Physics is the basis for our understanding of the universe, from the tiniest sub-atomic particles, to the way our bodies work, to the structure of the cosmos. It is essential for applications that permeate our lives, such as efficient industrial processes, cell phones, magnetic resonance imaging, and the internet. It drives the innovations that will shape our future, including quantum computing, exotic materials, and artificial intelligence.
We have structured our programs to be sufficiently flexible that they accommodate students wishing to study abroad, or to combine physics with other fields of study, such as medicine and interdisciplinary programs in astrophysics, biophysics, chemical physics, computing, and engineering. Students can explore these options by selecting either the traditional or interdisciplinary major, which have different requirements.
Astronomy & Astrophysics Program
Astronomy and astrophysics apply physical principles to understand the properties of objects in space. The range of scales of phenomena to be investigated is vast—from neutron stars the size of cities, to galaxies containing billions of stars, or even the entire Universe as a single system. The Haverford astronomy and astrophysics curricula are based on the study of these systems and of their evolution. Any study of astronomy and astrophysics is enriched by a firm understanding of the physics underlying these phenomena, and as such astronomy and astrophysics majors share many similarities with physics. Our curriculum is shaped to provide a solid foundation in the basic principles of both astronomy and physics, an understanding of the most recent developments in astronomy and cosmology, and the inspiration to pursue further learning in the sciences.
Entry to either the astronomy or astrophysics major comprises foundational courses in physics and mathematics during the first two years as well as ASTR 204 (typically taken in the sophomore year), which surveys all major areas of modern astrophysics. We also offer a number of more focused, upper level courses on specific topics in astronomy and astrophysics, including one on modern observational techniques. These courses usually reflect the research interests of our faculty.
Student research is a vital part of both majors. Our faculty work at the cutting edge of modern astronomy and cosmology, creating exceptional research opportunities for majors. Some of those opportunities are based on campus, within the College’s William J. Strawbridge Observatory, equipped with telescopes and powerful computational facilities. Other opportunities lie off-campus, and we also encourage students to apply for summer research experience in other departments (as well as our own).