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The world of physics is indeed full of wonders and mysteries: from the mysterious behavior of the quantum world to the grand spectacles of the cosmos–all declare God's glory. The physics department at Covenant College provides a rigorous consideration of the field of physics in a thoughtful interaction with philosophy and theology.

On this page Overview Graduate Outcomes Programs / Features Faculty Contact

Program Overview

The physics department seeks to discern and unfold the implications of Christ's pre-eminence in physics by dramatically expanding our students' knowledge of God's universe so that they might be more faithful stewards of God's gifts and more informed worshippers of the one true God. We instruct our students to take seriously the fact that knowledge in physics carries with it the responsibility for practical application in redemptive activity.

We not only provide a solid grounding in the discipline of physics, we also provide a foundation for understanding the relation of physics to such disciplines as engineering, philosophy, and theology. We make it our aim to help students identify their particular callings related to physics and develop confidence that God can use their knowledge to accomplish His purposes in them. For both science and non-science majors, we impart a sense of awe and wonder at God's world as He upholds the regularities we observe in the physical sciences.

Graduate Outcomes

Teaching physics in high school or going on to graduate school are common directions for Covenant physics majors. However, the physics major teaches analytical, mathematical, and problem-solving skills which can be put to use in many areas, both technical and otherwise. Using the skills obtained while majoring in physics, people have gone on to do many different things, from working in the stock market to analyzing data for businesses.

In our major program we prepare students for graduate school or teaching in secondary school by providing a solid conceptual grasp of the discipline itself and issues that overlap with other disciplines. Additionally, in service programs we prepare pre-engineering students for the dual degree program on a level suitable for study at Georgia Tech, pre-med students for the MCAT, and others for the various disciplines in which physics will be used.

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Joel Swanson ’03

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Emily Carpenter ’14

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Studying Physics teaches us that we have to be humble about what we know.
Phill Boussard

Professor of Physics

Programs & Features

The core requirements are the same as those listed for baccalaureate degrees, with the exception that mathematics and natural science lab courses are satisfied with non-department courses required for the major. While not required, it is recommended that either PHI 101 Introduction to Philosophy or PHI 283 Philosophy of Science be taken to satisfy the humanities distribution requirement.

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Majors that can be a natural fit for a physics minor are those closest to the major, mathematics or chemistry. However, since we introduce interesting philosophical areas such as quantum physics to non-majors, we sometimes get philosophy majors who are interested in a physics minor.

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Covenant College has a Dual Degree Program in engineering which typically consists of three years at Covenant College where the student is taught the fundamentals in mathematics, sciences, and beginning engineering. The student then transfers to Georgia Institute of Technology or University of Tennessee Chattanooga where we have articulation agreements (or any other approved engineering institution) and studies the remaining engineering courses in the chosen field of engineering. Upon completion of the program, the student will receive two degrees: a Bachelor of Arts in Natural Science from Covenant College and a Bachelor of Science in the particular branch of engineering from the chosen engineering school.

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Students who are interested in teaching physics for grades 6-12 should complete a BA degree with a major in physics and then enroll in the one-year Master of Arts in Teaching at Covenant College. It is recommended that students also complete the Education Minor. Three of the courses in the minor, EDU 121 Introduction to Teaching, EDU 222 Educational Psychology, and EDU 361 Education of Exceptional Children, are required for admission to the MAT. For information about certification, see Teacher Certification under the Education section of the catalog.

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  • PHY 233 Optics and Modern Physics
  • PHY 330 Circuits and Electronics
  • PHY 341 Electromagnetism
  • PHY 351 Quantum Mechanics I
  • PHY 450 Advanced Physics Lab
  • PHY 491 Perspectives on Science

Tutoring takes place in the Physics Commons (Mills 360) throughout the day and in the evening. The tutoring schedule can be found in Mills 360.

