Department Learning Goals

The Physics Department seeks to maintain a rigorous undergraduate curriculum for its majors, with sufficient depth and breadth to provide for two possible degrees, the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees.  The physics curriculum for majors is designed according to two principles.  The first is that there is certain training required of every physicist: education that should include an introduction to a wide range of physical phenomena, experimental investigation, and scientific thinking.  Further, this training should be at a level of sophistication to provide physics graduates with the ability to begin graduate work in physics.  The second principle recognizes that people major in physics for different reasons, and a physics curriculum should have the flexibility, clarity, and effectiveness necessary to accommodate a variety of interests.    These principles are reflected in the Physics Department's required core of studies and in its collection of elective physics courses.

The Department is also committed to providing a sound preparation for students who wish to earn an engineering B.S. degree, specifically through participation in the Dual-Degree Engineering Program: after successfully completing the required three-year curriculum at Gettysburg College, a student is prepared to compete with other students of engineering at our affiliated institutions: Columbia University, Washington University in St. Louis, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. 

The Department strives to introduce an understanding and appreciation of the elegance and potential of natural science to non-science majors, as well, accomplishing this goal by offering attractive laboratory science courses for those students wishing to satisfy the College's Multiple Inquiries requirement and/or their curiosity about the physical world.   With this in mind the Physics Department believes that service to all students at Gettysburg College, as well as community outreach, and faculty development and encouragement, is essential.

Goals for the Physics Department Program:

  • To create a supportive educational environment for our majors.
  • To provide appropriate preparation for students who are interested in a myriad of future careers.
  • To prepare majors interested in graduate studies with the skills and knowledge base needed for success in graduate programs in physics and other related fields.
  • To develop appropriate skill sets to enable the practicing scientist: to apply mathematical models in the description of physical systems, to investigate a physical system via hands-on experimentation, to critically assess physical systems through analytical problem solving, to employ integrative thinking while making connections that allow one to apply scientific logic to real world issues.
  • To emphasize the rich interplay between theory and experiment in the scientific method, with focus on conceptualizing, designing and testing.
  • To describe the historical context of understanding and familiarity with a wide range of physical phenomena and conceptual and mathematical models.
  • To instill confidence while developing effective student skills in discipline specific conventions of communication ranging from formal written reports to public presentation of papers and posters.
  • To develop student leadership roles to foster work as an independent physicist and as a collaborator in a team project.

For Non-Majors:

  • To provide introductory physics to students pursuing other scientific disciplines in order to help provide breadth and depth within their major.
  • To train students to use problem solving through logic, development of appropriate models, and through quantitative reasoning.
  • To provide an opportunity for any Gettysburg College student to develop the tools to study their environment from a scientific standpoint.
  • To develop a focus on the methodological analysis, historical context, or discussion of the social ramifications of some aspect of physics and technology, in order to enable students to be meaningful contributors to their local, national and global communities.

Learning Goals for Majors and Minors:

  • An understanding of the concepts and techniques basic to our present understanding of the physical universe.
  • A broad understanding of physical phenomena, principles and theories.
  • A skill in problem solving and mathematical analysis techniques.
  • A thorough acquaintance with laboratory practice, the design of experiments, techniques of precision measurement, interpretation of data, error analysis, computer applications.
  • Skill in oral and written communication.
  • The ability to conduct independent research.
  • A familiarity with specific topics (depending on the student) for graduate school, teaching, or technical careers.

Learning Goals for Science Majors in Biology, Chemistry, Health Science:

  • The same goals as for majors and minors, to a lesser degree (we only have these majors for two semesters).
  • An acquaintance with applications of physical principles to problems in biology, chemistry, and allied fields.

Learning Goals for Non-Science Majors

  • An appreciation of the scientific endeavor.
  • A sense of the role of measurement in physics and the scale of various phenomena.
  • An understanding of the role of error in scientific analysis.
  • A familiarity with some of the big ideas in physics and astronomy.
  • An ability to read news articles about science with some intelligence and to make informed decisions about scientific issues.
  • An acquaintance with the experimental method in laboratories, and a first-hand experience of some of the phenomena of physics and astronomy.