Physics - Westminster College - Fulton, Missouri 


For Physics major and minor requirements, please refer to the academic catalog

Why study Physics at Westminster College?

PhysicsPhysics is the fundamental natural science because it describes how the universe works in terms of its most fundamental physical entities and processes. The Department of Physics at Westminster College offers a major and minor program in physics and a minor program in pre-engineering. Because of the extensive mathematics requirement of the physics major, many elect a second major or minor in mathematics. 

The department has found that students learn better in an interactive, cooperative setting that helps reduce the anxiety many have about science in general and physics in particular. Students, in all physics courses, are members of a group to conduct experiments, answer questions posed in class, take group quizzes, give presentations, and do other activities that require cooperation and good communication.  

In addition, physics majors have the opportunity to participate in Westminster's Dual Degree Engineering Program through which they would earn a Bachelor of Arts in Physics from Westminster and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Washington University or Missouri University of Science and Technology. In this program, students attend Westminster for 3 years and the engineering institution for approximately 2 years, thus earning two degrees in as few as five years!  See for more information.

Major Highlights

Upper level students in physics apply the calculus and complex numbers to phenomena in classical and quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, and modern physics. They also learn to procure, graph, and analyze experimental data with a computer, follow proper lab procedures, and write a report in an acceptable format.

At your disposal, you will have the new, state-of-the-art Walter H. Coulter Science Center with many impressive facilities. Also the professors at Westminster are extremely accessible and friendly. They are dedicated to making sure that you will be a very capable physicist upon graduation.

Cool Classes and Research Opportunities

YKristen Thurman wins Physics Awardou will be able to demonstrate advanced knowledge of classical and quantum mechanics as well as electrodynamics. You will become proficient using vector calculus, at solving differential equations, and at constructing proofs to theorems. You will also conduct independent research programs, which will likely be interdisciplinary.

In the recent past, for example, several students have experimented with color vision in humans, in a project that involved Westminster faculty members from computer science, mathematics, and psychology as well as physics. Others have performed measurements with a research Fourier-transform infrared spectrometer in an ongoing project to determine the optical properties of the constituents in planetary atmospheres.

Other Experiences

For the past several years, students have presented a poster at the American Physical Society's April Meeting. In April 2011 students traveled to Anaheim, California and in April 2012 they traveled to Atlanta, Georgia. They were able to attend talks and make connections with the best and brightest physicists around the country. In addition, our students, in competition with students from Ivy League schools, won The Best Undergraduate Poster Award at the 2011 meeting!

Physics Conference

Many physics students participate in off-campus summer research internship programs at institutions such as the University of Minnesota, Vanderbilt University, the University of Tennessee, Brigham Young University, Washington University, University of Utah, and the Research Reactor Facility at the University of Missouri.

Career Opportunities

Upon graduation you will be prepared to go to graduate school in physics or an allied field. You will also be ready to train as an engineer or start in a technical field. About 80% of our physics graduates go to graduate, professional, or engineering schools.

In the past 20 years, Westminster physics graduates have entered graduate programs at Harvard University, Purdue University, Washington University, Tufts University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Illinois, William and Mary University, the University of Arizona, University of Missouri--Columbia, Missouri University of Science and Technology and the University of Oklahoma.  

While many physics graduates eventually have careers in a technical field, some pursue employment in other areas. After two successful careers, first as an electrical engineer and then as a Certified Public Accountant, a 1985 Westminster physics graduate went to law school and is now a patent attorney working in Washington, D.C.

Student Quote

" Westminster being a small liberal arts college had many advantages for a Physics major like me. First, we had the privilege of a small group of students in any lecture class of about 8-10 students or less. This also meant we could enjoy much time and space for different research projects that could be performed in one of the many Physics labs. With Professors like Kent Palmer and Laura Stumpe, I was able to penetrate knowledge in many areas of Physics. This overall helped me gain internships at top research departments in Astronomy across different universities in USA. I was able to develop a wide variety of networking skills on top of that because of the small and tidy class size and frequent interaction with my lecturers. Since the variety of courses are less compared to a university, you need to be a highly focused and enthusiastic individual to get maximum output from the Physics program here. You will be able  and need to utilize the resources and the research facilities of the school fully.Thanks to Westminster's Physics program, I am now working as an IPR/AP fellow for the Australian Government's Department of Industry, Innovation Science and Research (DIISR) for their research project in stellar evolution at the University of Sydney"     Bhuwan Ghimire '11, IPR-AP Fellow for DIISR

Contact Information

Name: Laura Stumpe
Position: Assistant Professor of Physics
Office: Room 313, Coulter Science Center
Phone: 573-592-5224

Physics News 

Check out what Westminster physics students and alums are doing and get department updates.
Physics News