The Physics Department strongly encourages physics majors to work on independent projects throughout their time at Wellesley. There are many opportunities for students to do research with faculty on campus. Students can receive academic credit during the term by electing to do either a Physics 250 (usually most appropriate for First Year and Sophomore students) or a Physics 350 (usually most appropriate for Juniors and Seniors).
Seniors who are invited to do so may elect to do a year long Honors Thesis. There are also many possible sources of funds for students who would prefer to be paid rather than receive academic credit for the time they spend working on research projects. There are a number of programs to finance summer research projects, and most students who wish to do so are able to obtain funding for housing and an hourly stipend for two months of summer research. WinterSession is another good time to work on an independent project. Finally there are many opportunities for students to engage in research off campus, particularly during the summer months.
The best way for a student to get started on independent work on campus is to talk to individual faculty members about possible projects. The research expertise in the Department is spread over a variety of fields in physics, including experimental research in atomic, optical, and molecular physics, the physics of complex fluids, robotics and the development of designed-based educational technology, theoretical research in laser spectroscopy and cavity quantum electrodynamics, laser-based studies of new electronic materials, and experimental particle astrophysics and precision tests of gravity. We certainly don’t expect students to be already knowledgeable in our fields of research! We will introduce you to our research programs. On the following pages you will find descriptions of the research interests of the professors in the Physics Department, along with listings of possible projects for students. You can find more information about our individual research projects on the Physics Department’s faculty webpage.
You should also be aware that we welcome student suggestions for independent projects, and we are willing and interested in supervising student work in areas outside of our professional specializations. If you have a good idea, or the beginnings of a good idea, come and speak with us! Two excellent resources for projects appropriate for undergraduate physics students are the American Journal of Physics and Physics World, journals (both are in the Science Library) aimed at a general physics audience — from undergraduates through Ph.D. researchers. A third resource is your physics texts. An in-depth study of a topic presented in class can serve as an excellent introduction to research in physics.
Finally, there are many fine opportunities for undergraduates to work in off-campus research environments. The Wellesley College Society of Physics Students website maintains links to a number of summer research programs including the National Science Foundation’s Research Opportunities for Undergraduates (REU) program. The Physics Department also maintains a collection of brochures and electronic information on summer programs.