Students studying physics interact with, measure and explain systems in the universe from subatomic particles to galactic clusters. They learn to apply principles of physics to concerns of society. In the classroom and the laboratory, physics students and teachers work together to answer questions posed by nature. We come to understand just how matter and energy behave, and we come to appreciate the beauty and subtlety of the universe. The more we work on problems, the more coherent our understanding becomes and the more “interesting” problems we discover to solve.

The skills students develop – mathematical ability, experimental techniques, expertise in communication – are valuable in every area, not just in physics. Physics students adapt easily to many situations on campus and off where there are problems to be solved. They are valuable assets to any team working toward local or global solutions.

Latest News

Larry Huebner '83

Larry Huebner ’83 receives two major NASA awards

Two awards from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have been received by Larry Huebner ’83 of Owens Cross Roads, Alabama. Huebner joined NASA […]

Brant Vande Kolk '12

Bryant Vande Kolk ’12 will present alumni talks today, Friday

Bryant Vande Kolk ’12 of Ellicott City, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., will be a guest speaker today. His talk will begin at 7 p.m. in […]

Raymond Burkert Sawyer '21

Raymond Burkert Sawyer, Class of 1921, referenced in oral history interview

An Oral History Interview with Raymond Sawyer, professor emeritus of physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has been published by the American […]


Brett Barwick

Barwick, Brett

Associate Professor of Physics, Harrison E. Farnsworth 1918 Endowed Chair in Physics

Christina Othon Portrait

Othon, Christina

Associate Professor of Physics


Ripon College faculty and professional staff are dedicated to helping you reach your goals, whatever they may be and however often they may change along the way. It’s part of our value statement to you.

As a student at Ripon, you will be assigned a faculty adviser based on your area(s) of interest. You will meet with your faculty adviser throughout your time as a student to discuss your current aspirations, plan your course schedule and plot a future trajectory. We also work collaboratively with Ripon College Career and Professional Development to help match your interests and skills to concrete goals and construct a plan for professional success offering personalized career counseling, off-campus learning opportunities and an online job board with potential to connect with local, national and international employers. Our collaboration with Student Support Services provides tutoring and additional academic and skill development, as well as tools to help with note-taking, exam preparation, goal-setting and time management. Likewise, Mentors in the Franzen Center provide in-depth, one-on-one or group mentoring for students about class projects and college-level writing, and can share problem-solving strategies to overcome academic obstacles.

Advising at Ripon


Requirements for a major in Physics: PHY 171, 172, 251, 330, 340, two semester of physics seminar (PHY 501, 502), plus eight additional credits in courses numbered above 300 (excluding 401), with four of those credits from an experimental or laboratory course. In senior seminar, students will complete a substantial research project that culminates in a written thesis as well as a seminar presentation. Students majoring in physics may not major in physical science.

**Students seeking the Early Adolescence/Adolescence (Middle/Secondary) license with a major in physics must fulfill the requirements for the physics major, take PHY 401 and complete the Educational Studies minor.

Requirements for a minor in Physics: 22 credits in physics. Required: PHY 171, 172 and 251. Eight additional credits in physics courses numbered above 300 are required, with at least four credits coming from a non-experimental/non-laboratory course. Cross-listed courses cannot count toward the Physics minor. Students majoring in chemistry or chemistry-biology, which require PHY 171131 and PHY 172, can count those credits toward the Physics minor.

**Note: students interested in broadfield sciences licensure with an emphasis in physics should refer to the information on physical science.

Career Tracks

Our graduates pursue everything from industrial research and teaching, to technical writing and aeronautical engineering. Paths of graduates have included graduate school programs in math, engineering, physics and education at schools including the University of Notre Dame, California University-Berkeley, the University of Wisconsin; and careers as mechanical engineers, project managers and public school teachers.

Job titles of recent graduates include research associate, research assistant, regional admissions manager, high school physics teacher, nuclear engineer and product manager.

Unique Opportunities

  • Students are encouraged to view the Barwick Lab and the Othon Lab for exciting research opportunities on campus.
  • Unique opportunities for students through on-campus summer research opportunities with Ripon physics faculty. Summer research students get to use ultrafast lasers, transmission electron microscopes and optical spectroscopy techniques to study fundamental quantum physics and biophysics in state-of-the-art laboratories on the Ripon campus.
  • Off campus studies, in summer programs, at industrial or university laboratories, or as part of the Oak Ridge Science Semester program, offer students the opportunity to research in experimental or theoretical physics.
  • Physics students are active in local, regional and national chapters of Society of Physics Students, and are provide opportunities to attend local and national physics conferences.
  • Independent study in physics offers students the opportunity to receive college credit for work on individual projects. These projects may be research collaborations with faculty or problems of particular interest to the student. Outside support is available for some areas of study. For example, the NASA Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium Scholarship Program provides support for qualified students taking part in aerospace studies.
  • Students of physics are encouraged to be active in the local, regional and national Society of Physics Students organization. One of the Society’s local projects has been the creation of the Physics Fun Force, a group of students that visits area elementary schools to do exciting physics activities and investigations with children.

If you would like the Physics FUN Force to visit your classroom, please contact Mary Williams-Norton, the group’s adviser, via email at [email protected] Please send your name, school, grade level, phone number, email address, which activity you would like us to bring to your classroom, and a brief summary of the kinds of activities the children already have done in this area. Also suggest times of the day and dates that might work for you. Because the students are busy with classes, scheduling a visit may require some flexibility. We’ll bring most of the necessary materials with us, but we may ask you to provide everyday materials such as papers, pens or pencils, markers, water, etc. There is no charge for a visit BUT we love receiving thank-you notes from classes we visit.