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    Hope College
    Aug 16, 2022  
2022-2023 Catalog 
2022-2023 Catalog


The Department of Physics offers several majors. The course structure allows students to tailor their programs to their main interests.

About The Program

Opportunities for research participation are available to all students at all class levels during both the academic year and the summer. Students are presently engaged in:

  • Exploring the physics of magnetars and pulsars
  • Exploration of the fundamental properties of plasma turbulence
  • Computational plasma physics studies utilizing sophisticated computing resources
  • Measuring the properties of nuclei involved in the formation of the heavy elements in the universe
  • Improving techniques to measure PFAS in ground water
  • Refining the nuclear force based on studies of very unstable, very neutron-rich nuclei
  • Understanding the health effects of chronic radiation doses in mice to understand what will be experienced by astronauts traveling to Mars

Laboratories provide students with opportunities to test fundamental concepts and apply theories in practical applications. In addition, research programs and internships enable students to work alongside faculty members and working professionals.

In the department, the primary physics research facilities include:

  • 1.7 million volt Van de Graaff particle accelerator
  • Scanning electron microscope
  • Atomic force microscope
  • Nuclear physics laboratory
  • Superconductivity/microwave laboratory
  • Electrochemistry/nanoscale laboratory
  • High-speed multi-thread computers

Students and faculty are also involved in research programs at national laboratories and with international collaborators. Students are strongly encouraged, as early as possible, to become involved in one of the research programs of the faculty members. Summer stipends for such activity are often available.

Honors Designation

In order to encourage students to go beyond the minimum requirements for graduation, students completing additional requirements will have an Honors Designation added to their transcripts. Students must fulfill the requirements for a B.S. in physics and take an additional 6 credits of physics. PHYS 342 , PHYS 361 , PHYS 362 , and PHYS 372  must all be taken.

In addition, one summer and two semesters (for one credit each term) of research work must be done with a Hope faculty member. The research work must be documented in a written form, determined in agreement with the faculty mentor, approved by the department members, and recorded in department meeting minutes. An additional semester of a laboratory-based science course outside of physics is required, and a mathematics course beyond the required calculus sequence is required. The minimum GPA in physics courses is 3.6.

Combining Physics and Engineering

The fields of physics and engineering are closely related. Similar principles and science concepts are found in both. One is more focused on application and one tends more to the abstract. Students unsure of their specific career goals are encouraged to speak with the chairpersons of each department and to begin the physics sequence (PHYS 121 /PHYS 141  and PHYS 122 /PHYS 142 ) during their first year.

Graduate School and Health Professions

Students considering graduate work in the sciences should take the General Physics with lab sequence, PHYS 121 /PHYS 141  and PHYS 122 /PHYS 142 .

Students considering one of the health professions are strongly advised to consult with a Pre-Health Professions Advisor . The physics requirement differs for each health profession.

Prerequisite Policy

Many courses in the department have prerequisites listed. A grade of C- or better is required in these prerequisite courses. If this is not the case, then it is the view of the department that the prerequisite has not been fulfilled and the course may not be taken without written permission of the instructor and the department chairperson.


The department offers majors designed to meet a variety of students’ needs. Programs for students interested in professional work in physics, astronomy, medicine, biophysics, chemical physics, materials physics, radiation physics, environmental physics, or medical physics should consider the Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts major. There is a third major tailored to those interested in secondary education.