The American Institute of Physics recently ranked the Geneseo department of physics & astronomy second in the country out of over 500 undergraduate institutions.
According to the AIP report, an average of 26 majors per year graduated from Geneseo’s physics department between 2008 and 2010. This rate is in close contention with the U.S. Naval Academy’s physics program, which awarded an average of 31 physics bachelor’s degrees per year during that time to take the first place ranking.
“We’ve been high on the list for a number of years,” professor of physics and Chair of the Department of Physics & Astronomy Charles Freeman said. “Last year, we graduated 34 physics majors.”
According to Freeman, there are approximately 200 physics majors in all four levels of undergraduate study at Geneseo, making the department of physics & astronomy one of the smallest in the school.
Freeman said that it is easy to create a “family atmosphere” of which students can feel a member because the major is one of the smallest on campus. “The department works well as a team and the students really pick up on that, it creates a very supportive atmosphere,” he said.
“Most of the credit goes to the outstanding faculty in the department,” Freeman added. “The physics department consists of eight hardworking and creative professors who work very well as a team.”
“There are also a lot of things to do outside of the classroom,” he said.
According to Freeman, physics majors are given the opportunity to present research at the Division of Nuclear Physics Conference in California and were able to give presentations at national meetings and conventions in Washington, D.C., Hawaii, California, Virginia, New Mexico, Michigan, Georgia and New York.
“The physics department has regularly gained recognition of various kinds for quite a long time,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Carol Long said. This recognition includes a Nov. 2 article published by Rochester Business Journal about the recent AIP rankings.
“There are two things that I find very positive about the physics department,” Long said. “There is very strong support within the department; this creates a very strong departmental culture. The faculty also works very hard to find projects for their students on and off campus.”
Long said that she believes that research project opportunities are important in readying students for graduate school.
“[Research opportunities] make students much more marketable and much more experienced after they graduate,” she said.
Long said she also attributes public funding from state and federal sources with helping to provide research equipment.
“I think [graduation rate] is a pretty good indication of the quality of the department,” said sophomore physics major Matt Cosgrove. “Some of the professors here are absolutely incredible and some of the brightest people I’ve ever met. I think the professors are so successful because a lot of them are really approachable and actually care about getting to know their students.”