Taking classes is only half of the available Richmond physics experience. The other half is doing cutting edge scientific research one-on-one with a professor. At Richmond, research isn't just for honors students, and it isn't just for senior projects. Most physics majors become active in research; most have already become involved in a project by the end of their sophomore year.
Students have done research on a variety of topics, including experiential nuclear and particle physics, nuclear theory, cosmology, experimental nuclear structure, biological physics and condensed matter and nanophysics. Many students do their work on campus, using department resources like the Richmond supercomputer cluster and the atomic force microscope. Other students perform experiments at national laboratories such as Jefferson Lab in Newport New, VA, and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California.
Undergraduate research allows students to establish a strong working relationship with a faculty member in their field of interest, and teaches them about current topics that are under active investigation by the scientific community. Undergraduate research also teaches students how to communicate their results, both through publishing in peer-reviewed scientific journals and by making formal presentations at the School of Arts & Sciences’ annual Student Symposium and at national and international conferences. In the past two years alone, more than 20 Richmond physics students have presented their research at national and international meetings.
How it works
Students begin by finding a professor they want to work with. Most students do this during their first or second year, though some students even come to Richmond the summer before their first year to jumpstart their development as a researcher. Many of these research projects will continue through their senior years, when they are presented in a "senior seminar" course and written about in each student's senior thesis.
During the school year, students often do research for course credit as part of an independent study course. In addition, the Department of Physics typically hosts 12 to 16 summer research students, all of whom are paid stipends supported by grants from the University of Richmond’s School of Arts and Sciences, the US Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Research Corporation or the Petroleum Research Fund.