Physics Overview picture of a laser beam illustration


The study of physics is for individuals who are curious about how and why things work. One of the hallmarks of our department is close student-faculty interaction through small classroom settings and hands-on collaborative research. We strive to provide all our physics majors with the skills necessary to pursue graduate studies or professional careers in research and development through an inspiring mix of classes and research opportunities. As a progressive department, we are dedicated to teaching physics to all students through student-centered and guided discovery-based learning approaches, rather than the traditional lecture format. We are committed to helping science and non-science majors develop critical thinking and problem-solving abilities so they can make informed decisions regarding matters of science and technology.



Additionally. beginning in Fall 2019, we will be launching our Engineering track within the Physics major. 

Each year, we receive inquiries from many students who are interested in engineering but want to start their college education in a smaller setting. The McDaniel Engineering Initiative is a robust two-pronged approach designed to help these bright students achieve their dreams of becoming an engineer while giving them a strong foundation in the liberal arts.

First, we will be offering a specialization in engineering within the physics major beginning Fall 2019, which will include core courses typical of many undergraduate engineering degrees. Students will receive a BA in Physics—Specialization in Engineering. To guide and strengthen our engineering specialization, the Department of Physics just hired a new faculty member who has a PhD in microelectronics, an MS, and a BS in mechanical engineering, and several years of industrial experience. This new specialization will open exciting engineering internship and research opportunities for our students!

Second, we will be offering a dual-degree option for those students who want to receive a bachelor’s degree in physics and a second degree (bachelor’s or master’s) in engineering. We have partnered with The James McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, who has one of the oldest and most reputable dual degree programs in engineering in the nation. Through this partnership, we aim to produce high-quality, broadly-educated engineers. Washington University (WashU) offers the following options for McDaniel students. Because of our affiliation with WashU, all students who enter the graduate option will receive tuition discounts.

  • Undergraduate 3-2 program: Students spend three years at McDaniel and two years at WashU. They receive a BA in physics and a BS in an engineering field at the end of five years.

  • Graduate 3-3 program: After three years at McDaniel, students enroll directly into both an engineering master’s and bachelor’s programs at WashU and earn a BS and MS in engineering as well as a BA in physics.

  • Graduate 4-2 program: Students enroll in the engineering master’s program at WashU after completing a BA in physics at McDaniel.


The faculty in the Department of Physics are more than happy to work with students on a one-on-one basis to help each student reach their career goals.

Lewis Hall of Science, 3rd floor

Dr. Jeffrey Marx
Department Chair
(410) 386-4619

Physics Online Catalog

McDaniel College Physics graduates from 2011. illustration

Our Students

The Physics Department currently has about 30 physics majors and, on average, graduates about 4-8 students per year. The advanced physics classes generally have between 5-10 students while the general physics classes are restricted to 25 students. The small class sizes allow students and faculty to develop closer relationships in class that is conducive to better learning.

Sigma Pi Sigma - Honor Society of Physics Students

In 1994, the American Institute of Physics granted the establishment of a chapter of The Society of Physics Students (SPS) at McDaniel College. Sigma Pi Sigma recognizes outstanding scholarship in Physics and serves to promote the four dimensions of Honor, Encouragement, Service, and Fellowship. Undergraduate candidates must have a weighted average GPA of 3.5 in the Physics major and overall. In addition, students must write an honors thesis in Physics.

During Spring 2013, four new members were inducted in the Physics Honors Society (Sigma-Pi-Sigma) at McDaniel College. The four new members shown here are David Ruth, Huy Phan, Gina Mayonado, and Leigh Blohm (pictured below).

The four new members inducted in the Physics Honors Society (Sigma-Pi-Sigma) at McDaniel College are David Ruth, Huy Phan, Gina Mayonado, Leigh Blohm.

