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Department of Physics

Centered on our Jesuit mission, the Physics Department teaches you how to think critically and solve problems like a scientist. Studying everything from the behavior of atoms to the physics of new materials in a liberal arts environment will give you a perspective that many other institutions can’t provide. In addition to your technical training, you’ll have superior oral and written communication skills that employers and graduate schools value.

Incoming students, apply for department scholarships here.

Research and Internships


student smiling on campus
Crew Weunski '20, recent physics alum

"I was surprised to find my first classes at JCU to have only 20 or so students, which was much easier to manage than a large lecture hall. The faculty and staff make it a point to learn about you not just as a student, but as a person and future professional within this field."

Programs of Study

Our programs are flexible, allowing you different options to reach your goals. The physics major is an excellent preparation for a diverse range of careers. For students interested in engineering, we offer both a four-year JCU degree in engineering physics as well as a 3-2 Dual Degree Engineering Program with Case Western Reserve University. Further, our majors pair well with minors in mathematics, computer science, entrepreneurship, and more.



If you're interested in engineering, you can participate in the 3-2 Dual Degree Engineering Program with Case Western Reserve University. You'll attend John Carroll for three years, then transfer to CWRU for two years and receive both a bachelor’s degree from JCU and a B.S. in Engineering from CWRU.

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Our more general engineering program, this option is great if you're interested in pursuing engineering development, applied physics, or graduate study in related fields.

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Self-designed and flexible, the interdisciplinary physics major is ideal preparation for medical school, technical sales, or JCU’s five-year B.S./MBA program.

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The physics B.A. degree provides you with a comprehensive introduction to the discipline and the opportunity to explore some areas of physics in greater depth. It is appropriate if you are pursuing law school, want to teach at the high school level, or are interested in the 3-2 dual degree engineering program with Case Western Reserve University.

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The physics B.S. requires an in-depth study of the core areas of physics and a selection of upper-division courses such as thermal physics, atomic and molecular physics, condensed matter physics, or other engineering electives.

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The physics minor provides students with a broad understanding of fundamental topics in both classical and modern physics.

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Department Highlights


... of our students obtain at least one internship before graduation.


Example Cleveland-area science and technology firm placements include NASA, the Cleveland Clinic, General Motors, Lubrizol, Energy Focus, Photonics Developments, and Smartshape Design.

How & Why

Studying everything from the behavior of atoms to the physics of new materials in a liberal arts environment will give you a perspective that many other institutions can't provide.

Why JCU Physics

A physics or engineering physics degree is one of the most flexible, marketable, and respected degrees a student can achieve.

All of our majors carry out a significant research or design project under the guidance of a faculty member. Paid summer research positions are available to students through our Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program.

Physics can lead to quite lucrative careers, and the projected job growth rate for the field is very high. Example job titles of recent graduates include research engineer, medical physicist, product manager, quality inspector, and cryo-imaging technician.

You'll benefit from our faculty's broad range of research interests, including biomedical imaging research, green energy applications, and atomic and molecular physics.

Brad Doughty (left) discusses his senior project at the Celebration of Scholarship poster session.

"After graduation I spent a year teaching 8th grade Algebra at Saint Kateri Catholic Schools.  I am currently in my final semester as a Master of Public Affairs and Master of Science in Environmental Science candidate concentrating in Energy at Indiana University's O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. I am spending my final semester reconnecting with my engineering physics roots at Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands. Throughout my time in this graduate program I have focused on the technology, policy, and economic factors impacting the Shale Gas Revolution and development of a sustainable energy future through the energy transition.

My time at John Carroll and the many lessons I learned have applied well beyond the world of Engineering Physics. The focus upon 'learning how I learn' has allowed me to quickly enter a new field and everyday I have used the problem-solving methods I learned at JCU to tackle complex problems. Following graduation from IU I am looking to enter the world of energy policy working in Washington, D.C., or Ohio."

"Physics is truly one of the coolest subjects anyone can study; it opens up so many career opportunities, it describes why the world works, and it is intellectually challenging and satisfying." Brian is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Physics at Case Western Reserve University.

“Every college will promise to prepare you for a career, and John Carroll definitely will too. But that’s where most of them stop. JCU, on the other hand, won’t just make you more employable; it will help you become a better person. That’s the cura personalis — care for the whole person — part of the Jesuit philosophy. From the liberal arts core to service to spirituality, JCU really prepares you not just for a career, but for a life well lived. That’s something that may be undervalued in today’s society, but it’s incredibly valuable in the long run.” Spencer's first position, which he accepted before graduating from JCU, was as an engineer working in fire protection for a large engineering firm in downtown Cleveland. But when the opportunity of a lifetime came calling, Spencer moved into an electrical engineer position at NASA Glenn Research Center working on the Orion Mission, aiming to send people to Mars. 

Students walking across campus on a spring day

Department Colloquium

All seminars begin at 4 p.m. in Room E133 of The Dolan Center for Science and Technology.

From Atoms to Stars: The Nuclear Equation of State

The recent observation of gravitational wave generated from two colliding neutron stars and its relation to the nuclear equation of state has generated significant interest in the scientific community. The nuclear equation of state is key to understanding some of the fundamental questions in astrophysics, such as, how elements are formed in stars. How stars explode into supernova? What kind of matter exist inside a neutron star? In this presentation, I will discuss how heavy-ion nuclear reactions are being used to study the nuclear equation of state, and how it can shed light into the structure and stability of systems as diverse as the atomic nucleus and neutron star.

