Physics Program

Mission Statement

The mission of the Physics Program is to provide strong academic preparation to students for graduate study in physics or a related STEM field or for employment in the high-tech industry in a STEM field. The Physics Program provides a solid background in theoretical, computational and experimental physics in an active learning environment. Students also participate in cutting-edge undergraduate research that cultivate critical thinking, problem-solving, analytical skills, as well as technical and scientific competency.

Learning Outcomes
Students majoring in Physics will demonstrate:

  1. A strong understanding of the major sub-disciplines of physics - classical mechanics, electricity & magnetism, thermal & statistical physics, and quantum physics.  
  2. Laboratory skills and responsible laboratory practices in modern instrumentation, computer software and methods of information retrieval.
  3. Research skills that reflect critical thinking and analysis.  
  4. Effective written and oral communication skills.

Physics Program Overview

Physics is a fascinating field! Humanity has learned that there is order in the Universe, and this order can be expressed through physical laws. The study of physics involves understanding of the everyday phenomena in nature, with the creative synthesis of theory and experiment to express the laws of nature, often elegant in their universality. Physics is also the study of the fundamental structure of matter, energy and their interactions with the forces of nature, from the very small to the very large.

Today the scope of physics extends from the smallest subatomic particles to the distant galaxies and to the entire observable universe. Any student with a curiosity about the physical universe can benefit from studying physics. Physics is not just for physicists. In general, everyone needs an understanding of physics because of the bearing it has on the wide range of issues facing today’s world, such as energy resources, the environment, space exploration, communication and medicine. Physics forms the basis of most of today’s technological innovations and is the core of many new advances in engineering and technology. Physicists in general strive to develop theories to understand the concepts needed for a precise description of nature and build experiments to test such concepts. Physicists are increasingly using advanced computing tools to find solutions to both scientific and engineering problems, particularly for modeling and simulation of complex processes.

One of the great strengths of Bellarmine's Physics Program is a small class size and the close collaborative interactions among faculty and students. We offer a robust physics curriculum –the Bachelor of Science degree in Physics provides a broad background in physics, as well as in mathematics and computer science in a wide range of courses. The undergraduate Physics curriculum is designed to provide students with strong academic preparation and educational training in theoretical, computational and experimental physics in an active learning environment that provide the foundation for graduate study in Physics and for employment in industry.

In the upper division Physics courses, the emphasis shifts from structured classroom and laboratory activities to experiences designed to develop increasing independence and creativity. Students obtain a strong foundation in classical mechanics, electricity & magmatism, thermal and statistical physics, modern physics, quantum physics, electronics, and computational physics using high performance parallel cluster computing. By combining a rigorous physics curriculum with instruction in computer science, mathematics, and computational physics, students enrolled in the Bachelor of Science physics degree program acquire versatile skills in Big Data Analytics.

The Physics Program seeks to produce graduates who not only have strong critical thinking, problem solving, analytical and technical/hardware skills, but also have strong computational and software/programming skills. These skills sets are necessary to develop solutions to complex problems and technologies of tomorrow in our society and to pursue a professional career in the private sector/high-tech industry. Many of today’s physics students will become tomorrow’s leaders and will be expanding the frontiers of Physics, Computing, Information Technology(IT), and Data Science.

Research Opportunities for Physics Majors

The Physics Program seeks to advance the frontiers of physics, and therefore provide faculty-mentored cutting-edge research opportunities that allow physics majors to acquire and develop scientific and communication skills. The research mission of the Physics Program is carried out jointly by the Physics faculty and students. The research goal of the Physics Program is to seek out for new knowledge that is at the cutting edge of modern science. We aim to provide research opportunities and an avenue for our students that can potentially lead to scientific discoveries. Therefore, as part of the physics curriculum, all physics majors are required to take part in a faculty-mentored research project starting in their sophomore year.

Currently, undergraduate students can pursue research projects in the following areas- Experimental High Energy Physics with the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at CERN, Theoretical Particle Physics, Astrophysics (Exoplanet Studies with the Kepler Data), Beowulf Cluster Computing, Grid Computing, and Robotics. We are also part of the Kentucky Association for Research with LSST (Large Synoptic Survey Telescope). This research consortium consists of eight institutions from Kentucky.