Some of the current SPS activities include:

  • Physics is fun day at Hershey Park- An annual Tradition!
  • SPS visit to the research labs at the University of Maryland
  • Designing and printing the COOLEST T-shirts on campus!
  • Physics is Phun Day with the University of Maryland
  • SPS meeting of all chapters in the Maryland area
  • Local high school outreach programs
  • Invited speakers in physics and astronomy
  • End of the semester pizza and bowling party!
Selected Publications of Student/Faculty Research

The following are papers co-authored by physics students and faculty at McDaniel College. The students' names are underlined.

  • V. Pagonis, L. Blohm, M. Brengle, G. Mayonado and P. Woglam, Anomalous heating rate effect in thermoluminescence intensity using a simplified semilocalized transition (SLT) model. Radiation Measurements, In Press., (2013).
  • V. Pagonis, R. Chen,J. Maddrey, B. Sapp. Simulations of time-resolved photoluminescence experiments in a-Al2O3:C. Journal of Luminescence 131 (2011) 1086–1094
  • V.Pagonis, A. Baker, M. Larsen, Z. Thompson. Precision and accuracy of two luminescence dating techniques for retrospective dosimetry: SAR-OSL and SAR-ITL. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 269 (2011) 653–663
  • V. Pagonis, S. Mian, R. Mellinger, K. Chapman. Thermoluminescence kinetic study of binary lead-silicate glasses. Journal of Luminescence 129 (2009) 570–577
  • V Pagonis, S M Mian, M L Chithambo, E Christensen and C Barnold. Experimental and modelling study of pulsed optically stimulated luminescence in quartz, marble and beta irradiated salt. J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys. 42 (2009)
  • V. Pagonis, E. Balsamo, C. Barnold, K. Duling, S. McCole. Simulations of the predose technique for retrospective dosimetry and authenticity testing. Radiation Measurements 43 (2008) 1343–1353
  • C. Soares, C. Drupieski, B.Wingert, G. Pritchett, V. Pagonis, M. O’Brien, A. Sliski, P.Bilski and P. Olko, Absorbed dose measurements of a handheld 50 kVp X-ray source in water with Thermoluminesccence dosemeters, Radiation Protection Dosimetry (2006), Vol. 120, No. 1–4, pp. 78–82.
  • V. Pagonis and H. Carty, "Simulation of the experimental pre-dose technique for retrospective dosimetry in quartz" Radiation Protection Dosimetry 109, (2004) p. 225-234.
  • G. Kitis, V. Pagonis, H. Carty, and E. Tatsis, "Detailed kinetic study of the thermoluminescence glow-curve of synthetic quartz", Radiation Protection Dosimetry, 100, pp.225-228 (2002).
  • V. Pagonis, E. Tatsis, G. Kitis, and C. Drupieski, "Search for common characteristics in the glow-curves of quartz of various origins", Radiation Protection Dosimetry, 100 , 373-376 (2002).
  • V. Pagonis and C. Shannon, "An improved experimental procedure of separating a composite thermoluminescence glow curve into its components", Radiation Measurements, 32, 805-812 (2000).
  • V. Pagonis, R. Drake, M. A. Morgan, T. Peters, C. Riddle, and K. Rollins, "Modeling forces on the human body", Physics Teacher, 37, 469-474 (1999).
  • D. Guerra, M. A. Morgan, and D. B. Coyle, "An introduction to laser modeling studies with a nitrogem-pumped dye laser", American Journal of Physics, 67, 803-809 (1999).
  • V. Pagonis, D. Guerra, S. Chauduri, B. Hornbecker, and N. Smith, "Effects of air resistance", Physics Teacher, 35, 364-368 (1997).
  • V. Pagonis, E. Allman, and A. Wooten, "Thermoluminescence from a distribution of trapping levels in uv irradiated calcite", Radiation Measurements, 26, 265-280 (1996).
Selected Presentations of Student/Faculty Research

During the summer of 2012, two physics majors Gina Mayonado and Leigh Blohm (pictured below) worked under Dr. Pagonis' supervision in the luminescence laboratory at McDaniel College. They studied the optical properties of Durango apatite, a natural crystal with important applications in luminescence dosimetry and luminescence dating. Gina and Leigh used several Ocean Optics spectrometers and a variety of light sources (high power LEDs, a blue laser, tungsten lamps), to study the optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) properties of these crystals. They presented this research at the Northeast Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics at Cornell University, on January 18, 2013.

