Students in observatory looking through telescope

Physics Department

Physics is the study of the structure of the material universe, the particles that comprise it, and the forces by means of which these particles interact. 

The Saint Mary's Physics Department imparts upon students the knowledge of nature and provides them with ways to both appreciate and apply those fundamental principles.

A Habit of Lifelong Discovery and Learning

Consistent with the mission of Saint Mary’s, the Physics Department seeks to develop the professional competencies of its graduates and to instill in them a habit of lifelong discovery and learning. Students are presented with a broad survey of the interconnected concepts of classical and 20th century physics and are able to develop an array of problem-solving skills appropriate to and involving those concepts.

Gaining an Appreciation of Science

All students in the Saint Mary's physics program will gain an appreciation of science as a human and creative endeavor, acquire and apply skills of quantitative reasoning, and understand science’s distinctive disciplinary methodology.

With its emphasis on experimentation and open communication, students pursuing a degree in physics should master foundational physics principles and analytical methods, learn experimental techniques to test physical models, and be able to apply these principles, methods, and techniques to their own professions. 

Sigma Pi Sigma Honor Society

The Saint Mary’s chapter of the national physics honor society, Sigma Pi Sigma, was founded in 1964 and exists to celebrate outstanding scholarship. Saint Mary's is home to Minnesota's second-oldest chapter of this prestigious society.

Goals for Our Students

To this end, the physics department presents to students a broad survey of the interconnected concepts of classical and 20th century physics, and develops in students an array of problem-solving skills appropriate to and involving those concepts.

All students in physics classes should gain an appreciation of science as a human and creative endeavor, acquire and be able to apply skills of quantitative reasoning, and understand science’s distinctive disciplinary methodology, with its emphasis on experimentation and open communication. Science majors in physics courses should in addition master foundational physics principles and analytical methods, learn experimental techniques to test physical models, and be able to apply these principles, methods, and techniques to their own professions. Physics majors should add to these goals an introduction to the abstract models and advanced experimental techniques used in the study of physics as a profession, to provide groundwork for their future study or careers.

Through knowledge of these concepts and acquisition of these skills, students then are able to:

  • Live, continue learning, and pursue careers as scientifically literate and technologically competent adults
  • Demonstrate and profit from their expertise in the techniques of modern experimental physics and electronics
  • Appropriately and advantageously employ computer technology both for data acquisition and processing, and algorithm development and execution
  • Communicate their knowledge and skills effectively and cogently in a variety of modalities (oral, written, and graphical)

Faculty

Paul Nienaber, SJ, Ph.D.

Department Chair - Physics, Physics - Associate Professor

Brother Charles Hall, BC239

Campus Box: # 32

(507) 457-1532

pnienabe@smumn.edu

Hyunjai (Demian) Cho, Ph.D.

Physics - Assistant Professor

Hoffman Hall, HO208A

Campus Box: # 32

(507) 457-1551

hcho@smumn.edu

Hyunjai (Demian) Cho Ph.D.
Robyn Wangberg, Ph.D.

Physics - Associate Professor

Hoffman Hall, HO221

Campus Box: # 32

(507) 457-1580

rwangber@smumn.edu

Robyn Wangberg Ph.D.