About Physics

Our Program & Courses

Physics is a major with two different concentration tracks (Physics and Computational Physics) as well as a minor at F&M. In the Physics concentration track, you will study the natural world, exploring classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, and thermal and statistical physics. The Computational Physics concentration track allows you to blend knowledge of physics, computer science, and applied mathematics.

By studying physics at F&M, you’ll engage in deep critical reasoning and collaborative work to answer complex scientific questions. Using your grounding in the scientific process, you will be challenged to use your unique perspective and analytical abilities to understand and influence the world around you. You will engage in hands-on experimentation in the laboratory, test the limits of our theoretical models, and use computational tools to pursue research with support from your professors and F&M’s cutting-edge laboratory and computing equipment.

By the time you graduate, you will: 

  • Be able to find, interpret, and use already published knowledge in physics.
  • Be able to communicate technical information effectively and clearly, using data analysis and critical argumentation.
  • Be able to design and execute an experimental, theoretical, or computational approach to solving complex physical problems.
  • Be able to design and effectively deliver presentations of your scientific work to multiple audiences.
  • Be able to use advanced mathematical techniques to solve theoretical problems.
  • Be able to create new or modify existing models to explain observations of physical behavior.
  • Be able to take into account multiple perspectives and ethical considerations in doing physics.

Ready to see what physics classes at F&M are like? Explore our course catalog and get an idea of what to expect.

Our Faculty & Staff

Edward W Cook

Observatory Assistant

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Fronefield Crawford

Charles A. Dana Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Director of Grundy Observatory

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Etienne Gagnon

Associate Professor of Physics, Co-Director of the Creativity & Innovation Initiative, Department Chair of Physics & Astronomy

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Ken Krebs

Professor of Physics

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Amy L Lytle

Professor of Physics

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Kelly E Schenke

Academic Department Coordinator

Philosophy; Scientific and Philosophical Studies of Mind

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Debbie R Schmidt

Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy

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Steven W Spadafore

Electronics Engineer

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Calvin Stubbins

Professor of Physics

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Ryan Trainor

Associate Professor of Physics

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Learning Outside the Classroom

Research Opportunities

Are you interested in doing new physics, building on what others have done? You can at F&M. Every student at F&M has extraordinary opportunities to engage in independent or faculty-led research. Our students’ research has been published in leading scholarly journals, and your professors will be there every step of the way to mentor and advise you in your journey.

You’ll also find remarkable opportunities to join your professors’ research projects, allowing you to leave your footprint on what sometimes are years-long endeavors. Physics faculty are expert researchers working on a wide array of cutting-edge topics, including: 

  • Ultrafast and nonlinear optics
  • Quantum optics
  • Quantum field theory of hydrogenic atoms
  • Foundations of quantum mechanics
  • Physics education research 
  • The physics of knitted textiles
  • The materials physics of insulators
  • Remote sensing for landmine and unexploded ordnance detection
Explore research at F&M

Off-Campus Study

You’re encouraged to take advantage of F&M’s rich international study program. Our students have studied abroad in Scotland, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and more. 

Explore off-campus study at F&M

Our Facilities and Resources

The William M. Hackman Physical Sciences Laboratories

The hub of physics at F&M is the William M. Hackman Physical Sciences Laboratories building. Hackman houses six instructional laboratories; 11 student/faculty research laboratories; two ultrafast Ti:sapphire lasers; state-of-the-art spatial light modulators, optical spectrometers, and CCD cameras; single-photon detection capabilities for quantum optics experiments; a spectroscopic ellipsometer; a cold-cycle refrigerator capable of cooling to temperatures of 4 K; a monochromator, a spectrophotometer, and a wide range of spectroscopic equipment; and a lounge for physics majors to gather to study and share thoughts and ideas.

Success Beyond F&M

A degree in physics is great preparation for a wide range of career and personal interests. While some graduates with a background in physics go on to contribute to scientific knowledge, many contribute to their communities in other ways. Some become teachers and/or engage in outreach and science communication. Others bring their skills and knowledge to different areas of interest, becoming analysts, lawyers, doctors, and engineers or working to improve the world in their own ways.
Our faculty and staff take pride in helping students meet their personal goals. 

Graduate School

Many of our graduates go on to graduate school after F&M, pursuing advanced degrees in experimental or theoretical physics and related fields such as mechanical engineering. Their individualized learning and hands-on experience F&M provides gives them an advantage in getting admitted into some of the nation’s top graduate programs.

Career Paths

Physics graduates embark on a wide range of careers including in:

  • Research
  • Teaching
  • Finance
  • Medicine

They hold positions such as Computational Scientist, Data Scientist, Energy Industry Analyst, Materials Scientist, Medical Physicist, Physicist, Professor, Process Engineer, Research Engineer, Research Physicist, Quantitative Research Analyst, Seismologist, Teacher, and Technical Writer, among many others.

Alumni Spotlight

Discovering Discrepancies in Theoretical Physics

Standing before a blackboard filled with equations, physics major Evan Shinn '22 discusses his research, using quantum electrodynamics to determine corrections to a theory on positronium energy levels. "The whole project is about correcting energy levels for positronium," Shinn said.
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Research Spotlight

Students Help Program Robots for Dangerous Mission in Ukraine

Resembling a yellow toy dump truck, the "Jackal" is one of four prototypes in the world that has been under development at Franklin & Marshall College's physics lab. Students and their professors are researching Jackal's future assigned task—helping to remove landmines. "The robots will be cleaning up explosive remnants of war or maybe not these particular ones, but machines based on their design," says Tim Bechtel, director of F&M Science Outreach and senior teaching professor of geosciences.
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Physics at F&M in Action

May 23, 2024

Ten Faculty Earn Tenure, Promotion

At its May meeting, the Board of Trustees unanimously endorsed the recommendations of the Professional Standards Committee and the Provost, granting four F&M faculty tenure and promotion to associate professor, while six others were promoted to full professor.

April 19, 2024

Senior Spotlight: Huaizhi Liu

Huaizhi Liu embraced new opportunities at F&M, including researching in the physics lab, being an admission tour guide, learning how to use power tools with Catastrophic Relief Alliance, and being production manager of Choomies.

September 26, 2023

Students Stargaze at Cherry Springs Retreat

Students attended a recent weekend retreat to Cherry Springs State Park for two nights of stargazing in September. Night sky enthusiasts flock to the park for its spectacular views of the Milky Way.

Related Fields of Study


Do you dream of an exploration far beyond our planet or even our galaxy? Astrophysics at F&M provides a dynamic mixture of necessary scientific foundation and leading research, empowering you to venture into the latest questions about our universe.

Computer Science

As technology evolves and our understanding of computerized systems increases, computer science has become more advanced. At F&M, you’ll explore this ever-changing field, learning the mathematical basis of modern computer science, gaining technical and programming skills, and understanding how to put theory into practice.


The study of mathematics is ancient, and its roots in clear and creative thought can still be seen today. While studying mathematics at F&M, you will learn both the fundamental foundations and theories of the field as well as how to apply these theories to real-life problems.