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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

2019-2020 Academic Year

Fall 2019

PHYS 211 Vibrations, Waves & Optics
Completion of both PHYS 211 and PHYS 212 fulfills 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 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.

PHYS 550 Independent Research