• Overview
  • Faculty
  • Requirements
  • Advising
  • Career Tracks
  • Off-Campus Study
  • Unique Opportunities



Ripon College offers a major and minor in physics. Students studying physics interact with, measure and explain systems in the universe from subatomic particles to galactic clusters. They learn to apply principles of physics to concerns of society.

In the classroom and the laboratory, physics students and teachers work together to answer questions posed by nature. We come to understand just how matter and energy behave and we come to appreciate the beauty and subtlety of the universe. The more we work on problems, the more coherent our understanding becomes and, paradoxically perhaps, the more “interesting” problems we discover to solve.

The skills students develop – mathematical ability, experimental techniques, expertise in communication – are valuable in every area, not just in physics. Physics students adapt easily to many situations on campus and off where there are problems to be solved. They are valuable assets to any team working toward local or global solutions. Our graduates pursue everything from industrial research and teaching to technical writing and aeronautical engineering.

Program Spotlight


Brett Barwick

Brett Barwick

Associate Professor of Physics, Harrison E. Farnsworth 1918 Chair in Physics

[email protected]

Christina Othon

Associate Professor of Physics

[email protected]


Requirements for a minor in physics: 22 credits and 8 prerequisite credits. 168 Courses of Study MTH 201 and 202 are prerequisites for PHY 251.

Required: PHY 171, 172 and 251. Eight additional credits in physics courses numbered above 200, including no more than five credits from PHY 412/CHM 333 (five credits) and PHY 334/CHM 334 (five credits) and no more than four credits from PHY 230, 360, 362 (four credits each) and PHY 200 (two-four credits).

Requirements for a minor in astronomy: 22 credits and 8 prerequisite credits. MTH 201 and 202 are prerequisite for PHY 251. Required: PHY 171, 172 and 251. Eight additional credits may be chosen from the following options: PHY 200, 230, 360 or 362


Ripon College faculty and professional staff are dedicated to helping you reach your goals, whatever they may be and however often they may change along the way. It’s part of our value statement to you.

As a student at Ripon, you will be assigned a faculty adviser based on your area(s) of interest. You will meet with your faculty adviser throughout your time as a student to discuss your current aspirations, plan your course schedule and plot a future trajectory. Staff in the Office of Constituent Engagement and Career Services help to match your interests to concrete goals and construct a plan for success, offering support through three stages of career development – planning, exploration and search. Student Support Services provides tutoring and additional academic and skill development, as well as tools to help with note-taking, exam preparation, goal-setting and time management. Mentors in the Collaborative Learning Center provide in-depth, one-on-one or group mentoring for students about class projects and college-level writing, and can share problem-solving strategies to overcome academic obstacles.

Advising at Ripon.

Career Tracks

Physics can lead to careers in research and teaching in university and lab settings. It also can lead you to roads less traveled, including game design and nuclear engineering.

Recent graduates have taken many paths, including graduate school programs in math, engineering, physics and education at schools including the University of Notre Dame, California University-Berkeley, the University of Wisconsin; and careers as mechanical engineers, project managers and public school teachers.

Recent graduates of our program work for:

  • BASF
  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Illumina Inc.
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • Ohio State University
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Risk Management Solutions
  • UW-Madison

Job titles of recent graduates include:

  • Research associate
  • Research assistant
  • Regional admissions manager
  • High school physics teacher
  • Nuclear engineer
  • Product manager
  • Finish manager

Off-Campus Study

By Flickr User Mags D (http://www.flickr.com/photos/msrd/474409421/) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Swansea University: Digital Technium

Off campus studies, either in summer programs at a number of industrial or university laboratories or as part of the Oak Ridge Science Semester program, offer students the opportunity to research in experimental or theoretical physics.

Physics students also can study physics abroad at Swansea University in Wales or St. Andrews University in Scotland. In addition to providing students with research experience, these programs help students broaden their contact with eminent physicists around the world.

Whether you choose a program that is international or domestic, it is an experience bound to change your view of the world. Click to learn more about Off- Campus Study and Liberal Arts In Focus at Ripon College.

Financial aid continues for students who choose to participate in an approved study-abroad program, minimizing additional expenses.

Unique Opportunities

Independent Study

Independent study in physics offers students the opportunity to receive college credit for work on individual projects. These projects may be research collaborations with faculty or problems of particular interest to the student. Outside support is available for some areas of study. For example, the NASA Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium Scholarship Program provides support for qualified students taking part in aerospace studies.

Physics FUN Force

Students of physics are encouraged to be active in the local, regional and national Society of Physics Students organization. One of the Society’s local projects has been the creation of the Physics Fun Force, a group of students that visits area elementary schools to do exciting physics activities and investigations with children.

If you would like the Physics FUN Force to visit your classroom, please contact Mary Williams-Norton, the group’s adviser, via email at [email protected]. Please send your name, school, grade level, phone number, email address, which activity you would like us to bring to your classroom, and a brief summary of the kinds of activities the children already have done in this area. Also suggest times of the day and dates that might work for you. Because the students are busy with classes, scheduling a visit may require some flexibility. We’ll bring most of the necessary materials with us, but we may ask you to provide everyday materials such as papers, pens or pencils, markers, water, etc. There is no charge for a visit BUT we love receiving thank-you notes from classes we visit.