Dr. Philip Spickler
Department of Physics
Dr. Philip Spickler jokes that he was the kid who didn't play with toys because he always took them apart. He liked learning how toys were built and how they functioned, and even today, he enjoys learning how things work. Accordingly he was attracted to physics because its principles serve as the "ground rules" for describing how things work.
Spickler has always enjoyed learning. "I wanted to stay in the classroom," he says, "and thought what better way to learn and stay in the classroom than to be a teacher."
As an undergraduate student at BC, Spickler was encouraged by Dr. Dale Ulrich, professor of physics, emeritus, to consider graduate school. Discovering he enjoyed research, Spickler went on to get his M.S. from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and a Ph.D. from the College of William and Mary.
Spickler's research includes acoustics and astronomy/solar physics. Discovering that he enjoys computer programming, he has become involved in a collaboration that determines spectroscopic information on methane at low temperatures by writing computer programs to analyze data. The data obtained in this study is applied to models to increase understanding of the atmospheres of the outer solar system planets and their satellites. Spickler says he finds it rewarding to involve students in significant scientific research.
For Spickler, classes need to be educational but should also be fun. He likes to laugh and tries to keep class on the lighter side. He also enjoys doing demonstrations in his classes that illustrate physical concepts. One of his favorites illustrates Newton's Laws of Motion where he uses a cup with water whirled in a vertical circle while sitting on a small platform attached to a rope. He also uses a Van der Graaf generator to illustrate static electricity and charge.
With the smallness of the physics department, it is easy to form close ties between professors and students. This sense of caring at BC moves beyond the physics department to include the whole campus. "The sharing of various ideas and interpretations," says Spickler, "provide a very rich and fertile educational experience for community."
In April 2008, Spickler was presented the Martha B. Thornton Faculty Recognition Award which acknowledges faculty who "provide caring concern for students well beyond the role as teacher." This award is especially valued by Spickler as he was a student when Dr. Thornton was teaching at BC and is honored to be recognized in this way.