Teaching and Courses

My goal in teaching is to excite others about physics. I hope to share my enthusiasm as I teach the following subjects.  Please click on the titles to find fun photos and videos from these courses.

General Education

PHYS 105: Physics in Everyday Life
PHYS 114: The Optics of Life: An Introduction to Biomedical Imaging

Upper Level Courses for Physics Majors

PHYS 211: Newtonian Mechanics
PHYS 222: Electricity, Magnetism, and Waves
PHYS 308: Introductory Quantum Mechanics
PHYS 361: Thermal Physics
PHYS 373: Classical and Modern Optics
PHYS s30: Electronics

Research Courses

PHYS 360: Independent Study
PHYS 457, 458: Senior Thesis

Laboratory Courses

PHYS 107: Classical Physics
PHYS 108: Modern Physics

General Education:

PHYS 105: Physics in Everyday Life

Designed for nonscience majors with no prior background in physics, this course introduces physics by studying how everyday objects work. Laws of motion, electric and magnetic forces, light and optics, and other physics topics are examined through the study of cameras, space travel, musical instruments, wind turbines, ball sports, color paints, bumper cars, roller coasters, photocopying machines, lasers, and medical imaging.

Prof. Durst on a fire extinguisher “rocket cart.”

A brave student with the Van de Graaff generator

Laser beam scattering through fog.


PHYS 114: The Optics of Life: An Introduction to Biomedical Imaging

Why do we use microscopes with thin tissue slices but x-rays to image through the entire body? This course explores the physics of light and life through various biomedical imaging techniques. Topics include optical microscopes, ultrasound, x-rays, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Students gain hands-on experience through field trips and the use of the Bates Imaging and Computing Center.

Laser beam scattering through fog

The Lewiston Fire Department demonstrates their Thermal Imaging camera.

Fluorescence from tonic water (left) versus tap water (right)

Image of the Bates Historic Quad through a homemade pinhole camera

Student Portrait taken through a Thermal Imaging Camera

Students get a tour of St. Mary’s Hospital Imaging facility.

Student athlete gets up close and personal with x-rays.

Prof. Durst illustrates CT scanning.

CT scanner from tour of St. Mary’s Hosptial Imaging facility


Upper Level Courses for Physics Majors:

PHYS 211: Newtonian Mechanics

A rigorous study of Newtonian mechanics. Beginning with Newton’s laws, the concepts of energy, momentum, and angular momentum are developed and applied to gravitational, harmonic, and rigid-body motions.


A student bravely demonstrates conservation of momentum with a CO2 fire extinguisher rocket cart.

PHYS 222: Electricity, Magnetism, and Waves

A detailed study of the basic concepts and fundamental experiments of electromagnetism. The development proceeds historically, culminating with Maxwell’s equations. Topics include the electric and magnetic fields produced by charge and current distributions, forces and torques on such distributions in external fields, properties of dielectrics and magnetic materials, electromagnetic induction, and electromagnetic waves.

PHYS 308: Introductory Quantum Mechanics

An investigation of the basic principles of quantum mechanics in the Schrödinger representation and the application of these principles to tunneling, the harmonic oscillator, and the hydrogen atom. Basic theoretical concepts such as Hermitian operators, Ehrenfest’s theorem, commutation relations, and uncertainty principles are developed as the course proceeds.

Good times in Quantum Mechanics, Fall 2012

PHYS 361: Thermal Physics

The theory of equilibrium states is developed in a general way and applied to specific thermodynamic systems. The concepts of classical and quantum statistical mechanics are formulated. The ability to understand partial derivatives is expected.

PHYS 373: Classical and Modern Optics

A general course on light treated as an electromagnetic wave, including the theory and operation of common optical instruments. A significant part of the course is devoted to topics in modern optics, such as the use of lasers and the nonlinear effects produced by intense light sources.


A mysterious hologram. Who is it?


Student presentation on SLR camera stops


Student image through pinhole camera


PHYS s30: Electronics

A laboratory-oriented study of the basic principles and characteristics of semiconductor devices and their applications in circuits and instruments found in a research laboratory. Both analog and digital systems are included.

Working Hard, Electronics 2012

Electronics Class, Short Term 2012

Good times in Electronics, 2012


Fairchild Semiconductor cleanroom facility tour, Electronics 2013


Electronics class, Short Term 2013


Great T-shirt Design, 2013


Soldering Station, Electronics 2013


Fairchild Semiconductor tour, Electronics 2013



Research Courses:

PHYS 360: Independent Study

Students, in consultation with a faculty advisor, individually design and plan a course of study or research not offered in the curriculum. Course work includes a reflective component, evaluation, and completion of an agreed-upon product.

Winter 2013 – Nonlinear Optics in Neuroscience
Student: Corey Hill

This independent study course will explore the physics of nonlinear optical imaging in neuroscience, particularly second harmonic generation (SHG).  Nonlinear optics forms images from beneath the surface of biological tissue without making an incision.  This course will combine the theory of SHG signals using numerical simulations with the experimental data from a laser scanning microscope.

PHYS 457,458: Senior Thesis

An independent study program for students working on a research problem in a field of interest, culminating in the writing of a senior thesis.

Winter 2013 – Characterization of Femtosecond Pulses for Two-Photon Microscopy
Student: Olalekan Afuye

Abstract: Two-photon microscopy (TPM) is a fluorescence imaging technique that produces thin optical sections of scattering specimen. By using non-linear two-photon absorption (TPA), the technique enables selective viewing of specimens from a particular depth. TPM requires ultrafast lasers because they are the only lasers that can supply the very high intensity needed for TPA while maintaining a relatively low average power. It is important to know the pulse width of the pulsed laser in order to calculate the probability of TPA. In this study, we characterize a fiber pulsed laser using autocorrelation techniques; we compare the full width at half maximum (FWHM) pulse width with the root-mean-squared (RMS) pulse width. We designed an autocorrelator to measure the first-order, second-order and intensity autocorrelations of the laser. We then combine the experimental autocorrelation with the numerical simulation of the autocorrelation of the spectrum provided by the laser’s manufacturer. By convention, most experimentalists use the FWHM pulse width as the indicator of the TPA eciency. We found that the FWHM pulse width is 80 fs, but the RMS pulse width was about 700 fs whereas a simulated Gaussian pulse of the same FWHM pulse width has an RMS pulse width of 68 fs. We believe this relatively high RMS pulse width indicates that the FWHM pulse width is insufficient for indicating the TPA efficiency in contrast to the standard convention most experimentalists follow.


Laboratory Courses:

PHYS 107: Classical Physics

A calculus-based introduction to Newtonian mechanics, electricity, and magnetism. Topics include kinematics and dynamics of motion, applications of Newton’s laws, energy and momentum conservation, rotational motion, electric and magnetic fields and forces, and electric circuits. Laboratory investigations of these topics are computerized for data acquisition and analysis.

PHYS 108: Modern Physics

This course applies the material covered in PHYS 107 to a study of physical optics and modern physics, including the wave-particle duality of light and matter, quantum effects, special relativity, nuclear physics, and elementary particles. Laboratory work includes experiments such as the charge-to-mass ratio for electrons, the photoelectric effect, and electron diffraction.