Department Contact Information

Physics Department

Location: 180-204
Phone: (805) 619-5106
Fax: (805) 756-2435
Chair: Karl Saunders

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Greetings from Department Chair Karl Saunders 2021

Karl Saunders

Dear Friends of the Physics Department, 

A lot has happened since I last wrote to you.

When we ask our current and former physics majors what they appreciate about our department, the most common sentiment is our faculty’s commitment to students’ success. This incredible dedication has never been more evident than this last year. Despite the enormous challenges, our faculty made herculean efforts to continue to bring Learn by Doing to our students in this much-changed environment.

Thanks to our innovative and ingenious faculty, we provided hands-on, at-home experiences for students in our electronics and optics courses. I find it particularly touching that much of the equipment that we sent to our students was made possible by our generous donors. To see our former students helping our current students is always so uplifting and has been an especially bright light in the darker days of the last year.

Because the newsletter fell by the wayside as we made these adjustments last year, I missed the chance to introduce our new assistant professor, Laura Ríos, who joined us in fall 2019. Laura’s expertise is in the field of physics education research, including the upper division laboratory experiences for students, which aligns well with our dedication to the effective Learn by Doing preparation of our students. We also welcomed two full-time lecturers, Benjamin Shlaer and Chad Miller.

As a department, we continue to increase our focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. We’re proud to be part of multiple national projects working to increase the number of physicists from underrepresented backgrounds and ensure that they have the opportunity to thrive within the discipline.

In addition to curricular excellence, our research experiences continue to be a vital part of our students’ growth. Our faculty and students study physics from the far reaches of the universe to the waters of Morro Bay, over length scales from galactic to sub-nuclear. Despite the challenges of the last year, our faculty have continued to mentor our students both in-person and virtually. It is an incredible testament to our faculty, staff and students that last summer’s research program involved 65 students working with 25 faculty. It culminated in a day-long virtual summer research symposium that was an incredible showcase of our department’s spectrum of research.

While this has been a year of heart-breaking losses and unprecedented challenges, I will look back on it as the year that I have been most amazed by our faculty, staff, students and alumni. Frankly, I have never been prouder to be part of the Cal Poly Physics family.

Please keep in touch,

Karl Saunders

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