Apr 14, 2024  
2020-2021 UMass Dartmouth Undergraduate Catalog 
2020-2021 UMass Dartmouth Undergraduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Department of Physics

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Faculty and Fields of Interest

Robert Fisher fluid dynamics, turbulence, theoretical and computational astrophysics, interstellar medium and star formation, and Type Ia supernovae

Alan Hirshfeld astronomy / astrophysics, history of science, astronomy education

Jong-Ping Hsu space-time symmetry, gauge fields, field angular momentum, classical and quantum Yang-Mills gravity

David Kagan theoretical physics, string theory, physics education

Gaurav Khanna theoretical and computational astrophysics, black hole astrophysics, gravitational waves, quantum gravity, high performance computing, control and dynamical system theory

Renuka Rajapakse quantum optics, quantum computation, theoretical and computational atomic physics

Grant O’Rielly photonuclear physics at intermediate energies, few-body systems, pion photoproduction, fundamental nuclear symmetries

John Silva earth science/geology, planetary geology, astronomy, earth science education

Jay (Jianyi) Wang (chairperson) theory and simulations of electronic, atomic and optical processes, ion-solids and ion-surface interactions, computational physics, physics/teacher education

Physicists uncover the mysteries of nature from the smallest subatomic particles to the largest galaxies, from delicate cosmic strings to supermassive black holes and from the depths of the sea to the farthest reaches of space. Research in physics has paved the way for technological innovations such as lasers, solar cells, electric cars, medical diagnostics, computers and even the Internet itself. Today, physicists lead some of the world’s major technology companies and research institutes, expanding the frontiers of knowledge and meeting our planet’s environmental challenges.

The powerful array of technical skills acquired as a physics major (critical thinking, problem solving, mathematical analysis, computer simulation and technical writing) prepare you for a 21st -century career in many areas of theoretical and applied science. A physics major is also well positioned to go into many areas of graduate studies in science and engineering. Skilled physicists are increasingly in demand in allied fields, such as environmental science, engineering, medicine and renewable energy research. Students wishing to enter the professions of law, business, or medicine recognize the competitive edge a strong physics background provides.

The UMass Dartmouth Physics Department offers an exciting program of undergraduate and graduate study that covers all the core fields of physics: classical and quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism, modern physics and relativity, optics, thermodynamics and solid state physics, with ample opportunity to investigate related fields like astrophysics, weather and climate, ocean science and environmental physics. For students who wish to explore the science of the cosmos, we offer an astronomy/astrophysics option to the Bachelor of Science degree. Physics majors are also trained in advanced laboratory techniques as well as computer simulation and numerical modeling and have opportunities to experience the thrill of discovery as they participate in faculty research in areas such as astrophysics, scientific computation, fluid physics, nuclear physics, physical oceanography and theoretical physics. Under faculty sponsorship, our students have investigated undersea currents on an oceanographic research vessel off the coast of Japan, peered through mountaintop telescopes in Arizona, pierced the atomic nucleus at a giant particle accelerator in Sweden and searched for ripples in spacetime at the futuristic Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory in Louisiana. Our students routinely present results of their research at professional conferences nationwide. In addition, they attend seminars by visiting researchers and participate in a variety of other science-related activities through the Physics Club.

A unique aspect of the Physics Department is its strong focus on computation and simulation in both teaching and research. Computation is integrated into coursework not only to enhance the study of physics, but also to help students gain valuable and marketable skills in coding and computational problem solving. In research, the department has established itself as a leader in scientific computing. Faculty and students have access to some of the most powerful research supercomputers on the planet, including Argonne National Laboratory’s Intrepid, currently the eighth-fastest supercomputer in the world. On site, the department maintains its own supercomputers, featuring an ultra-fast 88-core Beowulf computer cluster used to simulate star formation and explosions, plus a groundbreaking high-performance supercomputer utilizing sixteen Sony Play Station 3 processors used to model gravity waves from colliding black holes. The department also operates a fully-equipped observatory with a 16-inch computer-controlled telescope and CCD imaging camera.

Many of our Bachelor’s degree students go on to graduate studies in our own Master’s degree program or at Ph.D.-granting institutions nationwide. Our graduates assume leadership roles in industry, business and government; become faculty members at other universities; design and evaluate computer systems; create technology companies; or teach elementary or secondary science at schools throughout the Commonwealth. For more than forty years, the Physics Department has been committed to helping its students achieve their academic and career goals.


As the focus of its mission, the Physics Department works to provide its students with:

  1. a comprehensive, high-quality education in the physical sciences;
  2. a flexible curriculum that allows students to tailor their education according to their specific interests;
  3. the opportunity to experience the excitement of scientific discovery through direct participation in faculty research;
  4. an increased awareness of the physical processes in the surrounding world;
  5. the essential knowledge and analytical tools with which to pursue post-graduate education in a variety of physics-related fields;
  6. the foundation for eventual success in any of a broad array of careers; and
  7. the motivation for a lifelong love of learning. 


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