Physics is fundamental. Engineering is building.

Put the two together, and you have a powerhouse degree in Engineering Physics from Lebanon Valley College. With an unprecedented $6.2 million alumna gift, the new Engineering Physics program immerses students in the cutting-edge fundamentals and hands-on practice needed to solve the world’s most urgent challenges.

LVC’s renowned Physics Department has been pairing a personalized college experience with groundbreaking research for over 100 years, and students are key contributors. LVC professors partner with global enterprises or obtain highly competitive grants from the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy for high-level collaborations in laser modifications of glass, quantum information science, and computational nuclear physics.

LVC students can work as paid research assistants, earn academic credit for independent study, and are often co-authors on peer-reviewed publications and give talks at conferences, for a head start on careers that other colleges can’t match.

“It’s pretty rare to have a robust research experience for undergraduate students at small schools and even at large research institutions where student involvement is usually limited to graduate students,” said LVC President Dr. James M. MacLaren, who is also an award-winning physicist. “Undergraduates can have really interesting ways of looking at a problem, so if you think about how we want to develop young scientists today, these experiences can be transformational.”

LVC designs flexibility into its Physics degrees, allowing students to pursue their own pathways. The new Engineering Physics degree adds to a menu that also includes a Physics major with optional computational physics concentration, Physics with secondary education certification, and a dual-degree 3+2 Engineering option in partnership with Case Western Reserve University that gives students the opportunity to pursue a specific engineering discipline, like electrical, civil, or mechanical.

Engineering Physics merges fundamental physics with the design of engineering systems, processes, and devices. It’s highly suited for LVC’s hands-on mindset, giving students the skills needed to turn ideas into prototypes. At companies worldwide, researchers steeped in engineering physics have the power to invent and develop innovative technologies that change lives.

“This degree helps prepare students for research and development jobs in material science, electronics, manufactured devices, and more,” said MacLaren. “All these technologies are founded on physics, but the applications tie into engineering, so it’s opening up that world to students studying in this combined field.”

The $6.2 million gift from Dr. Elizabeth M. Bains (‘64) and her husband, Dr. James A. Bains Jr., injects the Engineering Physics major with the resources needed to offer a cutting-edge degree. Elizabeth Bains was the second female physics major to graduate from LVC and a former NASA scientist. The Bains’ gift enhances the student learning experience through:

  • Increased stipends for student-faculty research in Physics and Engineering Physics, including Research First, which gives first-year students a crack at research the summer before they arrive on campus.
  • A new, dedicated faculty position in Engineering Physics that will provide more student-faculty research opportunities in that field.
  • Construction of a new, fully equipped Engineering Physics lab and research space. “Students will work in brand new lab spaces with state-of-the-art equipment and have a dedicated budget to make purchases to implement their senior capstone projects,” said Dr. Dan Pitonyak (’08), Assistant Professor of Physics and Co-Chair of Chemistry and Physics.
  • A travel budget for students and faculty presenting research at regional, national, and international conferences.

With LVC’s proven rigor, its Physics graduates are accepted into top graduate schools. They can be found studying for master’s degrees or doctorates in medical physics, electrical engineering, aerospace engineering, nuclear physics, optical physics, solid state physics, and many other sought-after specialties.

LVC also equips students with the “soft skills” that employers demand. Training in problem-solving, writing technical lab reports, and oral communications are incorporated into courses from the start, culminating in the senior-year capstone project. By then, students are fully prepared to see a project through, from design to final presentation.

“You have an advantage if you have those skills when you go out into the world of work,” said MacLaren.

The ideal Engineering Physics student is strong in mathematics, possibly having taken AP calculus and AP physics, and might be a tinkerer – someone curious about how electronics and engineered products work. An Engineering Physics degree from LVC positions students in the center of research that alleviates the challenges pressing on many fields, including the environment, health care, transportation, urban planning, and agriculture.

“These are students who care about the future of the world,” said MacLaren. “You’re not just someone who wants to understand how things work but who also is keen on improving society.”

The pool of jobs requiring a technical degree is growing, and employers pay well for people with diverse skills. An Engineering Physics degree can also prepare entrepreneurial students to seize opportunities by turning newly discovered materials into breakthrough solutions.

It all comes down to the opportunities forged by personalized connections between students and LVC faculty.

“Strong, hard-working students can really thrive and make great achievements here,” said Pitonyak. “We see excellent outcomes for them because of the rigor of our curriculum and high-level research we conduct. We are a small college where students can excel and  successfully pursue their chosen careers.”

Ready to change the world with your brain and your hands? Learn more about Engineering Physics at LVC.