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Physics & Astronomy

Student Voices

Douglas Vodnik ‘13


Franklin, Wis.





Favorite spot on campus

“The Lentz Meditation chapel. It’s a great place to pray, read the Bible, or just take a break.”

Douglas Vodnik attributes his love of physics to his father. While he was in high school, his dad brought him a lecture series on physics. Douglas was inspired — and never looked back.

“Now I love physics,” he said. “Through studying it, I get to learn about and understand the universe at its most fundamental level. No other realm of inquiry can offer that.”

After graduating from Carthage, Douglas plans to continue on to graduate school and then become a physics professor or physicist. He said he’s learned what it means to be a great physics professor from the faculty at Carthage.

“The Physics Department here has a number of excellent professors who obviously love helping their students,” Douglas said. “My relationship with the physics professors has been very helpful, as they have provided me with a lot of sound advice.”

When originally applying to schools, Douglas was drawn to Carthage’s physics program because of all of the opportunities that it provides its students. The summer after his freshman year, he participated in Carthage’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experienceprogram. Douglas performed research on carbon nanotubes with Prof. Kevin Crosby.

“In addition to having loads of fun, I got a taste of how research is done at the graduate and postgraduate level,” Douglas said. “I was also eventually able to present my research at a regional conference at Washington University in St. Louis, and I was able to use my research experience to propel me into obtaining a summer research position at the Colorado School of Mines last summer.”

He appreciates the size of the program, which, while growing, is still relatively small. “It creates a sense of camaraderie among students as we all struggle through the material together,” he said.

Career goal

“My current career goal is to either become a physics professor or a physicist. As a physicist, I’d like to do research into renewable energies, such as solar power.”

Favorite professor

“My favorite physics professor is Dr. Jean Quashnock (or ‘Q,’ as he is affectionately known). Like all physics professors, Q is a bit wacky, but he’s a really nice guy and his love for students is quite evident. Q is my advisor, and over the past two years that I’ve known him, he has been a great mentor to me.”

Favorite class

“It’s very hard to pick a favorite class, but of the ones I’ve taken so far it might actually be Math Methods with Dr. Erlan Wheeler. Math Methods was just a great survey course of the basic mathematical tools that physicists need, and as a result I learned a lot of useful and interesting things. Also, the fact that it was a survey course meant that we got the skip most of the tedious math proofs and get right to the applications, which I as a physics major really appreciated.”

Toughest class

“The most difficult class I’ve taken so far has been Quantum Mechanics with Q. In all the other physics classes I’ve taken, we’ve always started from physics we’ve seen before, and gradually moved into the really difficult material. In Quantum, however, I was in unfamiliar territory the first day when we started with Schrodinger’s equation, and it never got better.”

Campus involvement

“I am currently the vice-president of SPS (the Society of Physics Students), a small group Bible study leader and executive team member for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and a member of Fencing Club.”

Favorite moments at Carthage

“Bible studies, the Packer’s Super Bowl party in the Oaks, evenings at Fencing Club, last year’s snow day.”

Advice for other students considering your major

“Make sure you understand everything to your own satisfaction. If you understand something the first time through, then congratulations. But go get help if you need it. There are a lot of people willing to help you, but you have to take advantage of them.”


Elizabeth Reinhardt
  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2018), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • Scheduled to open in fall 2018, a new residential tower will offer suite-style housing and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about The Tower

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    • 96% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit Career Services.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

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    • Computer science students watch Prof. Mark Mahoney’s recorded lecturers in their free time, so he can nearby “when they do their real learning,” he says. He has company: Physics professor Brant Carlson’s quantum mechanics video playlist has been viewed more than 170,000 times. 

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • As a freshman in the highly selective Honors Program, learn how to gain expertise in anything from music to forest ecology. After that, tackle a contemporary social, economic, or political problem. If you like, you can live on an Honors-only floor of a Carthage residence hall. 

    • In 2016, 2017 and 2018, Carthage was named a top producer of Fulbright Scholars by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our athletic and recreation center, student union, computer labs, audiovisual production suite, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 10 years. Our new science center caps it off.

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    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

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    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” says biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

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    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about the Carthage core.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 120 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Chemistry Club, to Frisbee and Latin Belly Dancing. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • Imagine presenting your original research at an international conference — as an undergraduate. Carthage is dedicated to undergraduate research. Learn more about current opportunities.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 5 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …