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Physics & Astronomy

Sara Salimbeni

"How and why things work?" … The study of physics comes from the human need to understand the natural world around us. The primary reason to study physics is to satisfy your hunger for knowledge and curiosity regarding natural phenomena. Moreover, physics is a fundamental science and it is needed as part of a foundation for many of the other natural sciences. In addition, physics is the basis for most modern technology.

Through your study of physics, you will develop a grounding in a variety of physics concepts. You will understand forces and energy, electricity and magnetism, and topics that will challenge your brain, like relativity and quantum physics. However, studying physics doesn't mean memorizing formulas, but to learn a methodology of investigation; you will acquire a mindset and skills essential for your life. In doing experiments and solving problems you will have to analyze, to reason logically, to discriminate between important and irrelevant information, and to write and expose in a clear and concise way your reasoning and your deductions. These are valuable skills that can be applied in a range of careers.

Curiosity about the world around us, and the observation of physics phenomena is the first step in learning physics. Students at Marlboro experience physics via active discussion in class and direct laboratory experiments. During the introductory level classes, students learn the basic concepts of physics and Astronomy, basic skills of problem solving and the scientific method. Intermediate level classes and advance tutorials are designed for students with deeper interest in the subject. These courses stress more problem solving and mathematical formulation and the experimentation skills used by professional physicists.

I have a doctorate degree in Astronomy, after my doctorate, I spent 4 years doing astronomical research. My research focuses on understanding the formation and evolution of galaxies. Together with my passion for astronomy and cosmology, I am interested in doing plan work on most physics topics. I encourage students to pursue their own interest in any of the sub-fields of physics, including interdisciplinary work.

Areas of Interest for Plan-level Work:

  • Astronomy
  • Cosmology
  • Most topics in undergraduate physics 
  • Physics of dance 
  • Physics and Sustainable Development

Starting Points (Basic and Introductory Courses)

An introductory physics class involving some laboratory work, suitable for students considering a plan in physics, science students, or non-science students who want a physics foundation. Topics include vector algebra, kinematics, dynamics of single and many-particle systems, gravitation, energy, momentum, conservation laws, circular and rigid body motion. Prerequisite: Mathematical proficiency up to but not necessarily including calculus Introductory | Credits: 4

Second half of the year-long introductory physics sequence. This class is suitable for students considering a plan in physics, science students, or non-science students who want a physics foundation.  Topics include gravitation, fluids, oscillations, waves and thermodynamics. Prerequisite: General Physics I     Introductory | Credits: 4

An introduction to observational astronomy designed to be accessible to non-science students. The primary goal of this course is for you to learn about astronomy by observing the night sky. During this class you will learn constellations and celestial objects.  We will use some small telescopes and the MacArthur Observatory, but will primarily conduct naked-eyes observations. Prerequisite: none  Introductory | Credits: 2


Pursuing Interests (Intermediate and Thematic Courses)

SPECIAL RELATIVITY (NSC437)An introduction to Einstein's special relativity, investigating how this theory has changed our understanding of space and time. The class will also focus on the discussion of some of the science presented in science fiction movies that incorporate Einstein's theory. Special relativity can be understood completely with only a little math, and this makes this course suitable both for science students and non-science students willing to know more about one of the theories that dramatically changed our understanding of physics during the 20th century. Multi-Level | Credits: 2

A combination lab-theory course covering DC, AC and digital circuits as well as geometrical and wave optics. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. Intermediate | Credits: 4

An introduction to the physics of electric and magnetic phenomena, suitable for students considering a plan in physics or science students who want a physics foundation. Topics include electrostatic forces, electric and magnetic fields, induction, Maxwell's equations,  and some DC circuits. Prerequisite: General Physics I and II and Advanced Calculus (may be taken concurrently)  Intermediate | Credits: 4

Advanced lab course for students on Plan in physics, astronomy or a related field. Students will choose several of the following experiments to perform: weighing the earth (by measuring Newton’s gravitational constant “G”), measuring the speed of light “c,” investigating the emission spectrum of a near-blackbody radiation source and using it to determine Planck’s constant “h,” exploring the chaotic dynamics of a driven pendulum and investigating the diffraction and interference of light. Each lab will culminate with a lab report (written, preferably, using LaTeX; see NSC 534, Writing Math). Prerequisite: Permission of instructor    intermediate | Credits: 3

A sophomore-level introduction to quantum mechanics, including wave-particle duality, the Schrodinger equation and its application to the structure of atoms, molecules, and solids; nuclear physics; elementary particles. Prerequisite: General Physics I & II and Electricity and Magnetism. Intermediate | Credits: 4

This Classical Mechanics class is suitable either for students in transition to advanced physics classes or for students with a good physics foundation who want to study Classical Mechanics more in depth. This class provides a complete analysis of the classical mechanics of particles, systems of particles, and rigid bodies. It introduces the mathematical formalism needed for the quantum theory of physics as well. Some of the included topics will be: Oscillations and Nonlinear Oscillations and Chaos, some Methods in the Calculus of Variations, Lagrangian and Hamiltonian Dynamics. Prerequisite: General Physics I, Calculus I and II and III, or approval from the Teacher. Intermediate | Credits: 4

An introduction to modern astronomy and astrophysics, including some recent research topics. Appropriate for students who  already have a good foundation in physics. Topics will include stellar structure and evolution, galaxy structure and evolution,  and the structure of the universe and cosmology. Advanced | Credits: 4

Good Foundation for Plan

Students contemplating a plan in physics are encouraged to have a wide scientific background.

 a) For a good plan work a solid mathematical background is strongly suggested, since this language, together with English, is used to express physics concepts.

 b) Some branches of Chemistry and physics are tightly linked; basic knowledge of Chemistry is also strongly encouraged.

 c) Today, those study physics intensively use computers for simulations and/or data analysis. Students thinking to have an experimental part of their plan might need to develop skills in programming.

 Students willing to do a traditional plan in physics should attend General Physics I and II during their first year. In addition, they should expect to take at least some of the following classes: Electricity and Magnetism, Experiments in Physics, Modern Physics, Astrophysics, and some advanced tutorials.  Less “traditional” and interdisciplinary plans are also welcome. The foundation needed for these plans will be discussed on a case by case basis.

 Astronomy is one branch of physics. In addition to spending time in the observatory, astronomy students should take the standard physics curriculum, replacing some of the more advanced physics coursework with relevant tutorials in astronomy and astrophysics. In particular, prospective astronomy students should take General physics I and II during their first year.


Sample Tutorial Topics

  • Observatory Operation: Imaging
  • Topic of research in Astronomy
  • Solar Physics
  • Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Electrodynamics