George Marcus, associate professor of physics (center), works with senior physics majors Sara Gearhart and Jacob Wirth in the department's optics lab. Geneseo surpassed all other undergraduate institutions in the country in the number of graduates majoring in physics in 2011-12, according to American Institute of Physics data.
GENESEO, N.Y. – SUNY Geneseo's Department of Physics and Astronomy awarded more bachelor's degrees in physics during the 2011-12 academic year than any other physics departments in the country in which a bachelor's is the highest physics degree offered, according to recently compiled data by the American Institute of Physics.
Geneseo graduated 33 physics majors during the year – besting the U.S. Naval Academy, which had 31 and other colleges, including several well-known private institutions. It marks the third time since the 1987-88 school year that Geneseo has graduated more than 30 students with a physics degree.
"We have built a strong department over the years with faculty who are both outstanding researchers and teachers," said Charlie Freeman, chair of the department, who was honored this year with a SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching. "Good teaching attracts good students and we are pleased to see our major growing and so many of our students excelling in either graduate school, industry or other fields requiring physics training."
About two-thirds of Geneseo physics graduates proceed to graduate school immediately after graduation, contributing to Geneseo's ranking of fifth in the nation among its master's school peers in the number of STEM graduates (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) who earned doctorates between 2001-10. The department has more than 200 majors and nine full-time faculty members.
Geneseo physics students regularly participate in undergraduate research, both on campus and at other labs around the country. The college has one of the few particle accelerators at a liberal arts college, allowing undergraduate students to get hands-on experience in a state-of-the-art laboratory. The department also boasts a 20-inch reflecting telescope, mounted on the rooftop of the Integrated Science Center.
Among Geneseo's prominent physics alumni are Brian DeMarco from the Class of 1996, associate professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who, at the age of 25, earned recognition in 1999 for helping to discover a new form of matter, and Ben Kilminster from the Class of 1987, associate professor at the University of Zurich, featured in the film "The Atom Smashers," for his research regarding the Higgs boson, or so-called "God particle."
Two physics department faculty members have been named SUNY distinguished teaching professors within the past six years: Kurt Fletcher and Stephen Padalino. A third faculty member, David Meisel, was named a SUNY distinguished professor of computational astrophysics in 2001. He retired in 2005 but continues his academic work, including recently co-authoring a textbook for undergraduate students titled "Astrophysics through Computation." Professor Emeritus Jerry Reber was named a SUNY distinguished teaching professor in 1995.
The department recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with a reunion that drew physics majors from around the country. Many had not returned since the department moved into the college's Integrated Science Center, which opened in 2006.
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