Physics students get hands-on experience

Lycoming College students in Drs. David Fisher and Christopher Kulp’s physics classes are getting hands-on lab experience thanks the proceeds from a $100,000 grant from the George I. Alden Trust. The grant money was used to update the laboratory space and buy new equipment to enhance the programs offered with in the physics major.

Fisher, professor of astronomy and physics, said the grant allowed the College to buy more than 35 pieces of specialized equipment and two dozen dedicated-use tables for the instrumentation.

The physics department equipment will supplement the areas of mechanics, electromagnetism, modern physics and condensed matter, and thermodynamics, and includes a gamma ray spectrometer, a Blackbody radiation monitor, a Faraday rotator, a Hall effect sensor, a new solar telescope for safely observing the sun, digital oscilloscopes, hardware to measure hysteresis circuits, and devices that measure the speed of sound, surface tension and viscosity, among other instrumentation.

Fisher added that the students also will have additional learning experiences as they help install some of the equipment and assist with writing the lab manuals that will be used by future classes.

“This will provide a lot of hands-on lab work experience for the students,” Fisher said. “We can do experiments now that otherwise were not possible.”

During the last 10 years, 40 percent of the department’s seniors went to graduate school in physics or astronomy, as compared to a national average of 35 percent, according to the American Institute of Physics, and in the same period, 45 percent of majors have been women, compared to just more than 20 percent nationally. Because of the department’s emphasis on lab-based instruction, majors and non-majors alike learn experientially beginning in the freshman year.

Established in 1912, Alden Trust supports “institutions that demonstrate a combination of educational excellence, exciting programming, and efficient and effective administration” and capital projects that “contribute significantly to the intellectual growth of students and will enhance an institution’s mission.”