Majors and Minors

School ofPhysics and Engineering

ContinueContinue to the Physics and Engineering Department's website

Why Physics and Engineering?

Southern’s physics and engineering students develop professionally and personally through problem-solving and research.

  • The Physics and Engineering Department offers a strong curriculum proven to be an excellent preparation for careers in science research, engineering, medicine and education.
  • Students may participate in relevant current research, gaining experience in both experimental and theoretical disciplines.
  • Students use industry-standard software, such as SolidWorks 3D CAD and Mathematica.
  • Students successfully compete for external summer research programs and internships.
  • Professors are comfortable sharing their Christian perspective on physics, professional growth, and everyday life.
  • The best high school preparation for a physics major is to take all available math classes.

Interesting Facts

Students in Action

  • Students have engaged in independent research projects reflecting individual interests ranging from CERN to measuring the building and characterizing a particle detector.
  • Physics majors are eligible for four competitive scholarships.
  • Jobs as readers and tutors for the department are available to students. Tutoring jobs are also available off campus.
  • A close working relationship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory provides opportunity for field trips and internships.
  • Students have the opportunity to present at the American Physical Society, the Tennessee Academy of Sciences, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and other international professional conferences.
  • The Physics/Engineering Club is open to majors and non-majors. It sponsors seminars and develops physics demonstrations to showcase at area elementary schools. The club’s student leaders plan various social events, sometimes jointly with other clubs on campus.
  • Physics majors are eligible for teaching assistantships for introductory physics courses.

Marks of Distinction

  • Nearly two-thirds of physics and engineering students at Southern have presented papers at regional or national meetings and/or have co-authored peer-reviewed journal articles.
  • Professors make significant aesthetic and technological contributions to the university. Ray Hefferlin was the first to campaign and bring on campus email accounts in the early 1980s. Ken Caviness developed the first campus-wide roster generator. Henry Kuhlman, retired and now adjunct professor, designed both the accurate sundial sculpture and the three-story Foucault pendulum on campus.
  • Nearly half of the physics instructors in Adventist universities in North America are alumni of Southern’s Physics and Engineering Department.
  • Engineering students are noted to be well prepared to transfer to accredited bachelor's programs in engineering.

Statistics to Note

  • The current annual enrollment is more than 25 engineering students and more than 15 physics majors.
  • Many students choose to double major in math and physics because of the overlap in course requirements.
  • While the size of Southern’s physics department is small in numbers, the quality of the program is evident in the number of students who have gone on to complete doctorate degrees.
  • The Ray Hefferlin Chair for International Research in Physics is partially endowed to provide additional faculty support to students and ensure excellent instruction.


  • Blake Laing, PhDBlake Laing, PhDAssistant Professor
  • Ken Caviness, PhDKen Caviness, PhDChair

Professors in the
physics lab make
our lives easier by
integrating the newest
technology and
listening to
students’ feedback. Dalton Vaughn, ’13Chemistry major

Professor Ken Caviness explains lab results


Classrooms and Labs

The Physics and Engineering Department is housed in the Hickman Science Center, which features state-of-the-art computer labs, lecture rooms (including one for distance education), modern laboratories, research areas, and a small machine shop. The department has recently added a 12-core rack-mounted server for faculty and student to use in scientific parallel computations. Available technology includes modern oscilloscopes, instrumental data acquisition interfaces, and optical measuring devices, as well as an NMR apparatus, a diffraction-based particle size analyzer, and telescopes with camera attachments. The department has in-house access to a CNC circuit board milling machine, a scanning electron microscope, a fluorescence microscope, and an Ar-Au sputtering machine.


Degrees in physics and engineering are widely recognized as the best preparation for creative and quantitative modeling and problem-solving skills in demand by a variety of industries, including:

  • Biotechnology
  • Computer science
  • Engineering
  • Mathematical modeling, problem solving, and prediction (such as for financial market analysis)
  • Medicine, dentistry, and other medical arts
  • Meteorology
  • Oceanography
  • Patent Law
  • Research (government lab or industry)
  • Science Communications
  • Teaching

Current Research

  • Multiatomic molecules: prediction, existence and properties for small molecules using artificial intelligence
  • Biophysics experimental research in imaging with proton beams
  • Development and characterization of high energy detectors
  • Mathematica visualizations: creating images and animations for various topics (include relativity and casual networks of sequential substitution systems)
  • Ultracold and Ultrafast Atomic Physics: modeling three-body problems and using high-performance computational techniques


Chris Hansen, Department Chair