Physics & Astronomy

At Hanover College, we study and learn physics to understand how nature works at the most fundamental level. By doing experiments and constructing theories, physicists search for the underlying order in vastly diverse phenomena from the very smallest objects to our entire universe of stars and galaxies. At Hanover, your physics professors will share with you how physicists near and far, ancient and modern have made the tremendous advances in understanding the world we live in. Your professors will also introduce you to their own research interests in physics and astronomy.

"My experience at the Department of Physics has been valuable. Classes were taught by outstanding faculty and the curriculum was very competitive. What I liked the most was the encouragement and support from the department in pursuing area of personal research in addition to regular course work. I received proper guidance that I needed as an undergrad and also help in finding an internship in a prestigious institution. All in all, I’m very happy with my decision to study physics at Hanover College and recommend the same to prospective physics students."

Shasta Shakya '07

The discoveries physicists have made have pushed the frontiers of human understanding of space, time, matter, and energy into ever more exotic and profound realms. All of our technologies from microchips to gigantic rocket ships rest on these discoveries. Every other intellectual discipline of human beings has been touched, often profoundly, by physics—chemistry, biology, geology, history, philosophy, economics, psychology, and even theology have not escaped the consequences of the discoveries and laws of physics. Still, there is much for physicists to learn and understand. Exciting new discoveries are expected in physics in coming years, which will further transform human thought and our way of life. Indeed, it is clear that the more technologically complex the world becomes, the more informed and sound must be decisions and choices we make in moral, spiritual, and political matters - matters which no longer can be considered in isolation from scientific knowledge and the knowledge physicists have won from the universe in particular. At Hanover, you will share this great physics adventure with your professors and fellow students.

Hanover College physics professors love and try to foster in students a love of physics for the beauty and simplicity of its ideas. In addition, you will find that your professor never fails to bring out the practical importance of physics. Typically, upper level physics classes have fewer than five or six students, which makes student-faculty interaction lively, friendly, and very supportive. You will be part of a community of scientists that nurtures, nourishes, and is adaptable to your skills in physics. A personalized program shaped by electives, seminars, and directed studies--theoretical and experimental, will allow you to pursue your interests at different levels. In addition, you will also be encouraged to get involved with or initiate research projects that suit your own needs and preferences. Your professors will be happy to discuss larger questions about your goals and show you what you can do with physics after graduation as you head to a career. This is the essence of our program-attention to you and your interests, one-on-one with your professors.

"The time I spent at Hanover College as a student in the Physics Department (1989-1993) was a great experience for me. My professors encouraged me to question authority and dogma so that I could advance in my studies and become an independent thinker. This allowed me to pursue research experiences as an undergraduate that I may otherwise not have had. In addition to this, the course-work I completed allowed me to compete and set myself apart from my colleagues in graduate school as I earned my Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics."

Dr. Sean Points '93

Upon graduation with a physics degree, you will be ready to be gainfully employed applying your knowledge to a very wide variety of vocations in science, technology, business, or any number of other fields needing the special skills you will have learned at Hanover. These include critical thinking, rigorous reasoning and logic, and communicating articulately. Should you choose post-graduate study after Hanover, you will be well-prepared to pursue higher degrees at some of the best universities in the country.

Real world learning

The department offers paid employment to all its majors, including positions as tutors or lab assistants, so you can develop special skills associated with your career plans and extend learning beyond the classroom setting.

You will have access to four well-equipped labs and two astronomical observatories where you can conduct research alongside your distinguished professors. Physics students regularly intern during the summer at other research colleges or universities. They also have been funded to: 

  • Travel to Brazil and study at Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Conduct biophysical research at the Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Study radio astronomy at Green Bank National Radio Observatory
  • Conduct frontier research at CalTech detecting gravitational waves


Hanover hosts two observatories for students and the community. The larger of the two observatory buildings was built in 1992. It contains a classroom seating for 16 and a telescope that contains a 7.5" refracting telescope acquired by the College in 1887. It is currently used for astronomical viewing of celestial objects by students in College astronomy classes, and also visitors who are on campus for special days like Family Day, Legacy Day, Alumni Day, and Homecoming. It is equipped with a small camera and filters allowing safe viewing of the Sun.

The smaller observatory is used by faculty and students to do astronomical research. It houses a 16" Schmidt-Cassegrain reflecting telescope and allows detailed photometric, spectroscopic, and photographic investigation of astronomical objects. The instrument is currently being used to do photometric investigation of variable stars and asteroids.

What do physics majors study?

  • Classical mechanics
  • Thermal physics
  • Electricity and magnetism
  • Optics
  • Modern physics
  • Advanced laboratory

Some of the electives available include quantum mechanics, special relativity, history of physics and astronomy.

Optional directed studies on a variety of topics may include: 

  • classical mechanics, nonlinear dynamics, electromagnetic theory, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics
  • mechanics of fluids and continuous media, mechanics and thermodynamics of propulsion, aerodynamics, astrodynamics
  • mathematical methods in physics, topology and manifolds
  • solid state physics
  • relativistic quantum field theory, general relativity and cosmology
  • intermediate astronomy, astrobiology


Previous graduates' career and professional placements have included:

  • Systems Analyst, Lexmark Corporation (Kentucky)
  • Nuclear Engineer, BWX Technologies, Inc. (Virginia)
  • Astronomer, Cerro Tololo Observatory (Chile)
  • Physics Teacher, Plainfield Community School Corporation (Indiana)
  • Department Chair: Atmospheric Sciences, University of Chicago (Illinois)
  • Manager of Information Technology, Eli Lilly (Indiana)
  • Environmental Engineer, Woodward-Clyde Corporation (California)

Graduate school placements have included:

  • Ball State University
  • Brown University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Indiana University School of Dentistry
  • Indiana University School of Medicine
  • Medical College of Ohio
  • Notre Dame University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Purdue University
  • Rutgers University
  • University of California-San Diego
  • University of Cincinnati School of Medicine
  • University of Colorado
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Miami
  • University of North Carolina
  • University of Washington, St. Louis
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Wright State University
In addition, students have received offers from institutions such as:
  • Texas A&M University-College Station
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of California, San Francisco
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Yale University

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