffraction, and other principles provide the framework for understanding a variety of optical instruments and experiments. Laboratories include various types of interferometry, laser beam filtering and profiling, several types of holography and culminate in individual projects. Lectures and laboratory. Prerequisites: Phys 203-204.

PHYS 310 Thermodynamics 4
A study of classical thermodynamics including thermodynamic and chemical potentials, kinetic theory of gases, and chemical kinetics. An introduction to statistical mechanics is presented. Applications include studies of material properties and engineering systems. Includes a laboratory. Prerequisites: Phys 203-204; Chem 111-112; Math 212 or consent of instructor.

PHYS 312 Quantum Mechanics 4
Principles of quantum mechanics are discussed beginning with a hydrogen atom and concluding with many atom molecules. The material is examined using the physical evidences that support the theory of quantum mechanics, particularly spectroscopy. The course also discusses symmetry of molecules, theory of NMR and X-ray diffraction. Lectures and laboratory. Prerequisites: Phys 203-204; Chem 111-112; Math 212 or consent of instructor.

PHYS 313 QuantumTheory 3
A study of the quantum theory in the vector formalism of Dirac, Schroedinger and Heisenberg representations are considered. Applications to scattering, atomic physics and magnetism. Prerequisites: Phys 203-204, Math 213 or consent of instructor.

PHYS 314 Statistical Mechanics 3
A study of the statistical treatment of particles including molecules, atoms and electrons. The ensemble theory of Gibbs is developed as the basis. Applications include gases, crystalline solids, magnetic materials and phase transitions. Prerequisite: Math 213 or consent of instructor.

PHYS 410 Senior Seminar 3
An exploration of the relations between the natural sciences and other broad areas with special emphasis on ethical and theological concerns. Discussion, preparation and presentation of papers in a student-led seminar. Prerequisite: Senior standing.

PHYS 421 Advanced Topics in Physics 2 (1-3)
Special topics selected by the student in consultation with professor. These may include topics of special interest to the student or research. Academic credit for research or thesis is covered by enrolling in this subject.