Physics Academics

When you study physics, you seek a fundamental understanding of the physical universe. 

You’ll also take courses in mathematics, the language of science, and computer science for scientific breadth. Test some of the theories you learn in laboratory classes and hands-on research and take advantage of opportunities to conduct research with your professors. State-of-the-art instrumentation enriches your experience. You may also pursue internships with high-tech firms in Santa Barbara. Such practical training prepares you for graduate school and professional work in science, engineering and related fields. Interested in a double major? Take the B.A. track for greater breadth and flexibility.

Since 2016, more than 35 students have graduated with a physics or engineering physics degree. Of those students, approximately 35% are female (according to the APS, nationwide around 20% of physics degrees are awarded to women) and more than 50% are from an underrepresented group. Typically there are six students in each graduating class, with some years surpassing 10.

Majors & Programs

The department is also situated in a vibrant STEM ecosystem at Westmont College, with degrees including Engineering, MathematicsComputer ScienceData Analytics, and Chemistry (with five tracks including chemical physics). The breadth of courses offered inside and outside of the department, coupled with multiple tracks, allow students to leverage the education offered at Westmont to meet their specific career goals.

Highlights of Westmont Physics

Westmont building

Physics faculty are engaged in world-class experiments in experimental particle physics at the ATLAS experiment in Geneva Switzerland, and nuclear structure studies using gamma-ray spectroscopy at Florida State University and experimental cosmology at the Simmons Array in Chile. Internships and NSF funded summer research programs (REUs) at other institutions are also encouraged.

  • Experimental Particle Physics
  • Cosmology and Observational Astronomy
  • Nuclear Physics

Find out more information.

Physics student unpacks servers at CERN.

Student Interns

Students have the opportunity to participate in paid internships with faculty mentors over the summer.


Under the research guidance of Dr. Carlson:

  • Chandler Baker
  • Michael Lew
  • Kirsten Potts
  • Sean Ryan


REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) at UC Davis

Lexy Gillette

REU funded by the National Science Foundation.

Under the research guidance of Dr. Haring-Kaye:

  • Kirsten Potts
  • Danny Rubin
Ben Carlson

     B. T. Carlson, Q. Bayer, T.M. Hong, S.T. Roche, “Nanosecond machine learning regression with deep boosted decision trees in FPGA for high energy physics,” Journal of Instrumentation 17 P09039 (2022). arXiv: 2207.05602.

See more of Dr. Carlson's publications

Robert Haring-Kaye

    R.A. Haring-Kaye, F. Palombi, J. Döring, S.L. Tabor, B. Abromeit, R. Lubna, P.-L. Tai, Vandana Tripathi, A. Volya, J.M. VonMoss, D.C. Venegas-Vargas, C.L. Tan, M.J. Heeschen, K.Q. Le, and B.L. Harbin, "Onset of band structure in 70Ga," Phys. Rev. C 105, 054307 (2022).

See more of Dr. Haring-Kaye's publications

Jen ITo

The POLAR BEAR Collaboration, "Improved Upper Limit on Degree-scale CMB B-mode Polarization Power from the 670 Square-degree POLARBEAR Survey," The Astrophysical Journal, , , 2022. arXiv:2203.02495.

See more of Dr. Ito's publications

Dr. Ben Carlson teaching students.
Westmont Physics awarded $200,000 NSF Grant

A Westmont researcher has won a grant to further his search for evidence of the presence of mysterious dark matter. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $200,000 grant to Ben Carlson, Westmont assistant professor of physics, to continue his work on the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, a particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland.  Continue reading article...


Provided funds to support student travel to SLAC at Stanford for a training workshop in high energy physics. 

California Space Grant Consortium

The California Space Grant Consortium provided funds to support students Michael Lew (physics, '24) and Josh Guinto (engineering, '24) for summer research during 2022.

Red Westmont Observatory
Westmont Observatory

The Keck Telescope, a computer-controlled 24-inch F/8 Cassegrain reflector with Ritchey-Chretien optics (the same configuration used on the Hubble Space Telescope), has served as a versatile instrument for Westmont faculty and students for over a decade and remains one of the most  powerful telescopes on the California Central Coast. Not only has the device been used for a variety of research projects and coursework, but it has also been a source of awe and inspiration for the greater Santa Barbara community.  For more information, go to

Physics Department
  • Common Study Area
  • Computer Lab
  • Modern Physics & Advanced Lab
  • Machine Shop
  • Scanning electron microscope
  • Gamma Ray Spectrometer
  • Maker Space Engineering Building

For more detailed information, see the Physics Facilities page.

Physics Visit Day

At Westmont College, we believe community service is invaluable to growing as servant-leaders, so we have incorporated it into your general education requirements.

There are a variety of STEM specific opportunities for students to get involved:

If you are a high school or elementary school teacher interested in participating in an activity with Westmont College, please contact Dr. Ben Carlson.

Daniel Staples ('21) came to Westmont as an avid lover of art, science, and the outdoors. While at the college Daniel pursued his passion for the former two fields by double-majoring in Art and Physics. His contribution to the Westmont Graduate Exhibition, The Dark Ages, connected imagery from plague doctors of the past to the current feelings of frustration and confusion felt during the current COVID-19 pandemic. He was also actively involved in a research project in nuclear physics during his senior year under the direction of professor Robert Haring-Kaye, presenting a poster of his work at the 2021 Westmont College Student Research Symposium. His results are expected to contribute to a peer-reviewed publication in an internationally-recognized journal. Daniel currently enjoys hunting and working at an IT company with his father near his home in Montana.

Chisondi Warioba ('21), originally from Tanzania, moved to California when he was seven years old where he lived with his father and adoptive mother. Fueled by a passion for medicine, Chisondi initially chose Westmont to pursue a degree that would lead to medical school. By the time he graduated, Chisondi was one of only four students in his class who completed a triple major (Chemistry, Biology, and Physics). Not only did he excel at academics and research while at Westmont, he also assumed a leadership role in advancing racial justice and reconciliation, leading the Black Student Union his junior year and organizing discussion panels for Residence Life events centered around these and other social issues. At the 2021 Commencement exercises, Chisondi received the Dave Dolan Award in recognition of his leadership in responding to the social and spiritual needs of the college. Chisondi is currently pursuing a PhD in Medical Physics at the University of Chicago.

Lexy Gillette (’21) is currently working in the Clarke Research Group at the University of Oxford, researching layered magnetic materials and crystallography in solid state inorganic chemistry while pursuing her DPhil in Inorganic Chemistry.

“It’s been pretty great so far, and I get to use SQUID MPMS, XRPD, neutron diffraction and more to learn more about these materials (and make some new ones!)”

Read more Physics & Engineering Alumni Highlights

  • Research Physicist
  • Science Writing
  • Patent Law
  • Software Development
  • Materials Research
  • Nuclear Medical Science
  • Technology Consultant
  • Forensic Science
  • Museum Education
  • Engineering (mechanical, electrical, process, civil, aeronautical, etc.)
  • Medicine
  • Technician
  • Teaching (High School or College)


See career paths in LinkedIn for graduates who majored or minored in physics at Westmont.

Westmont Physics News