The tutorial programs in the Physics and Astronomy Department offer unique opportunities for exceptional students. Majors engage in an in-depth study of physics and related fields, while broadening their knowledge in subjects suiting their individual interests.

Graduates of the program may go on to jobs in a variety of scientific and technical fields, or choose to pursue graduate study and careers in research.

At the heart of the program is the tutorial, in which the student studies selected material in a given subject area under the guidance of a faculty member acting as tutor. At individual weekly meetings, typically lasting about 90 minutes, the student and tutor discuss the weekly reading, solutions to problems, and other assignments. Tutorials continue through all four years of the program

Tutorial Program

Students typically spend one-semester to one-third of their total time (and academic credit) in tutorials, the rest being in laboratories or in other required or elective classes. Because the Honors Tutorial College has no specific general education (or "distribution") requirements, students are free to create unique courses of study in subjects outside their major fields according to personal taste. Physics and astronomy students frequently take courses in chemistry, biology, and computer science; but interest in areas much further afield, such as music, language, or history, is also very much encouraged.

There are 3 separate programs available to HTC physics majors:

  • Physics (major code BS1905) - The Physics major begins with a solid foundation in classical and modern physics leading to deeper study in more specialized areas including quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, nuclear and elementary particle physics, and condensed matter physics. The Bachelor of Science degree in Physics is appropriate for students whose plans include graduate work in physics or a career in industrial research.
  • Astrophysics (major code BS1931) - The Bachelor of Science degree in Astrophysics is intended for students interested in pursuing graduate work in astronomy, or planning careers related to space science. The curriculum includes the same foundation as the Physics major, with astrophysics courses making up a significant part of the sophomore, junior and senior years. The senior thesis is expected to be on an astrophysical topic.
  • Engineering Physics (major code BS1925) - This program is offered jointly by the Physics and Astronomy Department and the Russ College of Engineering and Technology.

A double major can also be developed by the student in consultation with the Directors of studies in the respective departments.

Senior Thesis Requirement

The senior thesis is required for graduation with a degree from the Honors Tutorial College. Research studies and thesis writing typically occupy a student part-time for one academic year. The topic can be in any of the fields included in the required courses, or in some other area of physics as arranged with the student's advisor.

Required Courses

Courses required for the Physics and Astrophysics majors are listed below, although not all courses must be taken in the years indicated. In addition, all students must satisfy the freshman and junior English Composition requirements.


1st year: Physics freshman seminar, Tutorials (mechanics, electricity & magnetism, heat, waves, optics, special relativity), Calculus

2nd year: Tutorials (quantum mechanics, nuclei & particles), Electronics Lab, Calculus, Differential Equations, Fourier Analysis

3rd year: Tutorials (advanced mechanics, special topics), Electrons, Photons, and Nucleons Labs, Thermodynamics, Statistical Mechanics, Vector Analysis

4th year: Electricity & Magnetism, Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Senior Thesis


1st year: Physics freshman seminar, Tutorials (mechanics, electricity & magnetism, heat, waves, optics, special relativity), Calculus

2nd year: Tutorials (quantum mechanics, nuclei & particles), Electronics Lab, Fundamentals of Astrophysics, Stellar Astrophysics, Calculus, Differential Equations, Fourier Analysis

3rd year: Tutorials (advanced mechanics, special topics), Thermodynamics, Statistical Mechanics,Galactic Structure, Extragalactic Astronomy & Cosmology, Electrons, Photons, and Nucleons Labs, Vector Analysis

4th year: Electricity & Magnetism, Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Observational Astrophysics, Senior Thesis

Physics and Astrophysics students take a mixture of tutorials and regular classes. For both, a syllabus at the beginning of the semester will be given to the student that will outline the particular grading policy for the class or tutorial. Tutorials are usually graded by means of exams, homework and performance during the tutorial meetings.


Physics and astronomy students are strongly encouraged to gain experience as research assistants, either in the Physics and Astronomy Department's laboratories or through temporary internships at other universities, research centers, or national labs or observatories. Research work usually begins in the third or fourth year, though opportunities can sometimes arise earlier, and often becomes the basis of the student's senior thesis. Research opportunities are available in the Department in the following areas:

  • Condensed Matter and Surface Science: creating, studying, and simulating the properties of new substances, such as thin magnetic films and semiconductors
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics: studying the structure and evolution of galaxies and galaxy clusters, the power sources of quasars, and the nature of dark matter and dark energy
  • Nuclear and Particle Physics: investigating how the basic building blocks of matter interact with each other, and how they combine to form the elements we know
  • Biophysics: using experimental techniques and computer modeling to understand processes in living systems, including cell adhesion, interacting neurons, and natural antifreeze proteins.

In addition, advanced students interested in teaching can sometimes be given paid appointments as teaching assistants.


The Physics and Astronomy Department annually awards Shipman Scholarships to qualified freshman majors. The Shipman award is currently worth $1500. There is also a special Shipman Scholarship for women and minorities. Award of a Shipman Scholarship does not preclude the recipient from receiving other Ohio University financial aid and scholarships. The Shipman scholarship deadline is February 1 and a paper application must be filled out. This is separate from any other application for University financial aid. Click here for more information.


Students are carefully selected by the Honors Tutorial College and the Physics and Astronomy Tutorial Board on the basis of superior ability and sustained motivation. The personalized aspects of the tutorial system occasionally make it possible to accept students who have performed less well on standardized measures of ability but who demonstrate exceptional aptitude in other ways.

Director of Studies

Dr. David Drabold








Edwin and Ruth Kennedy Distinguished
Professor of Physics,
Dr. David Drabold

(740) 593-1715
Clippinger 357B


Ph.D.: Washington University (St. Louis) (1989)

Scholarly Interests

Dr. Drabold's research areas include Theoretical Condensed Matter, Computational Methodology for Electronic Structure, and Theory of Topologically Disordered Materials. He is a member of the Condensed Matter and Surface Science Program at Ohio University.

Selected Publications

Dr. Drabold's recent publications include "Symmetry Breaking and low energy conformational fluctuations in amorphous graphene" (2013), "Direct ab initio molecular dynamic study of ultrafast phase change in Ag-alloyed Ge2Sb2Te5" (2013), and "Dangling-bond defect in a-Si:H: Characterization of network and strain effects by first-principles calculation of the EPR parameters" (2013).

For more information, visit the department's website.