Do you like to get lost in the stars or figure out how objects move through time and space? Are you curious about electrons, laser holograms, computer chips, electronic gadgets, satellites, radios or superconducting magnets? Explore the physics behind these concepts with a major that studies the basic principles and laws of the universe, on which engineering and technology are based.

The physics program at Central College prepares students for industrial jobs, graduate school and research, teaching and other technical areas. Students benefit from the one-on-one attention provided by faculty devoted to teaching and working with students. Many physics majors continue directly to graduate school at various universities across the nation.

of physics majors are admitted into their first- or second-choice grad school
of students pursuing summer professional experiences participate in one or more internships or research programs
of physics majors enter graduate school within one year after graduation

The Central Difference

Research Opportunities

The Central physics department is licensed by the state of Iowa to own and use a plutonium-beryllium neutron source and a cesium gamma-ray source for experiments in atomic and nuclear physics. The on-campus observatory with an 11-inch reflector telescope allows students to observe planets, stars and other celestial objects.

Students can use an x-ray diffractometer and a high-vacuum system with a mass spectrometer to conduct additional research projects. The physics program is also supported by a mechanical shop with a mill,  lathe and welding equipment.

Next-Generation Engineer

Majors in physics and math at Central led Joe Eilers ’18 to be a doctoral student in electrical engineering at Iowa State University.


Central’s Vermeer Science Center was awarded the silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating from the United States Green Building Council, the first LEED-rated building in the state. Students have direct access to classrooms and laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation and equipment.

A lab for the electronics course allows students to experiment with a variety of analog and digital circuits, and even build microcomputers. The advanced labs support a large variety of experiments including cloud chamber, Cavendish balance, laser optics, bomb calorimeter, Compton Effect, photoelectric effect, radioisotopes, Michelson interferometer and optical pyrometer.

Support for Student Research

Funding for research in physics is made possible through the Arthur J. Bosch Endowment for Student Research, which supports collaborative research projects with faculty and alumni during summer breaks.

Study Abroad

Students are encouraged to study abroad with one of Central’s international programs to enhance their development as global citizens, or with partner programs in Chicago, Washington, D.C. or New York City. Learn more about Central’s study abroad programs.

Central College student

Beyond Central

Putting the “Hire” in Higher Education

  • Researcher, Louisiana State Univ., Baton Rouge, La.
  • Medical imaging physicist, Duke University Health System, Durham, N.C.
  • R&D electrical engineer, Musco Sports Lighting, Oskaloosa
  • Technical project manager, Wells Fargo, Minneapolis
  • Systems engineer, government flight management systems, Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids
  • Quality assurance manager, TestAmerica Laboratories, Cedar Falls
  • Process engineer, Fisher Controls (Emerson), Marshalltown
  • Infiltration analyst, Electrolux, St Cloud, Minn.
  • Technical services engineer, Epic Systems Corp., Verona, Wis.
  • Product engineer, Pella Corp., Pella

Central Announces Changes Among Faculty

Central has announced changes among its faculty for the 2021-22 academic year.


  • Physics Club
  • SCATE (Students Concerned About The Environment)

Graduate Placement

  • University of Colorado Boulder, aerospace engineering
  • Duke University, medical physics
  • University of Arizona, hydrology
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison, chemical engineering
  • University of Iowa, hydraulics and water resources
  • Ohio State University, physics
  • University of Cincinnati, MD/PhD medical scientist program
  • Iowa State University, biorenewable resources and technology


  • Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
  • Rice Quantum Institute, Rice University, Houston, Texas
  • Center for Optical Technologies, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Penn.
  • Center for Neuroscience, West Virginia University, Morgantown, W.Va.
  • Vermeer Corporation, Pella
  • Materials science and engineering department, Iowa State University, Ames
  • Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, Fort Calhoun, Neb.
  • Physics department, University of California, Davis, Calif.
Central College student

Courses & Faculty

Central offers courses in physics theory, problem-solving skills and experimental techniques, with an emphasis on science as a method for learning about the world. Students are prepared to be able to reason from the general fundamental principles to specific applications in physics and engineering. Central students trained in physics are highly qualified and work in a variety of technical specialties.

Introductory courses such as General Physics I, General Physics II and Modern Physics I lay the foundation for the physics major. Both the junior and senior years include electives chosen by students based on their specific areas of interest. The physics major culminates with two semesters of advanced physics laboratories.

Learn more about this discipline in the course catalog.

Meet the Faculty

Sample Coursework

First Year

  • General Physics I with lab
  • General Physics II with lab
  • Calculus I
  • Calculus II
  • General Chemistry with lab

Sophomore Year

  • Modern Physics I
  • Waves
  • Theoretical and Experimental Methods
  • Multivariable Calculus
  • Differential Equations

Junior Year

  • Thermodynamics
  • Modern Physics II
  • Dynamics
  • Optics

Senior Year

  • Electromagnetism
  • Electricity and Magnetism II
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Advanced Physics Laboratories


Learn More

Want to find out more about Physics at Central? Contact us to learn more about this discipline and our other strong academic programs.

Visit campus to observe classes and experience The Central Difference firsthand.

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