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Akeley-Lawrence Science Center
414 E. Clark St.
Vermillion, SD 57069
Office Hours
Monday - Friday
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.


College Dean

Welcome to the Department of Physics

Physics aims to explore the worlds of matter and energy and the relationships that bind them. With direct access to faculty in a department with a low student-to-faculty ratio, your professors will know who you are and help ensure you're successful. 

Our undergraduate program is designed so you receive the best of both worlds -- a broad education steeped in the liberal arts through the classroom and technical skills honed through an undergraduate research experience. The undergraduate research experiences contribute to large experiments seeking to understand the fundamental workings of the universe by seeking to detect dark matter or learn more about the properties of neutrinos. Students have great opportunities to be paid to work on cutting-edge research; develop a variety of engineering, computation, and data analysis skills; and visit top-notch educational institutions in the U.S., Europe and Asia while studying internationally with a stipend to match.

Our graduate program provides high quality graduate education to assist the state of South Dakota in becoming a recognized leader in research and technology development, and to increase participation in the opportunities afforded by the creation of the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF). We expect students in the program to conduct research activities consistent with the experiments at SURF and to contribute in meaningful ways to those experiments. Students typically pursue a research topic as soon as they enroll in our program with projects focused on experiments searching for rare physics events located in underground environments.

Degrees in physics qualify you for further graduate study and for jobs in such industries as energy, electronics, communications, aerospace and medical instrumentation.

Join our community of explorers, pioneers and educators in the USD Department of Physics.



Meet the Department

Get to know your professors in the Department of Physics. Our faculty are experts in their field, contributing research and scholarship in such areas as the search for dark matter, germanium detector development and the properties of neutrinos. 
Bio Image for Faculty Member Yongchen Sun

Yongchen Sun

Chair, Physics/Associate Professor
Faculty Default

Sanjay Bhattarai

Postdoctoral Researcher
Bio Image for Faculty Member Christian Buresh

Christian Buresh

Program Assistant I
Bio Image for Faculty Member Jing Liu

Jing Liu

Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Dongming Mei

Dongming Mei

Director, CUBED/Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Ruslan Podviianiuk

Ruslan Podviianiuk

Postdoctoral Researcher
Bio Image for Faculty Member Joel Sander

Joel Sander

Physics Graduate Coordinator/Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Varun Vaidya

Varun Vaidya

Assistant Professor
Faculty Default

Xiaoyi Yang

Adjunct Instructor

Known for Excellence

With qualities like small class sizes, specialized programs and incredible student opportunities, USD is not your typical university. What makes us unique is what makes your education exceptional. 

department Opportunities

As a student at USD, the opportunities available to you extend beyond the classroom. Explore your interests, find your community and experience your education to the fullest extent through the following opportunities.

Departments & Facilities

Explore the departments, facilities and centers housed in the Department of Physics.
Two Students in a Physics Lab.


Physics at USD is a community of faculty and students dedicated to excellent teaching and to performing research at the forefront of the field, including the search for dark matter.

Physics students in China.

Conduct Group Research

Our students take part in exciting travel and research programs. Through USD's partnership in the NSF Partnerships for International Research and Education Program Germanium Materials and Detectors Advancement Research Consortium, undergraduate students spent four weeks studying neutrino-less double beta decay at Yangtze University and toured the China Jinping Underground Laboratory. They also took part in cultural activities like paper cutting, calligraphy and a dragon boat festival. Opportunities like this abound for our enthusiastic physics majors.
Student Alex Kirkvold in the lab.

Utilize Renowned Facilities

The undergraduate research experiences contribute to large experiments seeking to understand the fundamental workings of the universe by seeking to detect dark matter or learn more about the properties of neutrinos. In our state-of-the-art facilities, your work can make a positive difference for the future.

Alum success story

Success story Kyler Kooi smiling.
The physics department truly wants its students to succeed. I’m incredibly confident that the critical reading, writing and presentation skills I developed at USD has set me apart from peers in the field. The USD physics program is the perfect environment to do research and learn how to share it with the world.

Kyler Kooi

B.S. Physics '19