Faculty and Staff

Brian Borovsky headshotBrian Borovsky
Associate Professor and Department Chair
BA St. Olaf College, PhD University of Minnesota
borovsky@stolaf.edu   •  507-786-3607   •   Office: RNS 262

I teach Quantum Mechanics, Analytical Physics III (including Special Relativity and wave behavior), Musical Acoustics, and Advanced Laboratory. I enjoy Physics because it is both profound and practical. My research program explores the physics of friction, with applications in the areas of micro and nano-technology. In the lab, student researchers and I measure the friction in microscopic high-speed sliding systems where the lubricant films are just one molecule thick. In my free time, I play euphonium in brass ensembles and go running.  Research


Dahl-170x282David Dahl
Associate Professor
BS University of Minnesota, PhD Stanford University
dahl@stolaf.edu   •   507-786-3123   •   Office: RNS 266

I’m currently teaching an introductory courses(125), Modern Physics (244), Classical Mechanics(374) and General Relativity(392), besides supervising an Independent Research tutorial in Astrophysics. My professional interests are in theoretical studies of solids and liquids (“condensed matter”), most lately nanomagnets, which made use of our magnetic force microscope here at St. Olaf. I also have a long-standing interest in astrophysics and cosmology. I am the campus representative for the engineering programs, and have served 7 years as Department Chair. Rock climbing is my principal outside interest.


DemasJames (Jay) Demas
Assistant Professor
BA Columbia University, BS University of Maryland at College Park, PhD Washington University in St. Louis
demas@stolaf.edu   •   507-786-3620    •   Office: RNS 280

These days I am teaching Principles of Physics course for non-majors (Physics 124) along with the associated lab.  In addition, I teach advanced laboratory courses in physics (245 & 385). I am also a member of the biology department and teach neuroscience courses, including Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience (Neuro 239).  My research is focused on the retina, the neural part of the eye.  Specifically, I am studying retinal circuits that estimate the brightness of the environment.  Outside of St. Olaf, I love to spend time with my daughters, Corrie and Anne Marie, and my wife, Dr. Laura Listenberger, a faculty member in Chemistry and Biology here at St. Olaf.  Surfing, downhill skiing, and sailing are my favorite outdoor pursuits, although I am rotten at all three.  Research


IMG_0616Jason Engbrecht
Associate Professor
BA Trinity University, PhD University of Michigan
engbrech@stolaf.edu   •   507-786-3849   •   Office: RNS 278

My current courses are Analytical Physics, Engineering Design, Electronics, and a variety of introductory and advance laboratories. I enjoy working with majors and non-majors and have a strong interest in finding ways of encouraging the active participation of students in the classroom.  My research interests focus on experiments to study the interaction of positrons and positronium with ordinary matter at low energies as well as robotics. I enjoy spending time with my wife and two daughters and watching Michigan football.    Research


FisherJill Fisher
Academic Administrative Assistant
B.A., Concordia College, Moorhead, MN
fisher@stolaf.edu   •   507-786-3120  •  Office: RNS 260

I started at St. Olaf in the fall of 2012.  I really enjoy working with the fabulous physics department.  Prior to coming to St. Olaf, I worked for PRMIA (Professional Risk Managers’ International Association) which is located in downtown Northfield.   Outside of work, I enjoy walking, biking, swimming, jewelry making and especially spending time with my three children, my husband and my two long-hair Chihuahuas, Agnes and Ruby.   I also volunteer for the Northfield Youth Choirs and Bethel Lutheran Church.


JacobelRobert Jacobel
Professor Emeritus
AB University of California, PhD Iowa State University
jacobel@stolaf.edu  •   507-786-3124  •  Office: RNS 268

I am recently retired from teaching in both the Physics and Environmental Studies Departments where my classes have included courses in geophysics, climate change, environmental science and polar literature.  Currently I continue an active research program at St. Olaf involving physics students and a postdoc, Knut Christianson, in collaboration with scientists at several other institutions and support from NASA and the National Science Foundation.  Our work involves geophysical studies of glaciers and ice sheets utilizing ice-penetrating radar and satellite imagery to address questions about the response of ice masses to climate change.  Currently we have ongoing field projects in Antarctica, Greenland and Norway, and a remote sensing project on Himalayan glaciers.  Research


KolanAmy Kolan
BA Dartmouth College, PhD Duke University
kolan@stolaf.edu   •   507-786-3668   •  Office: RNS 282

I teach introductory mechanics, statistical mechanics, and a course on physics and computation.  My research, and much of my teaching, straddles the boundary between mathematics and physics. I have just returned from sabbatical where I worked on two projects with Leo Kadanoff at the University of Chicago.  The first project incorporates the use of the renormalization group, a mathematical technique used to view a physical system at different scales.  The second is a pedagogical project aimed at introducing high school students to the use of computer programming for discovery. I enjoy biking and cross-country skiing and I love to spend time with my husband and two daughters.   Research


LackieDevin Lackie
lackie@stolaf.edu   •   507-786-3121   •   Office: RNS 295A

I find the position of Stockroom Technician to be very rewarding.  My long background in the designing, building, and testing of electro-mechanical and aerospace devices comes in very handy when assisting students and faculty with their diverse projects.  Keeping the laboratory equipment and demonstration devices in working order is another responsibility of mine.  I just like inventing, building and fixing things. When I am not engaged in this activity, I can be found out motoring around on my motorcycle or working in my home shop.



LarsenAmy Larsen
Assistant Professor
BS University of Arizona, PhD University of Chicago
larsena@stolaf.edu   •   507-786-3959   •   Office: RNS 274

 I am teaching Principles of Physics (Physics 124) and Advanced Lab (Physics 245).  I am interested in Physics and Math education, in particular, how to effectively teach these subjects to a variety of learning styles.  I want everyone to enjoy Physics and Math as I do!    I enjoy spending time with my husband and three children.  We own a hobby farm and currently have about 40 laying chickens.



NitzDavid Nitz
BA St. Olaf College, PhD Rice University
nitz@stolaf.edu   •   507-786-3066    •   Office: RNS 276

My long term professional interests are in atomic and molecular physics (atomic collisions and spectroscopy). I have also worked recently on development of computer software as a resource for teaching and learning and on implementing laser-based experiments for the advanced physics laboratory. I have served as chair of the physics department, as campus advisor for a number of off-campus study programs, and as a member of the science facilities Design Team for Regents Hall.  In my free time I play the trombone and enjoy outdoor activities, especially tennis, cycling, hiking and canoeing.  Research