Mission and Vision

The mission of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Appalachian State University is to offer sustainable, nationally recognized degrees in which a diverse student body is enabled, through science-intensive instruction and experiential learning delivered by well-trained and empowered faculty and staff, to make productive, enduring contributions to the fields of physics and astronomy applicable to the Appalachian region, the state, the nation, and the world.

What does this statement really mean?

  • Strong Legacy: For over 45 years, our department has successfully graduated students who are empowered to pursue their professional goals, whether they be in science, engineering, or other career tracks. We have achieved a good balance in providing curricular opportunities for those who wish to pursue advanced study in the sciences; for those who wish to enter the workforce with an applied physics baccalaureate or master's degree; or for those who wish to teach at the high school or community or technical college levels. We have been successful in providing students with research experiences both during the academic year and the summer. We have astronomy facilities which are second to none, and we have both teaching and research observatories available to undergraduates.
  • Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching: Unlike larger universities where undergraduate students are treated more like a "number" than a person, our program stresses the direct involvement of each student in faculty research, internships, and the active participation of students in the development of the very curriculum within which they are learning.
  • Continue the Development of Graduate Programs: Our Engineering Physics M.S. program in Instrumentation and Automation has been recognized as one of the top 13 such programs nationally by the American Institute of Physics. With the introduction of our new Professional Science Master's programs, our enrollments have more than doubled.
  • Grow Scholarship: Our scholarship in the form of publications, conference participation, and external funding awards, consistently leads the College. With the addition of our new Nanotechnology and Microscopy Laboratories (AppNano) on-site, our funding awards now greatly exceed the average award rate for departments at Appalachian.
  • In Concert with the App State Strategic Plan and UNC-Tomorrow: The development of our department is not done behind closed doors - we have a development strategy for our faculty, staff, and students that is closely tuned to the needs of our state, national, and international communities and economies.
  • Faculty and Graduates Are Leaders: Our faculty have been recognized by national organizations with awards for excellence in research and instruction. We have graduated nearly 400 students at either the bachelor or master levels. Of these, over 10% have earned doctoral degrees, and half have earned master's degrees. Most work in science or technical fields, but because physics is very broad in its scope, our graduates have branched into myriad other fields. You will find our graduates working throughout our nation in government, industrial, and university research, or teaching at the high school, community, technical college, and university levels. Some are engineers or physicians, others are stock brokers, writers, or even ministers.
  • Currently, the American Institute of Physics (AIP) statistics on enrollments show that last year we graduated 27 undergraduate students in Physics and Astronomy, equal in number with North Carolina State University - last year, with 24 graduates, we graduated more than any other program in the state. Needless to say, our program, currently with ~75 total undergraduates and ~20 graduate students, is not only strong but growing.

Please take a few minutes and navigate through our website and get to know our academic community. If you wish further information, please let us know.

Department Diversity Statement

The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Appalachian State University is a community of students, educators, and support staff who work together to develop ourselves and our discipline. We acknowledge and honor the ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ (Cherokee), the yeh is-WAH h’reh (Catawba), and other Indigenous peoples whose ancestral lands we occupy. As a department, we commit ourselves to understanding our own biases and assumptions, and to shining a bright light on injustices and oppression in the systems in which we live, work, and teach. As educators and support staff, we understand that emotional and academic growth is impossible in environments encumbered by bias, discrimination, injustice, and harassment. We understand that our commitment to improving equity must extend past the classroom, and into and from the broader community. In order for our students to thrive, we must curate an enduring total learning environment that models the equitable, democratic, and sustainable society our students deserve. We are working toward a more just society through our efforts in the form of training, personal reflection, advocacy, mutual aid, and community care. We value your participation in this process, as we value your understanding that justice is a process to which we must all hold one another accountable. If you feel that our courses, programs, policies, or department fall short of this commitment, we welcome you to first engage in dialogue with your instructors or, if necessary, the department chair, Dr. Tonya Coffey. As community members who also seek to create a better world, please know you are always welcome here.