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Physics & Astronomy

From its central role in international astronomy projects, to the extraordinary research opportunities afforded to its students, the Carthage Physics & Astronomy Department offers a rigorous and exciting environment in which to study the mysteries of the universe.

Carthage Offers …

Degrees:
B.A. in Physics

Minors:
Physics
Climatology and Meteorology

Special Programs:
Engineering (3+2 Program)

Scholarships

Math/Science Scholarships: 
Compete for more than $350,000 in the Carthage Math/Science Scholarship Competition.

Noyce Scholarship Program:
$16,000 in scholarships available for STEM majors.

Conduct research with NASA

The space sciences program at Carthage is a nationally recognized undergraduate program that provides students hands-on opportunities in technology development and atmospheric sciences through partnerships with NASA and academic researchers around the world. Carthage students and faculty regularly conduct research aboard NASA’s zero-gravity aircraft, as part of ongoing experiments and technology development for space hardware. Students also participate in NASA’s RockSat and CubeSat programs, with students designing and building experiments to be flown on NASA spacecraft. This work makes Carthage an excellent choice for students interested in aeronautical and space sciences. Many Physics Department alumni are now pursuing advanced degrees in aeronautical engineering or working in the industry.
Read more about the space sciences at Carthage

Home to the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium

Carthage is the home institution for the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium, the second-largest space grant consortium in the country with more than 40 affiliate members across academic institutions, government agencies, aerospace industry, and nonprofit organizations. The WSGC mission is to support STEM research at both the undergraduate and graduate level, aerospace workforce development, and K-12 STEM education and outreach at our affiliate institutions.
Read more about Space Grant at Carthage

Recognized for Excellence in STEM Careers

When it comes to preparing undergraduate physics students for careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, Carthage is among the best in the country, according to the American Institute of Physics (AIP). The AIP selected the Carthage Physics Department for its new study on effective undergraduate physics programs. According to the AIP, Carthage was selected because of its strong record in preparing students with bachelor’s degrees in physics and placing them immediately into careers in STEM fields.

Access to Top Facilities

Physics students at Carthage have access to some of the world’s best telescopes, from Yerkes Observatory near Lake Geneva, Wis., to Kitt Peak in Arizona. Students are involved in forefront research activities with faculty, including galaxy imaging for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and cutting-edge research for the NSF Center for Adaptive Optics. The department’s dynamic faculty is actively involved in many different research areas. Prof. Jean Quashnock studies the formation of the universe using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Prof. Brian Schwartz uses lasers to study the basic building blocks of matter.

Personal Attention

All faculty members are devoted to teaching and regularly invite students into their projects for real-life, real-world research experience. “A student coming to Carthage is going to get a lot of attention in the classroom, and will have a lot of research opportunities,” says Prof. Jean Quashnock, professor of physics and astronomy. “Our students are very active, working together and with faculty on physics problems.”
Meet the faculty

Active Physics Community

The Carthage chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) is active and award winning. The chapter has earned distinction as a national Outstanding Chapter for two consecutive years. SPS is a student-led organization that runs education outreach to local schools.
Learn more about SPS at Carthage

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  • 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

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wins, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • 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.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. 95% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • 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.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from archaeology to athletic training, neuroscience to music theatre.

    • 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.

    • More than 90 percent of our students receive financial aid, a hefty chunk of which is scholarships and grants — including $1.25 million annually from the Presidential Scholarship Competition and numerous Merit Scholarships. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • 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.

    • Carthage awards up to 30 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from 75% tuition up to full tuition, room, and board. Learn more.

    • 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 …

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  • Who We Are

    • “I feel like my relationships with my professors are much closer than they were to my high school teachers. The classes are smaller and we have time to get to know each other.”

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      Lindsey Watson — ’17

    • “Physics is an amazing and difficult field of study. Engineering is not the only path for physics! You can do so much more and create so many things. You can learn to manipulate and interpret the world around you and it’s so much fun!”

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      Nycole Wenner — ’19

    • “Physics, like no other major, dives into the essence of the universe and tries to pull out an explanation for why things are the way they are. It is truly simple and complex at the same time.”

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      Max Becher — ’19