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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.

Program Overview

Students typically spend one-quarter 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.


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, 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 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 faculty look for good scores on standardized tests (30 or above on ACT math and natural sciences or equivalent SAT scores), but are also interested in a strong high school record (grade point average and class standing). 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.

Additional Information

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).

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