History of Physics Department

The latest version of the Department’s history (written by R. J. Pfeiffer) can be found in the following link:
Updated Departmental History
(His first blog, below, will not be updated as frequently.)


2 Responses

  1. Food for the mind…actually graphs for the mind:

    The following graphs show some stats of our majors since 1993,


    Prior to 1968, Trenton State College had a broad based Department of Science engaged in the training of science teachers and providing general education in all areas of science to the college population. Prior to 1960, the members of the Science Department included Dr. Victor Crowell, EdD, Dr. Fred Pregger, EdD, Paul Hiack (1958), Alan Lutz, Charles Harp, and Judson Fink as the staff primarily involved in the astronomy, meteorology, geology, and physics curriculum. Victor Crowell was then chairman of the Science Department, which was housed on the second floor of Green Hall. In 1963, the Science Department and Mathematics Department moved into a newly constructed building called the Science and Mathematics Building. This building was later named Crowell Hall after Victor Crowell’s retirement in 1969. Crowell passed away several years later. In 1960, Dr. Herbert A. Moses was hired as the first faculty member with a PhD in physics. Between 1961 and 1968, N. Frank Kolp (1961), George Hamilton, Raymond J. Pfeiffer (1964), and James Schreiber (1966) were added to the staff. In addition, the Science Department consisted of several biologists and chemists, notably of whom were Dr. James Cruise, Otto Heck, Dr. Shirley Troxel, Raymond Palmer, Dr. Howard Nechamkin, Herbert Treuting, and Dr. Joseph Vena.
    In 1968, Dr. Ronald Gleeson joined the Department and became the second person to hold a PhD in physics. Also David Letcher, who had a PhD in Environmental Meteorology from Cornell, was added to the staff.
    In 1968, under the direction of the newly formed Department of Higher Education, Trenton State College proposed an expansion from a strictly teacher training institution to a multipurpose institution with a liberal studies option. A blue ribbon study-commission established by the Department of Higher Education deemed Trenton State College one of the two state colleges capable of developing a diversified program in the sciences. At this time Virgil Gillenwater was president of TSC and he initiated the division of the Science Department into separate Biology, Chemistry and Physics Departments with majors in each area. The Physics Department offered two tracks for majors, liberal studies and physics teacher preparation.
    A few years later, Dr. Gerald Nicholls (a 1965 alumnus), who obtained a PhD in Health Physics, joined the staff and worked to bring about the offering of a track in health physics. Over the next 15 or so years, the Department graduated several majors in this field. About 1968, Dr. Milton Rothman, who had worked at the Princeton Plasma Lab, joined the Department. He retired about 10 years later.
    In 1975, R. J. Pfeiffer received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and became the College’s first resident astronomer and astrophysicist. At about this time the Department welcomed Dr. Fred Goldstein, a geologist, who was housed in the geography department.
    In 1984, on the basis of a survey done of local industry, a Scientific Computer Programming Track was added, mostly due to the efforts of Dr. Ronald Gleeson, who had obtained a masters degree in computer science from Stevens Institute of Technology. Somewhat later, a track in Earth Science was added primarily for those interested in becoming teachers.
    In 1985, Dr. Letcher left the Department and joined the Business School for a career in teaching computers in business and Jim Schreiber retired to start his own real estate business. In 1990, Dr. Nicholls left the College to take a position with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. At that time, the demand for health physicists was decreasing as a result of the demise of the nuclear power industry. The Department then decided not to hire another health physicist and discontinued the track in health physics.
    Later, with the retirement of Fred Pregger, Herb Moses, and Jud Fink, the Department added Dr. Romulo Ochoa (1992) and Dr. Danielle Dalafave (1995) to the staff. These new faculty were hired to expand the research activities of the Department in the area of solid state and material science. In 1997, Dr. Martin Becker, a geologist and Dr. Thulsi Wickramasinghe, an astrophysicist and cosmologist, joined the Department in order to expand the geology and astronomy offerings and to diversify the ongoing research.
    In the fall of 2002, the Department moved into its new facilities in the newly constructed Science Complex and the former Science Building, Crowell Hall was demolished. After serving as Department Chairman or many years, Dr. Paul S. Hiack retired in 2003. For Dr. Hiack’s many years of service regarding the maintenance of the Department’s astronomical facilities, the College’s new planetarium was named in his honor. Dr. Romulo Ochoa was then elected to chair the Department and his tenure was followed by Dr. Kolp.
    In 2004, Fred Goldstein took a medical leave for 2 years and then retired. He was temporarily replaced by Dr. Alan Hoffmeister, a mineralogist. In 2006, Dr. Byron Perizek replaced Dr. Hoffmeister and become the department’s first geophysicist and Dr. Marty Becker resigned to take a position at William Paterson State College. He was replaced by Dr. Margaret Benoit, a 1999 alumna, who received a PhD in geophysics from Pennsylvania State University. The next year, Dr. Nate Magee, a cloud physicist, joined the department. He replaced Dr. Perizek, who departed to take a position at Penn State’s DuBois campus. In April 2008, the Department was saddened to learn of the death of Judson Fink.
    Currently, the department is searching for a new Departmental chairman to replace Dr. Frank Kolp, who plans to retire at the end of this academic year (2008-2009).
    The structure of the Physics Department and its educational goals has been somewhat the same since its inception. The Department remains distinctive in its conservative approach to education, commitment to excellence in teaching, and individual attention given students. Furthermore, the Department’s programs are realistic in that they are geared to the needs of the student and were never intended to compete with research oriented facilities of major universities. However, the department now has research as an essential activity of its faculty and students have the opportunity to participate in this research. The programs give students a solid background in physics which can be applied to a career in industry or teaching or enables the student to pursue further study at the graduate level.
    The Physics Department learning goals link particularly well with the mission of the college in providing the student with the ability to seek out information and integrate it with existing knowledge in the pursuit of the solution to a problem. The members of the Department are true teaching scholars in their respective fields of research.

    If there is anyone who would like to provide more details or information that is
    lacking in this document, contact Dr. Pfeiffer at Pfeiffer@tcnj.edu.

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