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It has been my extraordinary privilege to serve as Chair of the Physics Department. It is indeed an honor to do so, as this Department possesses an extraordinarily collegial and collaborative atmosphere. The Department is, despite great financial difficulties within the State and the University, in excellent shape. This is very much due to the dedication and enthusiasm of the faculty, staff, and the student body. I must also add that the Alumni have supported the Department significantly. I believe that we are making progress in a number of areas and thank the students, the faculty, the Alumni, the administration, and the staff as we work together to make the EIU Physics Department continue to stand out.
The Physics Department at EIU is active and exciting. We have a deep commitment to undergraduate education. We have faculty teaching all of our lectures and laboratories (no Graduate Teaching Assistants). Our classes are small enough for you to get to know your professors AND for our professors to get to know you. Our students are active in research and involved in making the experience positive for everyone.
Let me tell you about some of the highlights that we have to show for our work recently. Perhaps the most exciting news is that the University will begin offering a 4 year BS in Electrical Engineering and the Physics Department will play a major role in that program. This program springboards off of the rich history of the Pre-Engineering Program and we are well positioned to provide an outstanding Electrical Engineering curriculum. The second most exciting thing happening is building a Tutor Room. The money to renovate a room for this purpose was raised through generous gifts from the Alumni. This room will be a showcase for teaching and learning. It will also be a community center for Physics, Pre-Engineering, and Electrical Engineering students. Another highlight of the Department is our Observatory which is also donation funded. The Observatory has a 16” telescope installed in 2004 and recently we have installed a second dome that houses a 10” Solar telescope. We also have a collaboration with Bob Holmes of the Astronomical Research Institute who studies Near Earth Objects, which are asteroids that pass within the orbit of the Earth and could cause catastrophic damage if they collided with the Earth. Bob along with a colleague of his, Tyler Linder, are Adjunct Faculty who work with our students on Astronomical Research. The Department has increased our research opportunities for students. Mentoring between students and faculty are some of the best experiences that undergraduates can have and these opportunities are available for any student that wants to participate. The EIU faculty is active in research from Astronomy to nanotechnology. We have our own research symposium at the end of the semester that celebrates the work of these students. We also send students to meetings. Our students have won awards at the Illinois Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers Student Research Symposium. Another highlight that I would like to point out is our laser facilities. We have a set of tunable lasers that are used in the introductory labs. This is a very high tech and exciting facility that puts great equipment in the hands of introductory students. It is a one of a kind lab that sets us apart from everyone else. Our students are certainly a part of the positive atmosphere. We have an active Society of Physics Students that includes the honorary SPS chapter. The SPS holds regular meetings that include social events and Physics oriented events like “Messy Physics”. Another student organization is the Astronomy Club. This group organizes community outreach programs through Open Houses on the last Friday of each month at the EIU Observatory. Between student and faculty awards, exciting research opportunities,
excellent facilities, and some great student groups I am very proud of what we have to offer and what we are accomplishing.
I need to add a little about our offerings. The Physics Department has 5 options for majors. These include Physics, Astronomy, Computational Physics, Engineering Physics, and Teacher Licensure. Each of these options has a different emphasis and goal but they all provide excellent preparation for future work. Please explore our website to see all of the different options that we offer. This preparation can be applied in a number of ways from the traditional fields in Science and Engineering to Weather to Computers to Business and Finance.
We place great emphasis on the quality of our programs and our teaching. We pride ourselves on the small class size that leads to a small college atmosphere within the Department. The University is also large enough to offer opportunities in the arts, sports, student organizations, and a variety of other areas that are Division I level. Our Physics students are taught by faculty whether it is a lecture class or a laboratory. Our faculty get to know our students through small classes, labs, and mentoring that give us direct interactions with each student. Overall, we make every effort to integrate the excellent education we offer with professional and personal growth of our students to fully prepare our students to succeed in the global economy.
Our graduates go on to graduate school in Physics, Math, and even Meteorology. Many of our graduates enter the workforce directly. We have a strong contingent that becomes high school Physics teachers. Our graduates take technical positions in a variety of areas from computers to radiation safety. Some work in nuclear power plants or national labs while some have gone into business for themselves. Even in these tough economic times our Physics graduates tend to be sought after by employers looking for hard working, motivated, problem solvers. Whatever direction that is taken after graduation, we see success in all of our graduates.
It is an exciting time for Physics and Astronomy. There are exciting developments being made in sustainable energy sources, controlling collective resonances in nanoscale clusters, and even the search for Earth-like planets outside of our solar system. Recent news about finding "Higgs particles" in the world's largest particle colliders as well as other items that have made international news are interesting and exciting. Our Department is working to push the frontiers of Physics with active research programs in several different areas. Our faculty are active in research and bring this perspective to the classroom to ensure students receive appropriate training for this rapidly changing world.
I invite you to explore this web site and discover what the EIU Physics Department is about and what we have to offer. I hope this web site can answer some of your questions, but if not, please do not hesitate to contact me directly and I shall direct you to the appropriate person in the Department who can help.
Dr. Steven Daniels, Chair