Sep. 25, 2013

Department of Physics and Astronomy celebrates 50 years

Padalino with alumni

Steve Padalino, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Physics, center, speaks with Mike Rogers '94, a professor of physics at Ithaca College, left, and Paul King '94, who is on the research faculty at Ohio University, during the Department of Physics and Astronomy's 50th anniversary on Aug. 30 and 31. / PHOTO BY KEITH WALTERS '11

Fifty years ago, Geneseo’s Department of Physics welcomed its first students to the major. It has grown a lot, in size, faculty and research, but it’s the family-like atmosphere cultivated over the last half a century that has made the department — which later incorporated astronomy — unique, says Professor of Physics and Department Chair Charles Freeman. Professors have always had a strong commitment to undergraduate education, mentoring and students, in and out of class, by offering opportunities such as conferences and participation in research projects such as determining the age of star clusters and modeling the extinction of light from aerosol particles.

The Department of Physics and Astronomy celebrated its golden anniversary at PhysicsFest on Aug. 30 and 31 on campus, inviting alumni and emeriti to commemorate half a century of learning, teaching and progress.

The physics and astronomy department recently added new faculty, for a total of nine faculty members to teach its 220 students. Geneseo is second among more than 500 primarily undergraduate institutions for producing the largest number of physics graduates, according to the American Institute of Physics Bachelors Degree Report. [CB1] 

At PhysicsFest, students, alumni and emeriti bonded, swapped stories and networked at a student-alumni mixer and on tours of new labs and facilities at the Integrated Science Center. Among the guests was Charles “Dutch” VanRy ’64, one the first students to graduate from Geneseo with a physics degree.

In 1973, 10 years after the department was established, there were just 47 students in the major; by 1983, that number had more than doubled. Now, there are 220. Geneseo is making a major investment in the sciences— now the school’s most popular discipline—including $52 million to construct the ISC.

“It gave us the opportunity to reconnect with alumni and friends of the department, and to learn about all of the exciting things they are doing after graduation,” says Freeman of the anniversary events. “We are proud of our accomplishments as a department and we are looking forward to the next 50 years!”

            • View photos from PhysicsFest are posted on the Geneseo physics alumni Facebook page.