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Assistant Pro­fessor of Physics Timothy Dolch leads Hillsdale student projects involving Arecibo tele­scope obser­va­tions.
Timothy Dolch | Courtesy

The physics department is offering two elective courses next spring. Pro­fessor of Physics Timothy Dolch is hoping they will bring in more stu­dents from a variety of majors.

PHY 120: Astronomy and PHY 350: Com­pu­ta­tional Physics will be offered as three- and two-credit classes respec­tively. Both courses have been offered in the past, Dolch said, but he plans to reach a wider audience of stu­dents across the sci­ences, as well as more non-science majors.

Dolch orig­i­nally taught Com­pu­ta­tional Physics every other year, but with a growing demand for com­puter pro­gramming classes, the physics department decided to start offering it annually. The class will use Python, a widely-used com­puter pro­gramming lan­guage, Dolch said.

“Python is a skill, an art, to learn how to write code and have it work effi­ciently and beau­ti­fully. There’s some­thing very sat­is­fying about that,” he said. “It’s a push from both the math and physics depart­ments. Across the sci­ences and other fields like accounting, everyone is pro­gramming. As a biol­ogist, you might spend your day pro­gramming.”

Dolch rec­om­mends stu­dents have some famil­iarity with physics to take the class, but when he taught the class last year, lots of stu­dents who didn’t have a back­ground in physics did well, he said.

Senior Emma Clifton took the pro­gramming class last year, the first time Dolch offered it. The course, she said, was prac­tical in that it allowed stu­dents to apply pro­gramming con­cepts on a variety of projects.

“It was good for exposing me to some more actual appli­ca­tions of math and com­puter pro­gramming and sim­u­lating certain physics-related problems, like the tra­jectory of a spaceship around the planets, and how they move due to gravity,” Clifton said.

Mean­while, the astronomy class is tar­geted for a broader audience, Dolch said. While stu­dents learn astronomy in the core physics class, the astronomy course will take that infor­mation further and will even include outdoor obser­va­tions. Dolch also said that astronomy is one of the liberal arts, and for col­leges that require a single science course, astronomy tends to be the most popular choice.

One audience Dolch intends to reach is stu­dents who will go into edu­cation careers and are likely to teach science of some sort.

“A large fraction of stu­dents who graduate go into Barney Charter schools. A lot of teachers will be doing science,” Dolch said. “This course is good for having that in their toolkit.”