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About Us

Academics / Departments & Programs / Physics & Astronomy / About Us

In the physics and astronomy department, we are constantly amazed by the wonders of creation. We love to share our fascination with others, and we want to be wise stewards of science and technology.

Together, students and faculty use their God-given talents to take on a wide range of intellectual, technical, and moral questions, such as:

  • What does it mean for light to behave like both a particle and a wave?
  • How can we measure electrical signals in living cells?
  • How can we make better nanoscale circuits for use in computers and other devices?
  • How can we measure the age of a star cluster?
  • How has the world been changed through discoveries in atomic and nuclear physics?
  • Can scientific and technological solutions help the cause of peacemaking?


For a full list of physics and astronomy faculty, see the Faculty & Staff page.

Program overview

Calvin's programs in physics and astronomy are designed to be challenging, yet flexible to help you achieve your career goals.
You can choose from:

  • Physics major
  • In-depth physics major
  • Physics and computer science group major
  • Secondary ed
  • Physics minor
  • Astronomy minor
  • Optics minor
Academics page

Quick Facts

  • 2

    astronomical observatories


    students take paid research jobs in this department each summer


    Calvin ranks in the top 5% of private colleges whose graduates go on to earn PhDs in the sciences


    Percent of Calvin science students are accepted into graduate school on first application

Research opportunities

As a physics and astronomy student, you will have incredible opportunities to work alongside professors both in and outside of the classroom.

  • During the school year and in the summer, assist professors with research in theoretical and experimental atomic physics, biophysics, neurophysiology and more.
  • Publish research findings with professors and other students in scholarly journals.
  • Use the Calvin observatory (both on-site and remotely in New Mexico) to observe asteroids, stars and galaxies.
  • Collaborate on research with your fellow students and professors in small, upper-level courses.


Calvin students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and technology for use in courses, labs and research projects.

Research laboratories and computers

Several research laboratories and hundreds of computers, funded by external grants and the university.

Examples include:

  • atom trapping system, "optical molasses" using special magnets and lasers in high vacuum--Professor M. Walhout
  • electronic cellular microprobe system to study electical signals in cell membranes--Professor L. Haarsma
  • sophisticated computer models of atoms in extremely intense laser fields written by Professor S. Haan
  • custom built equipment to study lipids and macromolecules--Professor P. Harper
  • optically detected magnetic resonance in diamond nitrogen-vacancy point defects--Professor R. Balili


Two fully-equipped observatories, one on Calvin's campus and a robotically-operated telescope in Rehoboth, New Mexico.

These enable

  • studies of asteroid dynamics--Professor L. Molnar
  • studies of variable stars--Professor L. Molnar
  • studies of globular star clusters--Professor J. Smolinski

Student labs

Specially-equipped student labs, including equipment developed commercially for teaching in advanced laboratory programs by Professor D. Van Baak.

Examples include:

  • quantum interference with single photons
  • quantum entanglement of photon pairs
  • measuring nuclear decay and cosmic rays

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