Reed physics department recognized for achievements

High numbers of graduates and productive learning environment cited

The American Institute of Physics reported in the July 2002 edition of AIP Report that, of the more than 500 U.S. institutions offering undergraduate-only physics programs, Reed College in 1998, 1999, and 2000 produced an average of 17 graduates per year, the third-highest number. Reed trails only the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy—which offer primarily technical curricula—in this distinction.

The report found that, in recent years, the average annual number of graduating physics seniors at U.S. undergraduate-only institutions is 3.2, and that only 7 percent of these physics programs graduate more than 10 per year. Over the past decade Reed’s physics department has maintained its high graduation rate, with from 10 to 15 seniors each year.

The National Task Force for Undergraduate Physics visited Reed’s physics facilities this year and produced a highly positive profile, which is posted on their website. Beyond recognizing Reed’s steadily high physics graduation rate, the task force praised these aspects of Reed’s physics program: the graduation average also exceeds 80 percent of that of Ph.D.-granting institutions; the rate of retention for physics majors is very high; a non-competitive “cohesive, supportive, and collegial attitude” pervades the department; undergraduate education, rather than funded research, is the chosen measure of faculty accomplishment; and a close bond is formed between the physics faculty and students that culminates in the unifying senior thesis experience.

The report concluded that “It is difficult for even a casual visitor to the department to come away without an appreciation of the enthusiasm and cohesiveness of the faculty and students in understanding and carrying out the department’s mission.”
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Reed Magazine February 2003
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