See the universe from a new perspective

student performs experiment

Students in physics study matter and energy and the laws governing their behavior. Our program prioritizes both classical and modern theories in physics with a focus on lab work and experiential learning.

In physics, we embrace the physical dimensions in space and time, from the smallest subatomic particles to the universe, from the slow drift of continents to the speed of light, from absolute zero to stellar temperatures, from low-frequency radio waves to gamma rays. 

Why study physics at Lake Forest College?

We believe responsible citizens strive to understand the fundamental concepts of physics in order to make wise decisions about science and society. The Department of Physics at Lake Forest College offers a wide range of courses and research opportunities for students interested in physics, electrical or mechanical engineering, health careers, teaching, and the arts. Our curriculum is designed to prepare students for graduate school in physics and engineering as well as employment in a variety of industries. 

Our students benefit from small class sizes, one-on-one mentorship opportunities, and vigorous research that helps them learn to analyze data and build their own experiments. Our outstanding faculty provide attentive support for each student, and the department is proud of its history of excellence in teaching physics. Our physics faculty members study acoustic levitation, granular materials, industrial automation, quantum optics, and computational physics for surface processes; students can customize their learning through independent study.

Physics majors are problem solvers, equipped with inventive thinking and analytical skills. Students majoring in physics engage with innovative ideas in science and technology. Our program prioritizes putting students in touch with the concepts they learn about so they gain hands-on experience that sets them apart after graduation. 

a student and professor run an experiment

Two female physics students work on a lab project together. they are smiling.

Science with a philosophical perspective

Physics is a science that includes a philosophical perspective. Physicists tend to be self-reflective; we stop and think about what we're really trying to accomplish or learn and how that fits into a broader understanding of the fundamentals of the universe. Our program nurtures students' inquisitive qualities and empowers them to seek answers to complex questions.

Student working one on one with Professor Kash

Individual mentorship and rigorous research

Because we limit our instructional laboratories to 16 students, our physics instructors connect with students on a personal level. Professors get to know what each student aspires to and the concepts they hope to engage with though research. 

A student works on an independent physics project

Interdisciplinary learning opportunities

We encourage every student to pursue their passions and pair their physics degree with another field of study. Our students often combine physics with math, computer science, data science, chemistry, biology, business, finance, philosophy, education, art, or music to create careers they love. 

jack curtis portrait
My physics education at Lake Forest gave me the rigorous mathematical background needed for the mechanical and aerospace PhD program at the University of Florida. The research skills I learned here were essential not only for admission to the graduate program, but also for helping me gain confidence in my research skills.
Jack Curtis '23

Interdisciplinary learning in physics

Lake Forest College celebrates the potential and power of the liberal arts, a curriculum that enambles students to make their passions work for the future. The liberal arts provide a path of study that nourishes students as a whole human, not just a career path. A focus on scientific inquiry with the encouragement to consider and apply other disciplines to their studies ensures that students are empathetic, globally minded, and multi-faceted in their interests. A liberal arts degree ultimately sets graduates apart in applicant pools for jobs, graduate and professional programs, or other avenues of pursuit.  

We instill a love of learning in our students that carries them into the future and helps them build careers that are underscored by curiosity, inquiry, and exploration. The application of a physics degree extends in a variety of directions, from opening doors to graduate study to paving the way for fulfilling careers with a bachelor’s degree.

student looking through a scope

Mike Kash with Jensen lab equipment

Professor Michael Kash ’77 named first Harald C. Jensen Endowed Chair for Physics

The Harald C. Jensen Endowed Chair for Physics was made possible by a major gift from Professor Jensen’s son, Chris Jensen, who bequeathed $6.6 million to the physics department in his father’s name. Professor of Physics Michael Kash ’77 has been named the first recipient of the Harald C. Jensen Endowed Chair for Physics.

A faculty member since 1988, Kash earned his PhD in physics from MIT, and received his BA in physics and mathematics from Lake Forest College in 1977.

Read more about the gift

A continuing legacy of excellence

Professor of Physics Harald Jensen created and shared ground-breaking physics demonstrations and teaching methods with students and faculty at Lake Forest College as well as with high school and college physics teachers across the United States and throughout the world. A renowned leader in the area of teaching physics and designing physics apparatus, Jensen’s signature method—using live demonstrations of physics phenomenon at the start of class—is still used widely today.

jensen demonstrates an experiment

How our physics majors make it

Graduates of the physics program at Lake Forest pursue a variety of careers with great success. Our alumni continue on to:

  • Careers in physics research
  • Medical and health physics
  • Material science
  • Earth, atmospheric, and planetary science
  • Mechanical and electrical engineering
  • Medical school
  • Teaching
  • Architecture
  • Law school
  • Scientific programming
  • Nuclear chemistry

Many of our students also choose to continue on to graduate school. Our graduates have placed in programs at University of Connecticut, University of Florida, Case Western Reserve University, Norther Illinois University, University of Maryland - Baltimore County, University of Colorado - Colorado Springs, Tennessee Space Institute, and Michigan State University. 

arielle jones in the classroom
The physics department is growing, and I can’t wait to see its future. I have support from not only professors and staff, but my classmates as well. Plus, joining the astronomy club helped me connect with other members of my department and also helped me connect with individuals in a specific field of physics.
Arielle Jones '24

students soldering in electronics lab

Hands-on learning in the physics department

Our physics students gain practical hands-on experience and the opportunity to discover physics principles firshand through a variety of experiential learning opportunities available in our physics laboratories. 

Our students also learn to use fundamental software such as Excel, Mathematica, MATLAB, Origin, and LabVIEW.

Designing a Drone by Jack Curtis '23

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Harald C. Jensen, Professor of Physics

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Related Programs


Scott Schappe
Professor of Physics
Chair of Physics
Lillard Science Center 166


Barbara Sesterhenn
Department Assistant
Lillard Science Center 117