During the summer of 2012, two physics majors Gina Mayonado and Leigh Blohm worked under Dr. Pagonis’ supervision in the luminescence laboratory at McDaniel College.

  • Leigh Blohm and Gina Mayonado, "Luminescence studies of fluoroapatite crystals” Presented at Northeast Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics at Cornell University, 2013.
  • Stefanie M. McCole, Costas Efthimiou, Dan Maronde, Tim McGreevy, and Enrique del Barco, "Implementing Real Time Physics at the University of Central Florida". Presented at the National AAPT Winter Meeting at Chicago, Illinois,2009.
  • C. J. Todd, R. T. May, S. M. Mian, and E. Van Keuran, "Thermooptic properties of polymer thin films using the Z-scan technique". Annual Meeting of the Optical Society of America, Orlando, FL, 2002.
  • A. M. Austin, K. P. Hildebrand, S. M. Mian, A. Y. Hamad, and J. P . Wicksted, "Self-lensing effects in Eu-doped silicate glasses under resonant excitation". Annual Meeting of the Optical Society of America, Long Beach, CA, 2001.
  • S. M. Mian and M. A. Morgan II, "Characteristics of thermal lensing Z-scans with large nonlinearity". Annual Meeting of the Optical Society of America , Providence. RI, 2000.
  • M. A. Morgan, V. Pagonis, S. M. Mian, J. G. Smith, and T. N. Good, "Computational and Experimental Studies of Thermal Lensing Z-scan Experiments". Annual Meeting of The American Physical Society, Minneapolis, MN, 2000.
  • V. Pagonis and C. Shannon, "An improved experimental procedure of separating a composite thermoluminescence glow curve into its components". Thermoluminescence Conference, Rome, Italy, 1999.


Associate Professor and Department Chair Jeff MarxProfessor and Department Chair Jeff Marx

(Ph.D., Rensselaer University), is the recipient of a $170,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop a novel science course for non-science majors on “The Nature of Science,” which dovetails with his student-centered interests in developing curricular materials to minimize these student difficulties in learning physics and working with students to help them conceive, design and analyze their own physics projects such as the physics of various sports. These student-generated projects have include construction of a ping-pong ball canon, and computer simulations of the gravitational interactions of a pair of Jupiter's moons.

Associate Professor Apollo MianProfessor Apollo Mian

(Ph.D., Oklahoma State University), created with colleagues Dr. Marx and Dr. Pagonis the highly successful general science course, “A World of Light and Color,” in which non-science students engage in simple activities designed to help them understand basic light phenomena and learn how to think like scientists rather than simply learn about science. Dr. Mian’s other research interests include nonlinear optics, the physics of semiconducting polymers for display applications, Brillouin scattering, and solid state physics.

Professor Vasilis PagonisProfessor Vasilis Pagonis

(Ph.D., Northeastern University), is the inaugural recipient of the John Desmond Kopp Professorship in the Sciences. He frequently collaborates with students on research in his areas of interest, including solid state physics, and specifically in thermally and optically stimulated luminescence (TL and OSL). This is an area of research with direct applications in archaeological and geological dating, and also in radiation dosimetry. He teaches courses in quantum mechanics, analog and digital electronics and mathematical physics. Dr. Pagonis’ resume lists more than 80 refereed publications in international journals. He has been the recipient of several grants, including awards from the Council on Undergraduate Research and National Science Foundation. He is the co-author of two books in the field of luminescence dosimetry, “Practical and Numerical Exercises in Thermoluminescence,” published by Springer in 2006, and “Thermally and Optically Stimulated Luminescence: A Simulation Approach,” published by Wiley in 2011. Go to Dr. Pagonis’ personal webpage.


