Department of Physics and Geology
Web Address: http://pget.nku.edu
Department Chair: Michael Roth
Other Key Personnel:
Director of Geology: John Rockaway
Director of Pre-Engineering: Chari Ramkumar
Director of Engineering Technology: Morteza Sadat-Hossieny
Academic Advisor: Joseph Chambers
Department Coordinator: Diana Estep
Department Assistant: Pam Kremer
Planetarium Director: Christa Speights
Lab Technician: Mike Lehrter, Roger Miller (EGT labs)
Full-Time Faculty - Physics and Astronomy: Wayne Bresser, Nathan De Lee, Sharmanthie Fernando, Scott Nutter, Chari Ramkumar, Michael Roth, Karl Vogler, Matthew Zacate
Full-Time Faculty - Geology: Janet Bertog, Sarah Johnson, John Rockaway
Full-Time Faculty - Engineering Technology: Seyed Allameh, Morteza Sadat-Hossieny, Mark Keshtvarz, Gang Sun, Mauricio Torres, Harold Wiebe
You should also know: Transfer students majoring in any of the degree programs offered by this department (physics, geology, or engineering technology) must complete at least 9 credit hours of the applicable discipline-specific courses for the major at NKU. A minimum of 6 credit hours of the applicable courses for any minor in the department must be completed at NKU.
Thinking about the discipline: Physics is the study of matter, energy, and their fundamental interactions. Physics laws govern the dynamics and structure of physical systems (ranging from subatomic particles to the entire universe). Applications of physics have led to the development of new technologies at all levels. The NKU physics program is a vibrant community of faculty and staff whose main objective is to prepare students for a variety of careers in physics and related areas. NKU offers physics majors two degree tracks as well as a pre-engineering dual-degree option. NKU also offers the physics minor. People with bachelor’s degrees in physics are often hired for their problem-solving skills, and they find careers in industry, government, and education. Recent NKU physics graduates have worked for companies in telecommunication, manufacturing, engineering, and product research. About a third of NKU physics graduates continue their education after leaving NKU to become research physicists in specialized areas such as astrophysics; elementary particles and fields; nuclear physics; atomic, molecular, and optical physics; plasma physics; biophysics; chemical physics; condensed-matter physics; low-temperature physics; and others. Some physics graduates have chosen to further their education by pursing advanced degree programs in other related areas, including engineering, medicine, mathematics, and computer science. Physicists with the appropriate terminal degree can teach at the secondary or college level.
Special opportunities for our students: Undergraduate students (physics majors and other related majors) have the opportunity to participate in research with physics faculty in the department. In recent years, physics faculty have supervised student research in computational physics, optical sciences, material science, geophysics, gravitation and relativity, astrophysics, and particle physics. The physics program has 2,700 square feet of research lab space. This includes a machine shop and six research labs: computational research lab, X-ray diffraction lab, radioisotope lab, material science lab, optical sciences lab, and particle astrophysics lab. In support of research, the physics program is equipped with a computer cluster, a Mossbauer spectrometer, vacuum systems, a modulated differential calorimeter, wide bandwidth digital and analog oscilloscopes, CAMAC data-acquisition equipment, high-speed NIM electronics, air-supported optics tables, UVNIR spectroradiometers, laser Raman spectrometer spin processor for micro-fabrication, pulsed/CW NMR spectrometer, and an X-ray diffractometer. Students are encouraged to become active members of the Physics and Pre-engineering Club, which holds special events such as telescope nights, planetarium shows, and physics demonstration shows.
Thinking about the discipline: Geology is the study of the Earth, its origin, its history, and the dynamics of how it changes. As such, geologists may be considered “stewards” or caretakers of the Earth, and they work to understand how natural processes affect our daily lives. For example, geologists provide essential information for answering questions about how to avoid or minimize the consequences of geologic hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, and volcanoes; how to find and develop the energy and mineral resources necessary for our wellbeing; and how to reduce the environmental impact of our interaction with the Earth. Geology is the study of natural processes that have happened in the past as well as those that are happening today and the application of this knowledge to the betterment of our lives.
