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About the Major

At Hamilton, physics students learn in small classes with faculty members who offer one-on-one encouragement, personal direction, and research opportunities suited to their needs. Lab work is central to their studies, and senior projects often produce results that are presented at conferences or published in journals. 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. 

Students Will Learn To:

  • Exhibit broad understanding in foundational physics
  • Use foundational physics to analyze a diverse set of complex problems
  • Demonstrate skills for experimental physics
  • Demonstrate skills in technical communication

A Sampling of Courses


Introduction to Astronomy

A description of the universe, starting with the appearance and organization of the solar system and working outward. Development of the heliocentric view. Observational deduction of properties of stars. Stellar evolution and its relation to pulsars and black holes. Galaxies and the structure and history of the universe.

Explore these select courses:

This course is a survey of some of the interesting ways in which fine art intersects math and physics. The curriculum consists of six topics in which some juxtaposition of physics and art is present; in some cases physics is relevant to the context of the art, in some case to the content of the art, and in some cases, both. We begin with some of the earliest works of art and proceed chronologically, including cave paintings and radiocarbon dating, the Archimedes palimpsest and imaging techniques, and the drip paintings of Jackson Pollock and their connection to chaotic motion and fractals.

The first semester of a sequence of physics courses for students interested in physical sciences, math or engineering. Normally the first course for students who plan to major or minor in physics. Introduction to principles governing the motion of a particle and of systems of particles. Kinematics and dynamics; energy, linear momentum, angular momentum and conservation laws. Introduction to the laws of special relativity. Sophomores and above need instructor’s signature to enroll.

Wave-particle duality, the nuclear atom, the development of Schrödinger’s wave mechanics and the quantum theory of atoms. Three hours of class and three hours of laboratory.

An introduction to the physics and mathematics of space-time geometry including Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity with applications to black holes, gravitational waves, and cosmology.

Intensive study of Maxwell’s equations in both differential and integral form; electrostatics and electro-dynamics; special relativity; and the transformation of electromagnetic fields. Introduction to electromagnetic waves and dielectric and magnetic materials.

Meet Our Faculty

Katherine Brown (Jones-Smith)

Chair, Associate Professor of Physics

fractal analysis of Jackson Pollock drip paintings; theoretical cosmology; and non-Hermitian quantum mechanics

computational and electronic projects, and the development of programs to help teach aspects of physics

Viva Horowitz

Assistant Professor of Physics, Director of Chemical Physics

experimental condensed matter

Gordon Jones

Stone Professor of Natural History

neutron spin filters and angular correlations in neutron decay

Adam Lark

Assistant Professor of Instruction in Physics

exoplanet detection, physics education research, and electronics

Seth Major

Litchfield Professor of Astronomy

quantum gravity, quantum geometry, general relativity and quantum gravity phenomenology

Megan Marshall Smith

Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics

computational physics, black holes, and astrophysical plasmas

Explore Hamilton Stories

Viva Horowitz

Horowitz Presents Research at American Physical Society Meeting

Assistant Professor of Physics Viva Horowitz recently presented research at the American Physical Society (APS) March Meeting in Las Vegas. The research focused on developing a new way to interpret data from a network of connected resonators to uncover the underlying physical system. Trevor Scheuing ’23 was a co-author.

Adam Lark, Ryan Hunt '23,Alvaro Marin Miralles ’23

Exploring Exoplanets’ Existence

As the sun comes out and the stars start to fade, Ryan Hunt ’23 and Alvaro Marin Miralles ’23 head back to their dorms. On clear nights, they are up at the Peters Observatory with Assistant Professor of Instruction in Physics Adam Lark until 4 a.m., tracking their target star system and hoping to see its brightness decrease. That decrease is caused by an object eclipsing its light, an indicator that the star system, like our solar system, may have its own planet.

Horowitz physics group

Student Researchers Building, Analyzing Artificial Cells

Assistant Professor of Physics Viva Horowitz was working as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard when she began to take a more serious interest in the dynamics of a cell’s cytoplasm. “In physics, we have equations that allow us to model things and predict how things will move,” Horowitz said. “And it turns out that the cytoplasm completely breaks those rules — there’s motors pushing things around.”

Careers After Hamilton

Hamilton graduates who concentrated in physics are pursuing careers in a variety of fields, including:

  • 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


Department Name

Physics Department

Contact Name

Kate Brown, Chair

Office Location
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323

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