Faculty Profile

Robert Boyle

Professor of Physics and Astronomy (1981)

Contact Information


Tome Scientific Building Room 218


Major research interests involve infrared astronomy, studies of old stellar systems, and variable stars. His teaching activities include introductory physics, introductory astronomy, theoretical physics, and a variety of other topics in physics and astrophysics.


  • B.A., Princeton University, 1971
  • M.Phil., Yale University, 1976
  • Ph.D., 1981

2017-2018 Academic Year

Fall 2017

PHYS 131 Introductory Physics
An introduction to basic physics topics using the workshop method. This method combines inquiry-based cooperative learning with the comprehensive use of computer tools for data acquisition, data analysis and mathematical modeling. Kinematics, Newton's Laws of motion, conservation laws, rotational motion, and oscillations are studied during the first semester. Additional topics in chaos or nuclear radiation are introduced. Basic calculus concepts are used throughout the course. Recommended for physical science, mathematics, and pre-engineering students and for biology majors preparing for graduate study. Three two-hour sessions per week. Because of the similarity in course content, students will not receive graduation credit for both 131 and 141. Prerequisite: Completion of, or concurrent enrollment in, MATH 151 or 170.

PHYS 331 Thermodynamics & Stat Mechan
The basic laws of thermodynamics are derived from principles of statistical mechanics. Thus, the laws governing our macroscopic world are seen as fundamentally statistical in nature. Familiar quantities, like temperature and pressure, will be re-discovered, and new ones, like entropy and free energy, will be developed and applied to real-world problems in engineering, condensed-matter physics, and chemistry. We will conclude with an examination of phase transitions and quantum statistics. Prerequisite: 211 and 212 and 282. Offered every two years.

PHYS 392 Junior Seminar
This course revolves around student reports and discussions on several topics in contemporary physics. Emphasis is on the development of bibliographic skill, seminar presentation and report writing techniques as well as increasing the breadth and depth of the student's knowledge of recent research. Preparation for senior research and life after Dickinson will also be topics of discussion. Prerequisite: Physics major junior status. One-half course credit.

Spring 2018

PHYS 282 Intro to Theoretical Physics
A rigorous survey of mathematical topics and techniques that are commonly used in theoretical physics. Topics include vector analysis, differential equations, power series, linear algebra, tensors, and vector calculus (gradient, divergence, curl, line integrals, and so on). The primary focus of this course is on solving problems as a means to improve students’ confidence and understanding of mathematics within the context of physical systems. Prerequisite: 211 or permission of instructor. Corequisite: MATH 171 or permission of the instructor.

PHYS 492 Senior Research Seminar
Integration of theory and experiment in the conduct of research in contemporary physics or astrophysics, normally conducted in groups. The course emphasizes collaborative research, investigative techniques, and oral and written communication, and culminates in a colloquium presentation and a paper. The two semester sequence (491 & 492 or 491 + Independent Research for candidates for honors in the major) are required for the major.