Major Spotlight: Physics

At the end of Core, all Mudders are pretty well versed with fundamental physics concepts. We start off our first semester of college with Special Relativity, move on the Classical Mechanics, and then finally end with Electricity and Magnetism. These three semesters teach us that unlike many of our experiences in high school, physics is about building up from first principles. I talked to Sophie Graf ’18 for more insight into what physics looks like beyond Core.

A purple laser mounted to an optics table.

A laser used for a quantum optics experiment: “Our tech report is based on 4 weeks of looking into an experiment we would like to understand better. I am doing the quantum eraser part of our quantum optics experiment.”

Sophie really enjoys the breadth that the physics curriculum encompasses, especially the various required labs. While you obtain a general physics degree when you graduate from Mudd, physics majors have the option of concentrating in a more specific field. Sophie’s concentration is astrophysics, which has allowed her to go deeper into subjects she may not get exposure to otherwise. This semester, she’s taken general relativity and computational methods in physics, which she pointed out was thanks to the several computer science classes she’s had the space to fit in to her schedule in the past. As a result, she’s been involved with computational physics research for the past couple of summers. Besides astrophysics, physics majors can choose from concentrations like biophysics and mathematical physics, among several others.

Sinusoidal photon count patterns from single photon interference data

Some experimental data collected from one of Sophie’s lab on Single Photon Interference Data

The physics community at Mudd is close-knit, supportive, collaborative – and Sophie’s favorite thing about the major. She enjoys working in the physics department lounge because she gets to “hang out with physics majors and professors.” The same friendly, chatty environment echoes through the Shanahan building’s courtyard every Thursday at physics colloquia.

What are summer opportunities like for a physics major? This year, Sophie will be doing research at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, working on two computational physics projects. “I will be writing data analysis and visualization python programs for atmospheric data, and will also be setting up a database processing framework for space weather data.”

As a Science, Technology, and Society (STS) HSA concentration, Sophie is invested in exploring the anthropological impacts of science on society. She is also a Wellness Peer, and is passionate about bringing together community. She hopes to incorporate STS and community wellness into her future physics work.

Explore the physics department’s website for more information about the major!