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Duane H. Pontius, Jr.

Duane H. Pontius, Jr.

T. Morris Hackney Professor of Physics

Duane H. Pontius, Jr.Office:

Stephens Science Center 124

Contact Information:

Birmingham-Southern College
900 Arkadelphia Rd
Birmingham, AL 35254
Office Phone: (205) 226-4765
Office Fax: (205) 226 3078

Personal Web Page

Brief Career Background:

Dr. Pontius joined the faculty of BSC in 1999 following a career as research scientist in space physics. His ongoing research has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of Jupiter's magnetosphere and its interactions with Jupiter's moons. More recently, he developed a theoretical model that played a role in the discovery of geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus. At BSC, he has concentrated on overhauling the pedagogy for introductory physics in line with recent advances from educational research. He currently sponsers Interim at Sea supervising students as they undergo sail training aboard a classic tall ship for three weeks each January.

In 2009, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education selected Professor Pontius as the Teacher of the Year for Alabama.

Educational Background:

B.S., Physics, Birmingham-Southern College, 1981; Ph. D., Space Physics and Astronomy, Rice University, 1988.

Areas of Academic Interest:

  • Magnetospheric physics
  • Planetary science
  • Physics education

Courses Taught:

AS 101 General Astronomy (1)
An introduction to major topics of modern astronomy, focusing on the fundamental physical principles underlying astronomical phenomena.Topics include the origin, structure, and evolution of the solar system, stars, galaxies, and the universe, alongwith elementary observational astronomy.

HON 210 Science, Physics, Music (1)
An investigation into the nature of science and the methods of physics, with music as the ultimate object of our study. Classroom discussions integrated with laboratory exercises will focus on key questions: what can we discover, to what degree can we be confident in those findings, and what are the limits to our understanding? (Satisfies Disciplinary Foundations requirement in lab science.) Prerequisite: Harrison Honors Program

PH 102 The Physics of Music (1)
An introduction to the principles of physics through a broad study of musical instruments, musical scales, human hearing, and electronic sound reproduction and synthesis. Hands-on laboratory exercises allow students to play and study the operation of actual musical instruments and common stereo equipment. This course satisfies one of the natural science degree requirements for non-science majors. Three lecture periods and one laboratory period each week. Prerequisite: MA 115 or equivalent.

PH 121 General Physics I (1)
Mechanics of linear and rotational motion, oscillations, and waves, using vectors and calculus. The sequence PH 121-122 fulfills the requirements of students who are majoring in physics, chemistry, or mathematics. This sequence is a prerequisite for all physics courses of higher number. Three lecture periods and one laboratory period each week. Corequisite: MA 231.

PH 122 General Physics II (1)
Thermodynamics, electricity, and magnetism, electrical circuits, electromagnetic wave motion, and geometrical optics of lenses and mirrors. Three lecture periods and one laboratory period each week. Prerequisite: PH 121.

PH 301 Modern Physics I (1)
Special relativity, quantum theory of light, and wave mechanics of material matter. Applications of wave mechanics to atomic and molecular physics. Three lecture periods and one laboratory period each week. Prerequisite: MA 232.

PH 303 Optical Physics (1)
Electromagnetic waves: reflection, refraction, dispersion, and absorption. Geometrical optics of lens and mirror systems. Physical optics of polarization, coherence, interference, and diffraction. Three lecture periods and one laboratory period each week. Prerequisite: MA 232.

PH 304 Thermal Physics (1)
Classical and quantum statistical mechanics of many-particle systems. Statistical ensembles and probability distribution functions. Applications to thermodynamics, kinetic theory of gases, solid-state physics, and low-temperature Prerequisite: PH 201.

PH 402 Classical Mechanics (1)
Principles and applications of classical mechanics using vectors, tensors, and calculus. Kinematics and dynamics of a particle, harmonic motion, central forces, linear angular momentum, and rigid-body mechanics. Prerequisites: PH201. Corequisite: MA 310.

PH 404 Electricity and Magnetism (1)
Electric and magnetic fields and their interaction with material matter, direct alternating current circuits, Maxwell's equations, and electromagnetic theory radiation. Prerequisites: PH201