Faculty Profile

Hans Pfister

Professor of Physics; George Wesley Pedlow Chair in Pedagogy (1991)

Contact Information


Tome Scientific Building Room 211


As an advocate for the environment he encourages sustainable living, supports sustainable technology, and embraces renewable energy sources. With the help of a 2006 Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) Seed/Assistance grant he was able to turn one of his visions, a sun-tracking solar concentrator, into a reality. This prototype will soon make some of the hot water for the students living in Dickinson’s Center for Sustainable Living. A 2009 Innovation Transfer Network (ITN)/KIZ Seed/Assistance grant enabled him to design and build a concentrating solar collector, which converts solar energy directly into electricity, using a thermoelectric converter (TEC). A 2007 ITN/KIZ grant supported the design and construction of a dental device, which removes temporary crowns and bridges by a series of micro pulses, applied to the backside of the dental appliances. Over the course of the semester he devotes time as a plasma physicist to work with senior physics majors on his design of a plasma propulsion device known as a Hall thruster. With another group of seniors he built a solar powered Stirling engine. Over the course of the past 18 years he has developed numerous kinesthetic physics experiments, incorporating his students into the experiment, thus allowing them to feel the forces and accelerations on their own body. Three of his inventions, a Kinesthetics Cart for Motion in 1-D, a Kinesthetics Cart for Motion in 2-D, and a Thermodynamic Engine and Ideal Gas Law Demonstration Apparatus are being used at over a thousand colleges, universities, and high schools. Some of his other interests include physics puzzles, tricks, and toys, as applied to the physics classroom.


  • Staatsexam, Eberhard Karls Universitat, 1981
  • Ph.D., University of California at Los Angeles, 1991

2018-2019 Academic Year

Fall 2018

PHYS 211 Vibrations, Waves & Optics
Completion of both PHYS 211 and PHYS 212 fulffills the WID Requirement.

PHYS 312 Electrodynamics
This course will investigate electrostatics, magnetostatics, and electrodynamics in vacuum and in matter. Maxwell's equations of electrodynamics are developed and explored in depth. Vector calculus is used throughout this course. Possible projects include the experimental study of capacitors, the force and torque on a magnetic dipole, and an exploration of Faraday-induced electric fields. Prerequisite: 211, 212 and 282, or permission of instructor.

PHYS 550 Independent Research

PHYS 550 Independent Research

Spring 2019

PHYS 314 Energy & Environmental Phys
A project-oriented approach to the study of the thermodynamics of fossil fuel engines and devices, the physics of solar and other alternative energy sources, energy conservation principles, the physics of nuclear fission reactors and nuclear fusion research, the physics of the atmosphere, air pollution, global climate change, and ozone depletion. Examples of projects include: energy conservation analysis, and the design, construction and testing of modern wind turbines or solar energy sources. Prerequisite: 131 and 132 or 141 and 142, and 211 or permission of instructor. Offered every two years.

PHYS 412 Adv Electrodynamics & Plasmas
A continuation of the topics covered in Physics 312 with an emphasis on electromagnetic waves in air, in conductors, and in space plasmas. Possible projects include the reflection and transmission of electromagnetic waves at an interface, waveguides, plasma waves in space, electromagnetic radiation from antennas, and the equilibrium and stability of plasmas. Prerequisite: 312 or permission of instructor. Offered only occasionally.

PHYS 500 Independent Study

PHYS 550 Independent Research

PHYS 550 Independent Research