Northwestern College adds biophysics and physics education majors

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ORANGE CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Northwestern College will add biophysics and physics education to the majors that it offers to its students, effective this fall.

The interdisciplinary biophysics major will introduce students to a field in which physics and mathematics are used to describe the mechanisms of biological processes.

Dr. Emily Grace, assistant professor of physics, designed the program after seeing many students at the college with an interest or natural ability in physics were pre-med majors.

“A biophysics major wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t already have incredible science programs in place,” said Dr. Grace.

Dr. Grace noted that the predicted job growth for the field through 2024 could range from as low of 6% to as high as 19%.

According to a press release from the college, she has followed the program recommendations of the Biophysical Society of America and patterned the major after the one at Duke University, which also offers biophysics as a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Graduates who are interested in earning a master’s degree or doctorate will have a variety of options that include biomedical physics, computational biology, and biomedical engineering, depending on whether they focus on biology, chemistry, math, or computer science courses for their undergraduate electives.

Northwestern said the biomedical engineering program of study is available through its dual-degree partnership with Washington University in St. Louis.

Students who pursue biophysics at the college will study with Dr. Grace, an astroparticle physicist who has a doctorate in physics from the Royal Holloway University of London.

In addition, she and Dr. Dave Arnett, a chemistry professor at the college, are collaborating on biophysics research that uses fluorescence correlation spectroscopy.

The other new major is physics education that will equip students to become excellent secondary school physics teachers, a well-paying job that’s in high demand.

Physics teachers are in the top 10 in terms of need in both Iowa and nationally.

“I honestly believe the most valuable job is a high school physics teacher, because they determine the future of the field,” said Dr. Grace.

Physics education majors at Northwestern will be given the opportunity to conduct original physics education research with Dr. Grace, who also has a master’s degree in science education.

The college said for students who plan to teach in rural areas and therefore won’t be specializing only in physics, the major is designed so that they can easily pick up a second endorsement in math, chemistry, or basic science.

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