  • “Photovoltaics: A Viable Mainstream Alternative Energy Source”
  • “Inertial Confinement Fusion & the National Ignition Facility: The Scientist Beyond Researcher”
  • “Creating a Quantum Rap”
  • “Reforming our Classrooms: Christian Science Textbooks”
  • “‘Spooky’: An Introduction to Quantum Entanglement and its Misapplications”
  • “Multiverse, Physics, and God”
  • “Thorium and the Molten Salt Reactor”

Guided Capstone Requirements

Each Friday afternoon the physics faculty, physics majors, and other interested students gather together in the physics commons to discuss hot topics in physics or other branches of science, hear from guest lecturers, or watch video lectures. We also discuss the relation between science and Christianity. Students are given the opportunity and encouraged to present their own research. Topics that have been discussed include:

  • Methods of Interplanetary Travel
  • Cosmology and Genesis
  • Life of Stars
  • Hypersonic Travel

Our students and faculty have also visited the Oak Ridge National Labs, attended and presented research at the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society (SESAPS) meeting and the American Scientific Affiliation conference, and published papers in the Journal of Low Temperature Physics and Journal of Applied Physics.

Spring 2024 Schedule

January 12: No meeting due to classes being cancelled
January 19: Planning Meeting
January 26: Dr. Broussard on Upper Critical Field in Niobium
February 2: Dr. Broussard on Climate Change I
February 9: Dr. Broussard on Climate Change II
February 16: Movie SpaceBalls
February 23: Seth Newman on Nuclear Power and the Future
March 1: No Talk due to Spring Break
March 8: No Talk due to Spring Break
March 15: No Talk due to Presidential Inauguration
March 22: Conner Wilson on Evolution of Gyroscopic Stabilizers
March 29: No Talk, Good Friday
April 5: Grant Elder (TBD)

Why Major in Physics at Covenant College?
Besides providing the usual benefits of a small college such as small classes with frequent contact with professors, our program offers some unique advantages.

First, we investigate all the nuances of what it means to do science from a Christian perspective. The physics department has a good working relationship with the philosophy and biblical studies departments in addressing different worldviews as they affect the practice of science and seek to truly acknowledge Jesus Christ as preeminent in our approach to physics.

Second, our department is unusual for a small college due to the combined backgrounds of twenty-five years of pure research experience divided nearly equally between theoretical and experimental work. Our professors' expertise covers several areas from thin films to quarks and the other elementary particles, from superconductivity to the mysteries of the quantum world.

So whether you are interested in trying to figure out the mysteries of quantum theory and black holes or are motivated by philosophical/theological questions about physics, we welcome you!

Would attaining a BA in physics at Covenant rather than a BS at a major university be a detriment for getting into graduate school?
Any rigorous program such as ours prepares a student for the advanced physics GRE. Additionally, many universities look favorably on prospective students with a BA, because often they have learned to be serious students who like to learn, and their broader backgrounds tend to help them be more flexible in graduate school. Students may end up needing to make up a course or two upon entering graduate school, but that is fairly common.

Perhaps it is more important to think about the difference in the two degrees from the perspective of what they will do for a student. Compared to a larger university, Covenant provides a more narrowly focused physics program which can give students a more philosophical understanding of the field that can allow them to better talk to fellow graduate students and researchers about a range of subjects, including the Gospel.

When would I have to decide between a physics major and an engineering major?
Most of the first two years are the same, with only a few minor exceptions that can be worked around. So if you are undecided, the best approach would be to pursue the engineering major in the beginning. Physics upper division courses begin in the third year, so you will have to decide by then. We have also had students who majored in physics here at Covenant, and then went on to study engineering in graduate school. So that is another possible option.

Does the physics department require a particular type of calculator or computer?
We do not require a particular type of either one, but you will probably want a scientific calculator of some kind. The college maintains a computer lab and some computers in the dormitories with some standard software (though most college software is now web based via google, canvas, and banner), and the physics department has a few computers that have more specific programs.

If you intend to buy a new computer, the world of physics, as with some other sciences, has generally gravitated toward the unix operating system. In the past, this meant that scientists would use something like a Sun workstation, or a Digital Equipment workstation, or more lately, would run linux on a PC. However, since Apple adopted Mac OS X, an operating system based on a version of unix, the Mac has become an excellent, and perhaps the best, scientific platform.

Meet the Physics Faculty

Phil Broussard

Phil Broussard Professor of Physics
Department Chair

curt stern

Curt Stern Professor of Engineering

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