Physics and Astronomy
Department Chair:
Stephen FitzGerald

Administrative Assistant:
Diane Doman

Department Email:

Phone: (440) 775-8330
Fax: (440) 775-6379

Wright Laboratory of Physics
110 N. Professor St.
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Student Research Opportunities

Student Research Opportunities

Most physics majors get involved in a physics- or astrophysics-related research experience or independent project at some point during their time at Oberlin. The natural times to get started are during Winter Term or as a special project, research experience, or private reading in the semester (PHYS451/PHYS555/PHYS995); there are usually a dozen different students involved in this way in a given semester.

These experiences can lead to something more substantial, such as a (paid) summer research internship or a year-long honors project (for academic credit and honors at graduation). In a given year, roughly 6-10 majors work over the summer in research, and 3-4 students participate in the department honors program.

Winter Term

Physics and astronomy faculty will consider sponsoring student-initiated experimental or theoretical (reading) projects in areas of physics or astronomy. Staff members have special interests in the areas shown below.

Mr. FitzGerald Infrared spectroscopy, hydrogen storage.
Ms. Ijiri Magnetic materials, x-ray and neutron scattering, experimental condensed matter physics.
Ms. Keller Optics, physics education.
Mr. Owen General relativity, numerical relativity, computation, theroretical physics. 
Mr. Scofield Experimental solid state physics, photovoltaic and wind energy, energy use in buildings.
Ms. Scudder Galaxy evolution across cosmic time, galaxy-galaxy interactions, public outreach.
Mr. Stalnaker Atomic and molecular physics, nonlinear optics, laser physics.
Mr. Stinebring Radio astronomy, pulsars, cosmology, instrumentation, image processing.
Mr. Styer Relativity for non-scientists, mini-research projects in theoretical physics.

Honors Program

The honors program is open to outstanding senior-year major students at the invitation of the Department. Students in this program will normally be expected to complete the graduate study preparation program and must carry out a special project in experimental or theoretical physics or astrophysics under the direction of a member of the department. Honors students write a thesis based on their work and take comprehensive examinations. The physics major requirement of Physics 414 may be waived upon request for an honors student whose project is in experimental physics.

Mr. FitzGerald Infrared spectroscopy and quantum dynamics of fullerenes.
Ms. Ijiri Projects relating to magnetic materials or x-ray/neutron scattering analysis.  Examples include: synthesis and magnetic characterization of iron oxide nanoparticles; magnetic properties of potential ferromagnetic semiconductors; x-ray reflectivity of thin films; small angle neutron scattering of iron nanoparticles.
Mr. Owen General relativity, numerical relativity, computation, theroretical physics. 
Mr. Scofield Thin film photovoltaic materials, photovoltaic systems, and building energy.
Ms. Scudder Astrophysics, extragalactic astronomy, galaxy interactions, statistical data analysis.
Mr. Stalnaker Precision atomic spectroscopy using femtosecond frequency combs.
Mr. Stinebring Pulsars; interstellar medium; astrophysics topics of mutual interest.
Mr. Styer   Theoretical or computational projects investigating the richness of quantum mechanics:  e.g. quantal time development, interference in the presence of magnetic fields.

Approximate dates of principal events:

Junior Year  
spring semester invitations to Honors Program made
  students find an advisor and identify a project
Senior Year  
September participation in Honors Program confirmed by faculty
January written honors exam
middle of April completed thesis due
end of April department seminar on thesis research
beginning of May oral honors exam

Titles of past projects and links to honors theses can be found on the Physics Honors Projects page.