The Experimental Physics Academy focuses on modern physics, specifically mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum dynamics, and astrophysics, with an aim to provide hands-on experience and laboratory work within Penn’s vast research facilities. With time to experiment with advanced hardware and settings, students move past memorized equations to gain an understanding of cause and effect, and ultimately an appreciation of physics on a higher level.
If you attend a School District of Philadelphia public or charter high school, you may be eligible to attend a Penn Summer Academy free of charge with a Penn Summer Scholarship.
Lectures and discussions: Students receive a guided tour of physics, starting with kinematics and building through electricity and nuclear physics to modern physics and quantum mechanics. Additional class time is devoted to the philosophy of science; experimental design; choosing education paths; and the ethics of science.
Hands-on experience: Students apply lecture lessons by completing one or two labs on most program days. As the program continues, students perform several multi-day group projects, such as build and using sensing circuits to directly measure the speed of light. This culminates with a four-day interest group lead by an academy or university instructor. Each group focuses on a particular topic including, but not limited to, alternative energy sources, building a radio-telescope, or using high-speed cameras to study difficult to observe phenomena.
Broader Penn research: Each week there are several research talks given by Penn faculty members about their fields of specialization and active research, which include question-and-answer sessions with our students. A lab tour brings students into active research labs in biophysics, cosmology, and high-energy physics, including discussions with the researchers and graduate students.
Prerequisites: Previous physics experience is encouraged, though not required.
Program Director: Peter Harnish Peter Harnish is the Undergraduate Lab Manager for the Department of Physics and Astronomy, where he designs and runs the first- and second-year physics labs. While his physics experience includes theoretical graphene research and experimental quantum optics, his vocation has always been toward teaching, both collegiately and through museum education and Scouting programs.