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, Mathematics, Computer Science, Data 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
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
Students have the opportunity to participate in paid internships with faculty mentors over the summer.
Under the research guidance of Dr. Carlson:
- Michael Hemmet (US ATLAS SUPER award, LBNL)
- Chandler Baker (CERN)
- Naomi Siragusa (CERN)
- Sean Ryan (CERN)
Berit Lunstad (CERN)
Under the research guidance of Dr. Ito:
- Michael Lew (Simons Array, Chile)
- Jacob Nelson (Simons Array, Chile)
Under the research guidance of Haring-Kaye:
- Natalie Fogg
- Reese Toepfer
Under the research guidance of Dr. Carlson:
- Chandler Baker
- Michael Lew
- Kirsten Potts
- Sean Ryan
REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) at UC Davis
REU funded by the National Science Foundation.
Under the research guidance of Dr. Haring-Kaye:
- Kirsten Potts
- Danny Rubin
Physics and Chemistry Major Awarded Top Oxford Scholarship | Westmont senior Lexy Gillette, a double major in physics and chemistry, will attend the University of Oxford in the fall after earning the prestigious John and Daria Barry Foundation Scholarship.
Student Awarded Opportunity: Summer Undergraduate Program for Exceptional Researchers (SUPER) | Kirsten Potts was awarded a US ATLAS SUPER award to work with Dr. Ben Carlson on ATLAS research during the summer of 2022. The title of Kirsten's proposed project: "Search for low mass diphoton resonances with MET & triggers for photon + MET with machine learning." The $5,000 award consisted of a stipend for Kirsten, as well as the opportunity to present her work along with other students in the SUPER program.
Physics Alum Earns Prestigious Fellowship | Alumnus Chisondi Warioba ’21 has received a prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. The five-year fellowship provides three years of financial support that includes an annual stipend of $37,000. Warioba, a second-year graduate student halfway through his doctorate in medical physics at the University of Chicago, applied for the fellowship to continue research on his project, “fMRI and DTI analysis of functional connectivity loss related to cerebral arterial occlusion.” He plans to attend medical school and aspires to become a physician-scientist.
Michael Hemmett Awarded US ATLAS SUPER Award | Michael Hemmett was awarded a US ATLAS SUPER award for the project titled “Machine learning for calibration in the HL-LHC hardware trigger,“ consisting of a $5,500 stipend. He will work with Dr. Carlson from Westmont, alongside collaborators Elham Khoda and Shih-Chieh Hsu from University of Washington. The work will be based at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
George Bate Science Scholarship Endowment
George Bate, professor emeritus of physics, taught at Westmont for more than 20 years. Former students of Dr. Bate established this scholarship to encourage Christians to study and conduct research in the sciences, primarily those studying physics. Determinations are made by the physics department.
2023-2024: Ellie Ludwig
2022-2023: Berit Lunstad
2021-2022: Kirsten Potts
2020-2021: Kirsten Potts
2019-2020: Daniel Rubin
William S. Klug Scholarship Endowment for Faculty and Student Research
Established in honor and memory of Dr. Bill Klug '97, the scholarship seeks to encourage a love of physics and engineering by recognizing high achieving and highly motivated students engaged in research within the physics and engineering department. Determinations are made by the physics department with consideration given to financial need.
2023-2024: Natalie Fogg, Berit Lunstad
2021-2022: Jared Lush, Chandler Baker
2020-2021: Faith Palombi, Lexy Gillette
2019-2020: Lexy Gillette
2018-2019: Zion Shih
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.
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).
The POLAR BEAR Collaboration, "Improved Upper Limit on Degree-scale CMB B-mode Polarization Power from the 670 Square-degree POLARBEAR Survey," 2203.02495., ,
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. In the summer of 2023, Berit Lunstad ('26) and Naomi Siragusa ('24) were supported by the same grant.
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 https://www.westmont.edu/westmont-observatory.
Common Study Area
Modern Physics & Advanced Lab
Scanning electron microscope
Gamma Ray Spectrometer
Maker Space Engineering Building
For more detailed information, see the Physics Facilities page.
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.
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!)”
Sarah Reed ('19) interned at Northrop Grumman Space Systems in old town Goleta in her final semester at Westmont College. She was then hired on as a full time Electronics Engineer immediately upon graduating from Westmont. She works with a group of eight engineers in the Antenna Lab Department. She designs, builds and tests antennas for air and space crafts. She recently won a company award for developing a Spherical Near-Field Antenna Range at Northrop Grumman's site in Goleta!
As described by the American Physical Society, physics graduates pursue a broad range of careers.
- 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.)
- Teaching (High School or College)
Westmont’s science professors have obtained a new tool for their teaching and research. The biology, chemistry, engineering and physics departments will all use the Hitachi scanning electron microscope (SEM), housed in Winter Hall. Its focused beam of electrons interacts with atoms in the sample to produce an image.
For the first time in more than a decade, undergraduate students assisted with research at the Simons Array, a set of three telescopes in the Atacama Desert in Chile at an elevation of about 17,000 feet. Westmont students Michael Lew and Jacob Nelson joined Jen Ito, assistant professor of physics, at the site, an expansion of the original POLARBEAR (POLARization of the Background Radiation) experiment that UC Berkeley pioneered to study the cosmic microwave background (CMB).
Alumnus Chisondi Warioba ’21 has received a prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. The five-year fellowship provides three years of financial support that includes an annual stipend of $37,000. Warioba, a second-year graduate student halfway through his doctorate in medical physics at the University of Chicago, applied for the fellowship to continue research on his project, “fMRI and DTI analysis of functional connectivity loss related to cerebral arterial occlusion.” He plans to attend medical school and aspires to become a physician-scientist.
On April 26, physics major Danny Rubin defended his major honors thesis, entitled “Sustainable Electromagnetic Energy Harvesting for Electronics Worn at the Knee.”
Dr. Ben Carlson received the campus wide Faculty Research Award on May 7, 2023. His research focuses on the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. One award is given annually for the faculty.
Berit Lunstad and Naomi Siragusa each received $1,000 to support their summer research with Dr. Carlson from the Southern California Space Grant Consortium. Both will travel to CERN to work on the ATLAS experiment, in particular the dark matter trigger.
Michael Hemmett was awarded a US ATLAS SUPER award for the project titled “Machine learning for calibration in the HL-LHC hardware trigger,“ consisting of a $5,500 stipend. He will work with Dr. Carlson from Westmont, alongside collaborators Elham Khoda and Shih-Chieh Hsu from University of Washington. The work will be based at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.