Physics and Astronomy

All Majors & Minors

Jon Ward

Class Year





Mathematics, Computer Science



Society of Physics Students


My Experience

The Ursinus Physics Department is responsible for truly sparking my interest in Physics.  When I first enrolled as an undergrad I was unsure of what path I wanted to take.  After taking my first physics class in the fall of my freshman year, I immediately knew that it was what I wanted to pursue.  The more classes I took the more my interest grew, and the experiences I had in research and with individual professors both in and out of class prepared me for graduate school and future professional positions in physics.  Ursinus truly laid the groundwork for me to succeed in this field.  

Life After Ursinus

I am currently a PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania. My research focus is Observational Cosmology and the project I am working on is called ACTPol.

ACT (Atacama Cosmology Telescope) is a 6 meter telescope located at 17,000 feet on Cerro Toco in the Andes Mountains of Northern Chile. We are one of the highest ground based telescopes in the world and the advantage of this is that we are extremely high (cuts out atmospheric effects) and extremely dry (very clear skies). Our “base camp” if you will is located in the city of San Pedro de Atacama, about an hour away from our site.

The current receiver in the telescope is called ACTPol. ACTPol is a polarization sensitive detector array that operates at two frequencies, 146 GHz and 90 GHz. We are sensitive to millimeter light and primarily make observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). The CMB is the leftover “glow” of radiation from the Big Bang. It allows us to look as far back as possible to the surface of last scattering, which is when photons could finally propagate freely through the Universe and occurred about 378,000 years after the Big Bang.

We can do a lot of science with our instrument, but one of our current goals is to observe B-Mode polarization. This is simply a type of polarization that can be observed in the CMB. There are two ways that the CMB obtains a B-Mode polarization. One is through gravitational lensing (lensed B-Modes). The other is through a passing gravitational wave originating from inflation, called primordial B-Modes. Other scientific objectives include observing E-Mode Polarization and determining various cosmological parameters.

The next generation of our project has recently been funded. Advanced ACTPol will consist of new detectors and optics tubes for our receiver, among other upgrades.