Departmental Philosophy

Philosophy of the Physics Department

Physics is a mathematical study which attempts to understand the physical universe. It addresses fundamental questions about the nature of matter and energy and the forces by which objects interact. Beginning with these basic principles and simple models, physicists build descriptions of atoms, organic material, stars and the origin of the universe. Physics also has an applied side: scientists and engineers use their understanding of physical principles to solve practical problems in such areas as product development, process control and instrumentation.

Physics is special among the liberal arts in its ability to apply knowledge to real problems.

As physics teachers, embracing the opportunity presented by the talented students of Millersville University:
We beckon to those who want to study physics itself, as a complement to a baccalaureate program in any field.
We inspire students to realize physics, with our facilities, our curriculum, and our passion for the discipline.
We challenge thoughtful students, providing the opportunity and incentive for all to achieve their fullest potential.

Students of physics learn to think clearly, using the real world as a test of their skill, but not as a limit to their thoughts. To this end, the department has a strong experimental component to its curriculum. Beginning students do not fill in blanks in an experiment worksheet. They keep their own notebook record of how they develop the experimental results for the week. As they progress, students take increasing responsibility for the design and analysis of physics experiments. Mature students undertake (with a faculty advisor) a senior research project (usually experimental) in which they apply their skills to a particular problem that they find interesting.

Implications for our professors:

The diversity of student interests and abilities generates a diversity of research projects. Because we have chosen to staff our department with a diversity of specialties within physics, there is always a professor ready to advise the student on his or her project. This choice does not promote graduate level research within the department, as would a department full of specialists in a single field. The choice represents our commitment to the education of undergraduate students. We consider it a basis of our strength.

The broad range of interests of the department is reflected in the broad range of topics discussed in the weekly Senior Seminar lectures.

Our belief in the value of a department with diverse interests and opinions leads to the opinion reflected in the quip that "quantum mechanics is 100% multicultural." We are always interested in exemplary teachers with whom students can intuitively identify. We are interested in finding faculty genuinely committed to multiculturalism so as to attract under-represented students to our discipline.

Implications for our students:

For some students, the study is undertaken in the liberal arts tradition. They are motivated to ask basic questions about themselves and their physical environment. From their studies they learn to think in a rigorous and orderly manner. They learn to create an understanding of their world using this thinking as a tool.

For many majors, physics provides the necessary training for entering careers in research, engineering and teaching. Physics is also a valuable background for other interdisciplinary fields such as medicine, bio-engineering, law, computer systems analysis and technical writing. Further career opportunities have been generated by demands in industrial research and development, on hospital staffs and in national laboratories.

Today's world is a complex one characterized by constantly changing technologies. Physics graduates are well prepared to enter this world because they have begun to understand the laws that govern the way things work and the physical principles behind the laws. Products and technology change, but physical principles do not.