Activities and Organizations

Weekly Seminars

The department hosts weekly seminars on topics related to physics and astronomy. Unless otherwise noted, talks take place on Tuesdays at Noon in Science-1023 during the academic year. All members of the Grinnell College campus community are invited to the seminars. 

Open Houses at the Observatory

Open houses occasionally are held at the Grant O. Gale Observatory so members of the campus community, the general public, or special groups can view celestial objects through the 24" telescope. There is no set schedule for these events, but they are announced in the local media. Arrangements for group visits can be made by contacting Robert Cadmus (641-269-3016).


The Student Educational Policy Committee, or SEPC, is a student-faculty liaison group which provides faculty with student input on professors, candidates, curriculum, and other departmental issues. It also organizes social events within the department.

Academic Opportunities

Academic Year Student Projects

Academic year student projects may or may not be associated with faculty research projects, but even if they are entirely the student's work and may not have the potential for new publishable results, they are still valuable experiences. Such work helps students learn what doing research is like and gives them experience in working independently. Any sort of research or research-like experience makes a student a more attractive candidate for graduate school or other opportunities and gives the faculty supervisor raw material from which to fashion a helpful letter of recommendation.

Projects in Astronomy

On-Campus Summer Research

Each summer, some members of the Grinnell Physics Department hire students to work with them on research. The usual arrangement is for ten weeks, but other possibilities exist. Except in exceptional circumstances, the students are paid for this work; housing is not provided but is readily available. The summer positions can be for credit, either Mentored Advanced Project (MAP, 499) or Directed Summer Research (299 or 399), or not for credit.

The kinds of positions vary from year to year but are generally described in a Physics Department seminar early in the spring semester. The next step is for students to talk with faculty members with whom they might like to work. Research descriptions may also be posted on GrinnellShare (login required).

Academic Year Research Participation

Occasionally, members of the Physics Department will hire students to help with research for a few hours per week during the academic year. These are straightforward jobs offering no academic credit and can range from routine data analysis to relatively sophisticated research-related activity. When such jobs are available they will be publicized within the College, although students are always encouraged to let faculty know if they are interested in doing some work.

Awards, Grants, Scholarships, and Fellowships

Information for many scholarships can be found on GrinnellShare (login required), including Gates Cambridge, Marshall, Mitchell, and Rhodes Scholarships. 

Internship Financial Support from the Department of Physics

The Physics Department has funds to support a few internships that need not be carried out on campus. This is in addition to the funding that supports normal summer research with faculty members. An obvious use of these funds is to support a student who has identified an off-campus summer research opportunity that does not provide a stipend. In a given year, some or all of the money may be restricted to supporting declared physics majors. It is the Department's understanding that because this funding comes entirely from the college, work supported in this way is like a campus job and there are no additional complications for international students.

Applications for support of summer work should be made to the department chair via e-mail no later than the same deadline date as standard on-campus summer research. The application should consist of a message that contains the following information:

  • Your name, class year, major, e-mail address, campus PO box number, and campus phone number
  • One or more possible internship positions for which the supervisors have agreed to participate
  • Reasons for your interest in these positions - either individually or collectively
  • Experience that makes you qualified for these positions
  • Name of a Grinnell faculty member who has agreed to supervise the internship
  • Whether you wish to get credit for the internship
  • Two Grinnell College references and the context in which you know them

The Department will review the applications and notify applicants of the results before spring break.