Our teaching and research facilities and advanced laboratories have received more than $400,000 in new equipment during the last five years, and we have some of the best equipment in the country for undergraduate research participation.

Classes Designed for Interactive Study

Our class sizes never get above 40 for the introductory sequence with introductory laboratory sections limited to 16 students. Our intermediate and advanced classes, such as quantum mechanics and electromagnetism, usually have 15 students (the number of our majors that graduate every year). The large lecture room has all the modern technological capabilities for teaching: large white boards, computer projector, document camera, and mini white boards. Our small classroom seats 24 and is similarly equipped.

Introductory Instructional Laboratories

Designed specifically for physics study (including data collection and analysis and multimedia learning), our introductory laboratories focus on data analysis rather than data collection. Data collection is often accomplished via computers interfaced to digital and analog sensors. Our laboratory computers are replaced every three years to allow for state-of-the art computational equipment for our students.

Intermediate and Advanced Instructional Laboratories

We teach 3 upper-level laboratory courses: Modern Physics, Electronics and Instrumentation, and Advanced Laboratory. Experiments in Modern Physics explore optical, quantum mechanical, atomic, and nuclear phenomena that can only be explained by exotic, non-classical 20th and 21st century physics developments. Then, Electronics and Instrumentation provides daily hand-on experience with the devices and circuits that form the basis of today's vast consumer electronics industry. Finally, Advanced Laboratory is a senior-level capstone course that inspires creative theoretical, computational, and tactical approaches to a variety of challenging experiments drawn from across the curriculum. This three-course sequence is designed to give students increasing confidence, independence, and ownership in the laboratory.

Student & Faculty Research

The Physics Department has research opportunities for undergraduates in the areas of computational, experimental, observational, and theoretical physics. Below is a short list of the specialties in the department:

  • Computational physics with interests in machine learning and algorithm development to analyze large-scale nuclear and high energy physics datasets.
  • Observational astrophysics with interests in radio astronomy, magnetic phenomena in the Milky Way, and star formation studies.
  • Experimental nuclear physics: Study of neutron-rich nuclei: experiments are performed at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory to create and study short-lived exotic nuclei with many more neutrons than protons to better understand the nuclear force.
  • Experimental particle physics: Neutrino oscillations, sterile neutrino searches, neutrino-nucleus cross section measurements, and the calibration of liquid argon time projection chambers.
  • Experimental laser spectroscopy of: glasses, bulk crystals, and nanocrystals; negative ions and Rydberg atoms; and semiconductors with applications to opto-electronic devices.
  • Theoretical physics with interests in quantum mechanics, particle physics, and quantum field theories.
  • Unique 3D X-ray imaging system applied to objects in many areas: art, artifacts, plants and animals.

Research Equipment

Hands-on experience is highly valued at Davidson, so our research-grade equipment is used not only in professors' research labs, but in the classrooms as well.

Davidson students have the unique opportunity to use research equipment such as this starting in their sophomore year.  As an example, our laser lab is equipped with:

  • Nd/YAG-pumped OPO laser system capable of producing 10-8 sec light pulses from the infrared to the ultraviolet with a peak power of 10 million watts
  • 1.33m McPherson spectrometer equipped with a cooled photomultiplier tube
  • 1 GHz digital storage oscilloscope for data taking and analysis

Collaborations and Off-Campus Opportunities

While on campus research is the primary way we conduct research with our students, we also maintain several research collaborations with faculty and facilities not on the Davidson Campus.

  • Prof. Anthony Kuchera is a member of the MoNA Collaboration which uses the Modular Neutron Array (MoNA) to measure the neutrons emitted from the decay of these exotic nuclei.
  • Prof. Kristen Thompson conducts astrophysical studies through the use of radio telescopes located at observatories around the world including the Arecibo Telescope, Green Bank Telescope, Very Large Array (VLA), and the instruments at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI).
  • Prof. Tim Gfroerer collaborates with scientists and engineers at the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
  • Prof. Mario Belloni collaborates with colleagues at the Pennsylvania State University.
  • Prof. Dan Boye performs spectroscopy measurements with scientists at Sandia National Laboratories. Volumetric x-radiography research in concert with the Digitome Corporation provides collaborative opportunities with conservators at art and artifact museums and collections.
  • Prof. Michelle Kuchera collaborates with the Active-Target Time Projection Chamber group at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory.

Physics Resource Center

The Physics Resource Center (PRC) is used by physics majors and majors from other departments for senior projects and other research. The PRC reflects the convergence of scientific computing technologies toward data analysis, visualization, and computer programming and is equipped with the following:

  • Workstations in individual carrels
  • Advanced work including parallel processing
  • Mathematica symbolic algebra program available to all students through a site license
  • PSpice circuit simulators
  • LabVIEW
  • Python-based computational tools

Additional Information

For additional information, please contact Prof. Tim Gfroerer at tigfroerer@davidson.edu and schedule an appointment. We welcome your visit at any time.