Department Head Message

I would like to welcome you to the Physics Department of Northern Michigan University.  If you are interested in a major or minor in physics or physics education and like the idea of interacting closely with your fellow students and physics faculty, NMU Physics is the place to be.  If instead you are interested in engineering and would like to get a start before enrolling in an engineering school,  you may wish to consider coming to NMU to participate in our pre-engineering program.  The NMU Physics Department can advise and assist you in completing the curriculum needed to be accepted into the engineering college at universities offering such degrees; however you will take your introductory courses in an environment where the classes are small and you will be known and recognized in your classes taught mostly by full time professors. 

Our mission is to provide you with the academic background to find employment in a variety of technical areas, to pursue graduate degrees in physics or engineering, or to become a physics educator.  Previous physics graduates have worked as project engineers in manufacturing, satellite systems, the automotive industry, software design, data analysis, as well as in other areas not directly science-related such as banking and flying aircraft in the US Navy and other careers in the other branches of the US military.  Other graduates have become teachers of physics, mathematics, and other sciences in the K-12 schools.  Many of our graduates have gone directly on to graduate school, primarily in physics and related fields.

Although our program is small, consisting of approximately 20 majors and minors along with five faculty, we are a dynamic group, getting interested students involved in research and outreach activities.  Our cohort of students typically has a much higher female to male ratio than one would normally find in a physics department. We highly encourage women to enter the field of physics. 

Research opportunities exist in low-energy nuclear spectroscopy and undergraduate astronomy.  For those interested in a high level theoretical area, we also have a researcher involved in relativistic field theory.  Our outreach activities involve our Physics Club and includes at least one major visit to a local grade school each year, the entire school participating in physics demos and hands-on activities.  We also give rides on our 119 foot pendulum in NMU’s Superior Dome during mobile device pickup and Kaleidoscope (an activity day for children held each February in the Dome), at which we also let children ride our hovercraft. 

Our majors have a great office space and get to know each other well and spend a lot of time working together on homework or club activities.  This office is directly down the hall from the faculty offices and the students have outstanding opportunities to visit with faculty on a regular basis.  Our faculty are excellent teachers and have received their graduate degrees from Indiana, Penn State, Stanford, Kent State, and Michigan Tech.  If you need help, they are there for you, and so is our outstanding secretary, Ms. Kristi Harvala.

We encourage our majors to participate in summer research experiences for undergraduates at other institutions.  This has been highly successful for our students, giving them greater confidence in their ability to get out into the world, improve their understanding of physics and research, gain inroads into graduate programs, and develop experience in giving presentations.  Years ago, NMU Physics established a yearly trip to Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois to participate in their fall undergraduate research symposium.  We have had 2 to 4 presenters from NMU Physics each year for the past 10 years.  The experiences gained through our course work, outreach, interaction with faculty, and research experiences have provided our students with the ability to go onto graduate school if they wish, or to enter the job market in technical fields.  NMU Physics majors have recently entered graduate school at places such as Indiana University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, Stanford University, Texas Tech University, Texas A&M, Washington State University, and the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

Feel free to contact me or come for a campus visit to learn more about what NMU Physics can provide for your educational experience.  My direct number and e-mail address are shown below.  I would also be happy to call you if you would send me an e-mail message with your phone number and some days and convenient times at which to do so.

The mixture of academic strength within the Physics Department and NMU in general, the family-like atmosphere among the students and faculty, excellent teaching facilities, outstanding faculty who enjoy teaching, opportunities for student participation in research and outreach, and the beauty of the local area all add up to success.  We hope you’ll join us to begin a successful and exciting career in physics.

Dr. David J. Lucas
Head, NMU Physics

Dr. David Lucas passed away unexpectedly on December 16, 2015. Dr. David Donovan is the Faculty Chair for Physics. He can be contacted at or 906-227-2453.