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Welcome to Physics and Astronomy

Welcome to the website of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Maine.
Located in the town of Orono, along the banks of the Stillwater River, the University offers a strong traditional education at an affordable price. The state’s land grant and sea grant university and the flagship institution in the University of Maine System, UMaine is one of New England’s premier universities. Our students create success stories — with a wide variety of programs and opportunities — and we do so with world-class faculty members, internationally recognized research; first-rate facilities; a friendly, safe atmosphere; and easy access to some of the best year-round recreation sites in the nation. We are a department comprised of 15 faculty members, all dedicated to teaching and research in areas including, but not limited to, biophysics, nanophysics/surface science, physics and astronomy education research, statistical physics, spiral galaxies and galaxy clusters, and environmental/health physics; 30 Graduate students; and 80 undergraduate majors. We offer BA and BS degrees in physics and engineering physics and also offer minors in both physics and astronomy.


October 2015

Professor and Department Chair, Dr. Michael Wittmann, has been named a Fellow of the American Physical Society for his “foundational research into student learning of physics, pioneering work in K-12 teacher development, and leadership in building community for physics education researchers.” Only about half of one percent of APS members are named as Fellows. Congratulations, Dr. Wittmann!!

September 2015

Just this week, the Physics Review Special Topics: Physics Education Research published a “focused collection” of papers on physics education research in upper division physics. Of the 19 articles published in the collection, six of them were written by faculty and/or graduates of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Congratulations on all of your hard work and research! We are all very proud!!

Check out the following links to read the articles published in the collection:

Student Understanding of the Boltzmann Factor – Trevor I. Smith, Donald B. Mountcastle and John R. Thompson

Identifying Student Difficulties With Entropy, Heat Engines and the Carnot Cycle – Trevor I. Smith, Warren M. Christensen, Donald B. Mountcastle and John R. Thompson

Mathematical Actions as Procedural Resources: An Example From the Separation of Variables – Michael C. Wittmann and Katrina E. Black

Brief, Embedded, Spontaneous Metacognitive Talk Indicates Thinking Like a Physicist – Eleanor C. Sayre and Paul W. Irving

Becoming a Physicist: The Roles of Research, Mindsets and Milestones in Upper-division Student Perceptions – Paul W. Irving and Eleanor C. Sayre

Experts’ Understanding of Partial Derivatives Using the Partial Derivative Machine – David Roundy, Eric Weber, Tevian Dray, Rabindra R. Bajracharya, Allison Dorko, Emily M. Smith and Corinne A. Manogue

May 2015

Congratulations to Jennifer Lilieholm and Julia Sell on their successful undergraduate thesis defenses! Congratulations, also, to Bryn Nugent, who successfully defended her Master’s thesis.  Congratulations, ladies!! The Department of Physics and Astronomy is very proud of you and all your hard work!



The following videos were taken by Professor Sam Hess and his students, with drones, as part of an outreach project. Enjoy!

Winter scenes of UMaine Campus, featuring Fogler Library, Stevens Hall, the UMaine South Entrance, the Collins Center, Bennett Hall, the Mall and Memorial Union, West Campus and the Stillwater River, East Campus, Hitchner Hall, the Bear Statue, the Engineering Science Research Building, Alfond Arena, the Alumni House, and a campus panorama.

Video of the Emera Astronomy Center at UMaine, while under construction, featuring the new observatory and planetarium.



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