Department of Physics

West Chester University

Chair: Anthony J. Nicastro
127 Merion Science Center
West Chester, PA 19383
Phone: 610.436.2497
Fax: 610.436.3013


We offer a comprehensive education in Physics and exciting research opportunities that prepare students for academic and professional careers. Our small upper-level classes (around 10 students) allow for close faculty-student interactions and mentoring. Many students take part in cutting-edge research with faculty members. We continue to stay in touch and act as a resource to graduates long after they obtain their degree. Please stop by the Department and discover for yourself all we have to offer.

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Dr. Thornton and collaborators receive $9.8 million NSF grant

At an altitude of 17,000 ft. in the Chilean Andes, the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) is one of the highest ground-based telescopes in the world. Dr. Thornton is currently on sabbatical to help design and build a new millimeter-wavelength camera, called Advanced ACT (AdvACT), for the telescope. This new instrument will unite cutting-edge polarization-sensitive detectors developed under NASA funding with the existing telescope to provide a combination of resolution, sensitivity, frequency and sky coverage unmatched by any current or planned instruments. AdvACT will answer questions about the origins of the universe, the properties of its massive contents, the formation of structures under the influence of gravity, and the nature of dark energy.

Dr. Thornton publishes an article in Physical Review Letters

Dr. Bob Thornton has co-authored a study that has been published in the prestigious journal Physical Review Letters. Titled "Detection of the Power Spectrum of Cosmic Microwave Background Lensing by the Atacama Cosmology Telescope", the article addresses the question of "Which theory best describes the beginning of the universe?" Article can be found here.

Congratulations Dr. Thornton.

Physics Tea Every Thursday


Join us each Thursday at 3:00 pm in the Physics Library (Merion 125) for The Physics Tea. This is a social time we have set aside for physics students and faculty to chat about physics, classes, grad school, and anything else that happens to come up in conversation. It's a great time to relax and see your professors and classmates in an informal atmosphere outside the classroom. Visitors are welcome, especially alumni and prospective students!

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Physics students chosen for Summer Undergraduate Research Institute (SURI) 2015

Physics majors, Cameron Sprowls and Kamron Salavatibar are chosen to participate in the second Summer Undergraduate Research Institute (SURI). Cameron will conduct experimental research under the guidance of Dr. Matthew M. Waite and Kamron will conduct computational research under the guidance of Dr. Anil K. Kandalam during the summer of 2015.

Dr. Aptowicz Awarded $168,000 Army Research Office Grant

The Environmental Sciences Division of the Army Research Office (ARO) recently awarded a grant to Dr. Kevin Aptowicz in the amount of $168,000 over three years. The grant titled Angularly-Resolved Elastic Light Scattering of Atmospheric Particles: Experimental Measurements and Model Verification blends the exploration of an unsolved puzzle in aerosol characterization with well-designed and pedagogically sound research projects for undergraduates. The scientific question at hand is deceptively simple: how do aerosol particles scatter light? The answer to this question turns out to be quite complex for a number of reasons but mainly because of the diversity of aerosol particles in the atmosphere. By using a newly devised approach to analyze single-particle scattering patterns, Dr. Aptowicz hopes to evolve our understanding of light scattering from atmospheric aerosol particles and provide urgently needed experimental data for light scattering model validation and refinement.

Welcome new faculty!

We would like to welcome the new Physics faculty member, Dr. Tianran Chen, who is joining the department in Fall 2014.

Dr. Chen joins the department as an assistant professor following her PhD work at University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on disorder effects on electron transport in nanocrystal assemblies and topological insulators. Dr. Chen will be teaching the Introductory Physics, PHY 130 this fall. Please stop by Merion 128 to say a quick hello and welcome her to the department!

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WCU Taking Part in 6-meter Telescope in Chile


For the past five years, Physics Professor Robert Thornton has been part of a collaboration led by Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania to build a 6-meter telescope in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. The collaboration was recently awarded $10M to build a new instrument for the telescope.

The new camera, "ACTPol," is designed to detect the degree to which the Cosmic Microwave Background, the afterglow of the Big Bang, is polarized. Prof. Thornton and West Chester Physics students will be involved with the optical, mechanical, and cryogenic design of the estimated 1500-lb camera over the next several years.

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Modern Physics Study Abroad 2015

The Summer 2015 Modern Physics (PHY 240) Study Abroad Program is in the planning stages. For this program, we will speed the first 2 weeks of the 5-week summer session at West Chester University completing the first one-half of the course material and content. Then we will travel to London, England for the remaining 3 weeks of our course. Please let Dr. Waite know if you are interested or click here for more.- no committment is needed as of yet, but we need to know that there is enough interest to proceed.

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Career Opportunities

With a Physics degree, you can pursue a career in research, engineering, teaching, government, medicine, finance, economics, law & litigation, consulting, writing & publishing, and more!


West Chester University has been named a best buy by Kiplinger Magazine for our excellent education at an affordable price.

In addition, the Physics Department offers the following scholarships, for current students:

Robert M. Brown Endowed Scholarship
Dr. Michael F. Martens Award
Diane and Roger Casagrande Scholarship
Benjamin Faber Award
The Science and Theology Award

Additional information is available in the Student Handbook for Physics Majors.