Physics at Carleton

The scope of physical studies—from atoms to galaxies—is well represented in the imaginative curriculum of Carleton’s physics and astronomy department, as well as in the specialties of individual faculty members here. Interested students can choose from 38 regularly-offered courses. A low student-faculty ratio means many opportunities to interact with teachers.

Students interested in engineering careers can take advantage of Carleton’s Combined Plan in Engineering, offered in cooperation with Washington University in St. Louis.

Astronomy at Carleton

Physics plays an important role in modern astronomical research. The best way to prepare for study in astronomy is to have a solid physics background. Students wishing to pursue careers in astronomy should major in physics and take ASTR 113 (Observational and Laboratory Astronomy) and one or both of ASTR/PHYS 232, 233 (Astrophysics I, II).

Astronomy 113 (Observational and Laboratory Astronomy) presents the theory and practice of basic techniques in observational and laboratory astronomy. Use is made, when appropriate, of the 16-and 8-inch telescopes in Goodsell Observatory. In recent years this course has been augmented to include modern CCD digital imaging technologies. Astronomy 232 (Astrophysics I) is an intermediate level course on the fundamentals of the physical structure of stars and star systems, stellar evolution, neutron stars and black holes. Astronomy 233 (Astrophysics II) covers the interstellar medium, our galaxy, external galaxies, quasars and cosmology. ASTR 232 and ASTR 233 are not prerequisites for each other; students may take either or both. The two courses are offered in alternate years.

Our astrophysicist Professor Ryan Terrien (we’re in the process of hiring another astro faculty member!) gathers data locally and from major observatories, and analyzes them on workstations at Carleton with the assistance of student researchers who sign up for Special Projects: ASTR 356. Consult him for details about the Astrophysics program and research opportunities.