At McDaniel, every Physics and Pre-Engineering student partakes in a significant directed physics research project as part of the Department’s degree requirements. These projects have included thermoluminescence, computer modeling, the physics of sports, and optics and lasers. In addition, interested majors play an active role in the research programs of faculty. Students gain hands-on experience with the latest research techniques in the fields of Solid State Physics, Nonlinear Optics, and Physics Education. Such student-faculty collaboration provides students the opportunity to produce published articles in prestigious technical journals and presentations at local, national, and international professional meetings.

Recent student–faculty research collaboration

Student Professor Topic
Bryan Nuckles Dr. Jeff Marx Dynamics of a dipole in a non-linear magnetic field
Nicolas Reed Jarboe Dr. Apollo Mian Angle-dependent transmission measurements of photonic bandgap crystals with embedded polymers
Gina Mayonado Dr. Bill Pagonis Luminescence studies of fluorescent crystals

The Physics faculty are dedicated to providing students with the essential skills and knowledge required to pursue a wide range of professional careers. A large number of physics majors have been admitted to highly ranked universities to pursue graduate studies in physics at programs  including the following:

Catholic University
College of William and Mary
Duke University
George Washington University
Pennsylvania State University
Purdue University
University of Maryland
University of Pennsylvania
University of Rochester
Washington University at St. Louis

Departmental Facilities

The Physics Department expects students will learn how to use the software Mathematica in all their advanced classes, and our computer-based physics laboratory emphasizes data collection, analysis and modeling of physical phenomena. The computers are interfaced with laboratory equipment, and students learn a significant amount of computer programming in all physics classes.

The Physics Department has numerous computers which are available for students' classwork and research projects. Our physics majors learn how to use the software Mathematica in all their advanced classes, and our computer-based physics laboratory emphasizes data collection, analysis and modelling of physical phenomena. The computers are interfaced with laboratory equipment, and students learn a significant amount of computer programming in all physics classes.

The Department also has active research programs in Solid State Physics, Nonlinear Optics, and Physics Education Research.

The Nonlinear Optics Laboratory features the following:

  • Nitrogen-pumped dye-laser system producing 7 ns pulses
  • Melles-Griot air-cooled, tunable argon-ion laser system (9 lines available) with about 130 mW each at 514 nm and 488 nm.
  • Omnichrome air-cooled, sealed cavity argon-ion laser operating at 488 nm with about 50 mW
  • Hands-on helium-neon laser operating at 632.8 nm
  • 7 mW polarized HeNe laser also operating at 632.8 nm
  • 0.48 m monochromator with computer interface from CVI
  • Tektronix 500 MHz digital storage oscilloscope
  • Burleigh optical spectrum analyzer
  • Laser beam profiler and Temperature controller from Thorlabs
  • Low current amplifier, lock-in amplifier, and optical chopper from Stanford Research
  • Laser power meters and photodetectors from Newport, Melles-Griot, and Thorlabs
  • Research Grade optical components and holders from Melles-Griot, Thorlabs, New Focus, and Newport
  • Research Grade optical table from Newport and refurbished by Vere

The Physics Education Research Laboratory features the following:

  • A neutral environment for conducting and transcribing student interviews
  • A workstation to build and develop interactive lecture demonstrations
  • New 8-inch telescope with CCD camera

Majors & Courses

The requirements for a major in Physics include several core physics courses commensurate with a B.A. degree covering areas such as classical mechanics, electromagnetic theory, modern physics, quantum mechanics, and mathematical physics. Students also take optional courses in astrophysics, optics and lasers, thermodynamics, and computer modeling, to name a few.



Physics professor shares joy of bird watching on campus

Physics professor shares joy of bird watching on campus

Bright and early on a sunny spring Thursday, Physics professor Jeff Marx was in the lobby of Eaton Hall awaiting the faculty, staff and students who signed up for his campus bird walk. These walks are one of the ways personal relationships with faculty develop in the natural sciences at McDaniel.

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