Majors & Minors


From the cosmos to cathedrals, from monsoons to movement, from brains to black holes, students and faculty in Southwestern’s Department of Physics study the world around, within, and beyond us.


Steve Alexander

Professor & Chair



Steve Alexander

Professor & Chair

Physics (Credit: Southwestern University)

With its wide scope and its status as the foundation for many scientific disciplines, physics enables you to understand all forms of mass and energy and their interrelationships. You will explore how the universe works—from the subatomic and molecular levels to the scale of solar systems and galaxies—through systematic observation, theoretical modeling, and experimentation. And fulfilling Southwestern’s innovative Paideia approach to education, physics gives you the tools to make connections between seemingly unconnected phenomena in technologically innovative and artistically creative ways. How is DNA related to the dust swirling about a star? How does the strumming of a guitar or the darkly dramatic register of a tenor trombone behave like a wave traveling within the depths of the ocean or the tremors of an earthquake? You will develop the intellectual and philosophical curiosity to understand first physical principles—foundational concepts that lead to the scientific discoveries that shape our world and drive the technological advances that help improve our lives.

With specialties in geophysics, atmospheric physics, mathematics, and quantum physics, our award-winning faculty offer a rich array of courses, including earth and climate science, classical mechanics, and quantum physics. If your passion is for engineering, you can explore the field in our three-year, dual-degree Applied Physics Pre-Engineering Pathway. You will also have the remarkable opportunity to use the Fountainwood Observatory for research and coursework. Thanks to a generous gift by Max Allen, a local engineer, builder, and amateur astronomer, our observatory houses a research-quality reflecting telescope complete with a digital CCD camera that enables you to for view and process images on your computer.

Because you will learn how to analyze data, solve complex problems, and engage in quantitative reasoning, you will be prepared to embark on a range of cutting-edge careers in diverse fields:

  • Trajectory analyst for NASA flight missions
  • Research and development engineer
  • Patent analyst
  • Nuclear medicine physicist or engineer
  • Astrophysicist
  • Geophysicist
  • Sound engineer
  • Video game and software engineer
  • Science educator


Physics News

Watch the final beam ceremony.

Final Beam Ceremony

Watch special moments from the Final Beam Ceremony including: Jack Garey signing the final beam and a bird’s eye view of the construction.

Rendering of Fondren Jones Science Center Phase II

Southwestern Officially Breaks Ground on Phase II of Fondren-Jones Science Center

On February 2, 2018, Southwestern University officially broke ground on the second phase of a $37 million-dollar expansion to the Fondren-Jones Science Center. The project is expected to be completed and ready to welcome students in the fall of 2019.

Dr. Mark Bottorff

SU Professor Mark Bottorff Traveled to Wyoming to Experience “Sublime, Metaphysical” Total Solar Eclipse

The recent total solar eclipse generated plenty of excitement across the entire country, but for Bottorff the event was much more than an excuse to wear funny glasses.