In the past six years, the Physics Program has received over $1.1 million in highly-competitive federal funding- three grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), one grant from KY-NSF-EPSCoR and two grants from the NASA’s KSGC (Kentucky Space Grant Consortium program). The Physics Program is also part of an institutional grant from the Clare Boothe Luce Foundation which provides research stipends to undergraduate women student majoring in a STEM field. The NSF funding led to the establishment of the Center for Supercomputing, Visualization and Education (CSVE) in 2014. This research center is equipped with two research labs- (i) the Bellarmine Supercomputing Lab that houses a 384-core Supercomputer (with 374 TB of disk space) that is linked to the national Open Science Grid (OSG) cyberinfrastructure and is the only OSG grid site in the state of Kentucky, and (ii) the Advanced Visualization and Computational Lab (AVCL) that houses a 16 megapixel state-of-the-art 16 feet by 4.6 feet Hiperwall visualization system (a next generation video-wall technology) which is connected to nine high-end Tier4 Data Analysis workstations to enable visualization of very large-scale datasets (Big Data). The Hiperwall system has created a dynamic/interactive visualization environment for conducting interactive and exploratory data analyses activities.

In 2015, we established a Robotics Lab that is equipped with several robotic devices (such as rovers, robotics arms, and a remote controlled semiautonomous hexapod), two 3D printers, and a humanoid robot called NAO that can interact with humans.

Over the past few years, Physics majors have actively participated in a number of federally funded cutting-edge research projects. In the past seven years, our physics majors have presented over 60 talks and posters at local, state, regional and national meetings and conferences. Physics majors have won ten Kentucky Academy of Science(KAS) undergraduate research competition awards (seven first prize awards and three second prize awards). Additionally, Physics majors have received Bellarmine University’s prestigious Sister Mary Casilda Research award for outstanding research work in science four times in the past six years.

Physics majors can also obtain REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) summer research internships at a number of research institutions. Internship opportunities are available for Physics majors locally. Physics majors have obtained internships with GE in Louisville.

Eureka Learning Community

Our NSF-STEM grant led to the establishment of a living and learning community for STEM majors, called the Eureka Learning Community. The Eureka Learning Community strives to enrich the academic experience through a variety of activities and provides them with an opportunity to interact and bond with other STEM students to develop cohesiveness and intellectual connections. You will be part of a nurturing atmosphere that enhances your learning and personal growth by participating in activities outside of the classroom and getting involved in various Eureka Learning Community social activities (e.g. the Eureka Game and Ping Pong Nights) and extracurricular activities at the Kentucky Science Center and at LVL1 (Level One), a high-tech incubator, to take part in fun and challenging science and engineering projects.

Careers in Physics and Graduate Opportunities

Students who graduate with a Bachelor of Science (BSc.) degree in physics can either pursue graduate studies towards a Master of Science (MSc.) and a Ph.D degree in physics/related field or seek for employment in the private sector/high-tech industry. Physics graduates can also go on to professional schools in a variety of fields. More than ever, students who study physics find themselves entering a wide range of career fields and adapt to the changing work place of the 21st century job market.

Many Physics graduates go on to pursue a professional career in the private sector, in high-tech industry as Engineers, Physicists and Computational/Big Data Scientists, Computer Consultants, Research Staff and Technicians and as Physics Teachers. Others pursue leadership roles in business, management and finance, and also in government. Physics graduates can also pursue employment as software programmers in firms that develop educational and scientific software, or even in Wall Street, where employers are interested in people with a background in computational physics.

About a third of our graduates are working as Engineers in industry. Our recent graduates have also obtained employment in the industry in the Big Data sector, locally in Louisville at GE, Humana, NTT Data, and as R&D Engineer at Battelle Corp. in Ohio, with a starting salary of $58,000 – $75,000. Several of our graduates are pursuing their Ph.D in Physics at various research institutions with either a full Teaching Assistantship or a Fellowship in the range from $25,000 to over $45,000 per year.

Contact Us

Dr. Pat Holt, Professor of Chemistry and Physics Program Director, Room P212, Pasteur Hall, Bellarmine University, 2001 Newburg Road, Louisville, KY 40205; Tel: 502.272.8220; pholt@bellarmine.edu.