5 Things I Love About NC State Physics

Dean Ditto sitting and talking with students

Ditto and other members of the college staff dialogue with students during a recent Community Conversation.

(Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Bill Ditto, dean of the College of Sciences.)

I’m a physicist. My undergraduate and graduate degrees are in physics. Many of my first jobs were in physics. And I’m a faculty member in our Department of Physics, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

This department — and the creative people who power it — has so many wonderful attributes. I wanted to share five of my favorites.

The Rich History

The Department of Physics turns 100 this year, but physics at NC State dates all the way back to 1894, when Lieutenant Richard Henderson joined the faculty as a professor of physics and military science. In the 1950s, the department spawned the nation’s first academic nuclear reactor program. And in 1990, when President George H.W. Bush wanted to learn about advanced research and technology at NC State, he visited our department. Few physics programs anywhere have such a rich tradition.

The Research That’s Changing Everything

In pure physics and applied physics, this department does it all. We’re finding neutrinos, developing new ways to make better solar cells, and uncovering the mysteries of the universe. We have partners right down the road at places like Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory and across the country at national labs like Oak Ridge and Los Alamos. We believe that students learn best by doing — which is why we try to get as many of them as possible involved in our research.

The Commitment to Diversity

We have 10 women on our tenured and tenure-track faculty. No physics department in the country has more. That speaks volumes about this department’s commitment to diversity and recognizes the immense advantages a diverse faculty can provide to our students. When we build this type of welcoming environment, we help all our physicists succeed.

The Sense of Wonder

I was speaking with a physics student recently who said one of her favorite things about the department was hanging out with her friends in Riddick Hall and engaging in big-picture discussions on everything from the Heisenberg principle to the meaning of life. This type of dialogue has embodied the university experience for hundreds of years. I love that our physics faculty and students carry it forward.

The Great Party in November

On Nov. 3-4, hundreds of NC State physicists will come back to campus for the department’s 100th anniversary celebration. We’re going to have lots of great food and special guest speakers like alumna and NASA Astronaut Christina Koch. You’ll also be able to tour labs and some of our amazing new and renovated campus landmarks like Reynolds Coliseum, Hunt Library and Talley Student Union. I’ll be there, and I hope you will be too. Join the fun!

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