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You will learn in small classes with faculty members who know you as an individual, meaning you’ll get one-on-one encouragement, personal direction and research opportunities suited to your needs. Lab work will be central to your studies, and as a senior physics major, you will conduct an in-depth research project. Senior projects often produce work that is presented at conferences or published in journals.

About the Major

The program offers an excellent grounding in the ideas, thinking skills and lab experience necessary for postgraduate study in many science-based disciplines. Prospective engineers will be interested in Hamilton’s five-year, combined-degree programs with Columbia University, the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Washington University in St. Louis. Astronomy is a minor within the department.

The physics professors are all exceptional. They understand when to ease students into conceptually challenging subjects, but are also not afraid to withhold help when they can see that the students are capable of figuring out the problem themselves.

Joelle Baer ’16 — physics major

In the best liberal arts tradition, courses stimulate analytical thinking, critical reading and the ability to write and speak with clarity and authority. Most majors enter with a basic knowledge of algebra, trigonometry and calculus but the department welcomes students who come to the discipline through other interests and are willing to pursue the preparatory courses they need to major or minor in physics.

Careers After Hamilton

  • Optical Physicist, NASA Headquarters
  • Mechanical Engineer, U.S. Navy
  • Professor of Physics, University of Michigan
  • Materials Science Engineer, United Technologies Carrier Corp.
  • Associate Editor, McGraw-Hill
  • Engineer, General Motors
  • Senior Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • Director, Global Financial Systems, Foster Wheeler Corp.
  • Physics Teacher, Natick Public Schools

Contact Information


Physics Department

198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323
315-859-4367 315-859-4807 physics@hamilton.edu

Meet Our Faculty

A Sampling of Courses

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How Things Work 120F


A few basic physics principles can explain many common devices such as car engines, TVs, refrigerators, airplanes and eyeglasses, and some not-so-common devices such as atomic bombs and lasers. This course qualitatively teaches basic physics concepts with the aim of demystifying technology. A conceptual introduction to physics where all the examples come from your experience. Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning.

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The Physics of Musical Sound 175F


An exploration of the physics that underlies the production of musical sounds. Covers issues ranging from the nature of musical sound, units, some physical principles, theory of wave propagation and mode formation, physical mechanisms of how instrument families work and their implications for musical use of those families, acoustics of halls, digital simulations of musical instruments and performance spaces. Algebra will be used. Four hours of class/laboratory per week. May count toward a concentration in physics. Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning.

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Electronics and Computers 245S


Hands-on introduction to the concepts and devices of electronics. Study of analog and digital circuits, computer architecture, assembler programming and computer interfacing. Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning.

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Electromagnetism 295S


Introduction to the mathematical description of the electric and magnetic fields, their sources and their interactions with matter. Exploration of Maxwell’s laws with emphasis on the relationship between the physics and the mathematics needed to describe it. Three hours of class.

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Topics in Astrophysics 330


Topics may include fundamentals of stellar structure and evolution, the black hole and the curvature of space-time, the structure of galaxies and galactic dynamics, theories of the structure and evolution of the universe. Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning.

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Classical Mechanics 350F


Principles of classical mechanics, including oscillations, nonlinear dynamics, dynamics of systems of particles, non-inertial reference frames, Hamilton and Lagrangian mechanics, celestial mechanics, rigid body motion and coupled oscillations. Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning.

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