"Life after a physics BS"
Norman Chonacky
Department of Applied Physics – Yale University

In times of yore, most college graduates could believe that they could take a job, perhaps start a business a bit later, and never had to face the prospect of multiple jobs let alone several changes in occupation during the course of their working career. Physics graduates might have occasionally needed to face this prospect but, especially with an advanced degree in hand, could dream about keeping steady hand on the tiller and a steady path to nirvana. But indeed, the world has changed over the past few decades and with it largely the likelihood of this prospect. Three or four employment changes, some of them requiring considerable modification in careers, is increasingly the norm. But I do not come here to hang crepe, but rather to report that, having set your cap on physics means that you have a much higher chance of successfully navigation these shifting seas. It will however require a curious mind and an embedded love of learning. Using my own long career experiences as an example, I would like to engage you in an exercise to form a broad vision of what you can expect in your future and how to identify how to use your opportunities now as an undergraduate to prepare yourself for that future.
Let's converse!

Case Western Reserve University
Distinguished University Professor
Professor and co-Chair of Physics and Professor of Astronomy
Director of the Institute for the Science of Origins
Director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics

Our current theory of the universe, the inflationary Lambda Cold Dark Matter Universe, predicts many things correctly, but not all.  Concentrating on the cosmic microwave background, the relic radiation of the big bang, I will discuss the model's success, but also some interesting ways in which our observations are not matching the model's predictions.




From Case Western Reserve University

"Physics at the ultimate concentration limit – measuring one molecule at a time'

A discrepancy exists in physics between the way molecular interactions are visualized and how they are commonly experimentally measured. Mechanistically, we often picture one molecule interacting with another and that those interactions can occur in multiple, diverse, or heterogeneous, types of ways.  Yet, the same molecules are experimentally measured as an ensemble, often on the order of 1023, that obscure heterogeneity. Single molecule spectroscopy allows experiments to parallel our molecular representations of physics and resolve hidden heterogeneity. Further, single molecule spectroscopy allows super-resolution imaging on the order of 10’s of nanometers using optics, overcoming the limits of traditional, diffraction-limited optical microscopy and the restrictive imaging conditions of electron or atomic-force microscopy. The power of single molecule spectroscopy and super-resolution imaging were recognized by the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2014.  The experimental methods for single molecule spectroscopy will be introduced, along with a discussion of applications of super-resolution imaging to two systems: the organization and movement of biomolecules in cells and redox reactions important in catalysis and corrosion. 

Dialogues between light and matter: forces on microparticles, entangled two-photon interferometry, and polarization-based phase memory in light

We review our progress in three areas of research involving interactions between light and matter.  First, we visualize the forces and torques imparted on a nanoscale dielectric sphere moving in the evanescent light field of a thin optical fiber, and discuss their relationship to the spin and orbital angular momentum carried by the light.  Second, we describe a recent experiment involving entangled two-photon interferometry, and show how an extension of this work allows for the extraction of amplitude and phase information from the two-photon quantum wavefunction.  Finally, we discuss an experiment where information relating to the history of a light beam’s polarization evolution may be encoded onto its overall phase. 

"Probing the Free Carriers, Phonons and Band Electrons in Semiconductor Thin Films"

Frank Peiris

Department of Physics, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH 43022


In general, the information on free carriers, phonons and band electrons is stamped on the dielectric function of a material, and these entities dominate their signatures at different spectral regions. The talk will focus on how three spectrometers, which span a wide spectral region (i.e., 85 cm-1 and 50,000 cm-1), are used to decipher the dielectric functions of molecular beam epitaxy-grown Hg1-xCdxSe thin films. Initially, two spectroscopic ellipsometers were used between 400 cm-1 and 50,000 cm-1 to determine the dielectric function and the thickness of Hg1-xCdxSe films. Ellipsometry results were then used to model the reflectivity data, which allowed us to obtain the absolute reflectance values and to map the dielectric function from the reflectivity spectra, obtained between 85 cm- 1 and 8,000 cm-1 from the third spectrometer. By representing the dielectric function as a collection of classical oscillators, we were able to recover the details of absorption due to free electrons, phonons, and band electrons in the Hg1-xCdxSe alloy system. Besides the information on carrier concentration and band gap values, our models find two transverse phonon modes for Hg1-xCdxSe, where the HgSe-like mode blue-shifts and the CdTe-like mode red-shifts with increasing Cd concentration. 


Reports from Summer 2020 Research at JCU, with speakers Caroline Kuzcek and Alec Coutris, JCU Undergraduate Researchers

Current JCU Physics Faculty Research Topics, with speakers Dr. Danielle Kara and Dr. Dinesh Shetty, JCU Physics Faculty

Stellar Transience and the Geometry of the Universe

Transient stellar phenomena have provided a rich lode of results from which we have been able to probe the structure and history of the universe.  Relations between the period of variability and intrinsic luminosity of Cepheid variable stars led directly to the discovery of cosmic expansion and the Big Bang.  In addition, they have revealed the presence of large amounts of dark matter dominating the matter density of the universe.  Most recently, supernovae have provided a greatly needed probe to vast distances, and we have discovered a new dark energy which contributes the bulk of the energy density in the universe.  I will review these results and discuss current outstanding questions.  Recent research into supernovae and variable stars using the Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment telescopes will be discussed, and an initial alternative measurement of the cosmic expansion in the local universe will be described.  Measurements planned using the soon to start Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument will be discussed that will utilize the clustering of galaxies across most of the visible universe to provide a time history of cosmic expansion over the last 10-11 billion years.

Department News

March 4

Dr. Peifang Tian Awarded Summer Research Fellowship

February 10

JCU Student Physics Society Named Distinguished Chapter

April 9

JCU Team Wins Physics Society Competition