Special opportunities for our students: Geology students are active with field trips that range from class field trips to the Appalachians to summer field trips to places like Colorado, Utah, and Belize. These field trips are particularly useful for seeing geology that is not available locally. Students are encouraged to participate in research activities and get involved with internships. Research opportunities are available in paleontology, hydrology, geomorphology, engineering geology, and seismology. Students may have the opportunity to get involved with internships at government agencies. Students are encouraged to participate in the geology club.
You should also know: A grade of C- or better must be earned in all geology courses counting toward the major. Students interested in the application of geology in environmental studies may take courses emphasizing hydrogeology.
Thinking about the discipline: Engineering technology is the study and application of concepts from mathematics and natural sciences used in the implementation and extension of existing or emerging technologies. NKU offers programs leading to an ETAC-ABET-accredited Bachelor of Science degree in the field of electronics engineering technology or mechanical and manufacturing engineering technology. These programs provide the knowledge and practical skills required to gain professional employment in electronics, manufacturing automation and control (mechatronics), mechanical systems, and manufacturing industry. The engineering technology programs are supported by local industry, with whom many of our students find opportunities to use what they have learned. The opportunity for positions starts in the second year and typically leads to an offer of full-time employment. Graduates are hired as electronics engineers, product design engineers, manufacturing process engineers, quality engineers, sales engineers, etc. Career placement of engineering technology graduates from NKU is excellent.
Special opportunities for our students: Engineering technology students co-op for at least one semester in a field closely related to their major. Many students participate in national engineering societies, such as the SME (Society for Manufacturing Engineers), ASQ (American Society for Quality), ASME (American Society for Mechanical Engineers), IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineering, and the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). Currently, students compete in the SAE Mini-Baja competition against many of the powerhouse engineering schools from the United States, Canada, Mexico, and other countries.
Graduates may pursue registration/licensure as a professional engineer in most states. The licensure is acquired after meeting requirements such as registration, passing the requisite tests, and a period of supervised practice.
You should also know: Transfer students majoring in engineering technology must complete at least 9 credit hours of the applicable discipline-specific courses for the major at NKU. A minimum of 6 credit hours of the applicable courses for any minor in the department must be completed at NKU.
For more information about the programs including the program objectives and student learning outcomes of EET and MMET, please see the appropriate brochures.
Other Physics, Geology, and Engineering Technology Programs
The study of astronomy is an excellent way to present scientific procedure to both science and non-science students. As one of the oldest sciences, astronomy has a rich history, yet modern astronomy carries with it the excitement of discovery and confrontation with the unknown. As a discipline, astronomy relies heavily on the contributions of other sciences, especially the physical sciences. Although a major is not currently offered in astronomy, a minor in astronomy is available. Courses in astronomy may be used to satisfy the general education requirement in natural sciences. Astronomy courses support the science requirements for education majors and may be applied toward the minor in physics. Astronomy courses numbered 300 and above may be applied toward a major in physics. Students interested in pursuing graduate work in astronomy may want to consider majoring in physics with an astronomy minor.
In support of astronomy education, NKU has a state-of-the-art digital planetarium/theatre (Haile Digital Planetarium) that serves as a classroom for university courses and as an outreach facility for P-12 children. The space is covered by a 30-foot dome-shaped projection screen and is equipped with a high-resolution digital laser projector and two high-resolution LCD projectors. Any digital image can be projected onto the dome via the laser projector, including high-quality animation and video sequences. The LCD systems serve more traditional classroom functions, projecting typical presentations, web material, and the like.
NKU planetarium staff, assisted by department faculty, have produced award-winning documentaries. Examples range from highlighting the human fascination with understanding events in the sky through the origin of the Earth-moon system to a virtual tour of a Kentucky cave. The breadth of offerings is enhanced by purchase of commercial packages as well as those produced at other planetariums. Works produced at NKU have been shared with other planetariums across the United States and around the world.
Several thousand school children attend programs in the planetarium each year and go back to their classes with new-found knowledge and excitement for science. While a major focus is on astronomy, the mission of the planetarium is interdisciplinary, presenting additional programs in geology, chemistry, biology, anthropology, and more. Due to the major public funding that made the planetarium possible, all programs are free of charge.