Physics & Astronomy Department Learning Opportunities

  • MSUM's Physics & Astronomy Department has outstanding facilities, which include a nanotechnology and robotics lab, a student-built NMR machine, the Paul P. Feder Observatory Regional Science Center and the Planetarium. Physics students have 24/7 access to department labs. Students augment their studies by participating in the MSUM Society of Physics Students, which provides opportunities for networking and learning from guest lecturers and educational trips.

  • Research experience positively impacts your job marketability, as well as applications for advanced research in graduate programs. Faculty mentors are able to write informed and enthusiastic letters of recommendation if you have conducted research in their lab.

    While internships aren’t a requirement of your degree, they are a great way to gain hands-on experience in your specific area of interest. You can earn up to 12 credits for your internship. Internship opportunities include Sanford Health, Appareo, Micron and John Deere, among others.

    Faculty and students alike not only attend local, regional and national conferences, they also participate by presenting their research. All of our students present at MSUM’s Student Academic Conference. Other recent opportunities where students have attended and presented include: American Astronomical Society (AAS), American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), Minnesota Conference on Science Education, American Association of Variable Star Observers, Red River Valley Physics & Astrophysics Undergraduate Research Symposium, Gordon Research Conferences and Great Lakes Planetarium Association.

    You have the opportunity to help run outreach activities for the public and K-12 students. Whether helping present sound and light activities to elementary students, circuits with middle school students or robotics with high school students, you will gain skills communicating to others about science. You can also help with a variety of events like Science Olympiad, Science Fair and Expanding Your Horizons. In addition, the Society of Physics Students develops and performs a yearly physics demonstration show for the public.

    Sigma Pi Sigma is MSUM’s physics honors society, which usually holds an annual induction ceremony in the spring for physics honors. (Sigma Pi Sigma chapter number 306 was originally chartered as the Tri-College University Chapter on April 30, 1973).

    MSUM’s  Society of Physics Students (SPS) is consistently honored and recognized as a Distinguished Chapter from SPS National. This active student organization enjoys a seven-year streak for national awards won by physics students. The group is committed to physics-related outreach in the form of physics demonstrations designed to educate and entertain students and the general public, specifically the annual Halloween show and the SPS Demo Show. They also provide a supportive peer network; facilitate tours and field trips; sponsor guest speakers; and arrange and fund conference participation.

    As part of your Physics degree, you’ll complete a senior project involving experimental and/or theoretical research on a physics topic, which will include extensive library research, a detailed written report and an oral presentation. Recent senior projects include: Tracking the Changes in Epistemological Beliefs in General Physics Students; Imaging of Collagen-I Binding with MMP-I Using Atomic Force Microscopy; Electromagnetic Coil Gun; The Study of the Magnus Effect; Modeling and Testing a Seismic Accelerator; Maximum Muscle Work for Increasing Load and Stance, plus many more fascinating topics!

    The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Grant provides scholarships and internships for talented science and math undergraduates. Interns work with our partners, including Fargo and Moorhead Public School Districts and Lakes Country Service Cooperative, to assist in the delivery of summer opportunities for K-12 students in the subjects of science and math. Scholars will receive up to three years of forgivable loans and partial living expenses to pursue secondary licensure in mathematics or science (physics, chemistry, earth or life science) in the state of Minnesota. Scholars will also receive special training in best practices for teaching science and math to English language learners (ELL), have the opportunity to attend regional and national conferences, and be part of a mentoring network. Scholars agree to teach in a high needs school district upon receiving licensure, providing invaluable service to the diverse K-12 students and numerous districts in our region.

     As a Physics Education major, you’ll spend time observing, assisting and teaching in local classrooms and have a great deal of field experience prior to your final semester of student teaching. As you are immersed in classrooms of different grade levels and with varying teaching styles, you will be able to develop your own effective teaching method.

    The Physics and Astronomy Department offers you the opportunity to be a Learning Assistant for courses you have already taken. It’s a competitive selection process and a privilege that not only deepens your topic knowledge but provides valuable experience communicating science and strengthening your teaching skills.