Faculty Research

Alden Adolph
Assistant Professor

Adolph is trained as an engineer and uses this lens to study the physics of snow and the role of snow in the climate system. She is particularly interested in the physical and optical properties of snow and their relationship to snow temperature. Her work spans across scales from snow microstructure to its implications for changing snow patterns across the globe. Research projects involve analyzing the relationship of snow albedo (reflectivity) to snow physical and chemical properties such as impurity content and crystal size and shape in the local region and in Greenland. She also works with remote sensing data with the goal of studying snow processes on larger scales. Adolph is also interested in interdisciplinary studies of how snowmelt in temperate regions affects local ecosystems.

Brian Borovsky

Borovsky teaches Quantum Mechanics, Analytical Physics III (including special relativity and wave behavior), Musical Acoustics, and Advanced Physics Laboratory. He says he enjoys physics because it is “both profound and practical.” Borovsky’s research program explores the physics of friction, with applications in the areas of micro and nano-technology. In the lab, he works with student researchers to measure the friction in microscopic high-speed sliding systems where the lubricant films are just one molecule thick. In his free time he plays euphonium and enjoys running.

News and research

James (Jay) Demas
Associate Professor

Demas teaches a Principles of Physics course and associated lab for non-majors in addition to advanced laboratory courses. Demas is also a member of the Biology Department and teaches neuroscience courses, including Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience. His research is focused on the retina, the neural part of the eye. Specifically, he studies retinal circuits that estimate the brightness of the environment. Outside of St. Olaf, he loves to spend time with his daughters and his wife, Laura Listenberger, assistant professor of chemistry and biology at St. Olaf. Surfing, downhill skiing, and sailing are favorite outdoor pursuits.  


Jason Engbrecht
Professor and department chair

Engbrecht teaches Analytical Physics, Electronics, engineering design, and a variety of introductory and advanced laboratories. He enjoys working with majors and non-majors alike, and encourages active participation of students in his classroom. Engbrecht’s research interests focus on the interaction of positrons and positronium with ordinary matter at low energies as well as robotics. He enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters and watching Michigan football.    

News and research

Anne Gothmann
Assistant Professor

Anne’s research explores how to most effectively use ‘proxies’ (indirect indicators of climatic or environmental variables) to access environmental information about times far in the past for which we do not have instrumental records.  In particular Anne uses geological, chemical and physical signatures present in coral skeletons to infer past ocean conditions and to understand how the growth of coral skeletons is affected by the environmental changes. Anne and her students grow corals in lab experiments to quantify how coral skeletons respond to specific environmental variables. Anne also uses methods that analyze the structure, mineralogy, and chemical composition of modern and fossil corals samples, including X-ray diffractometry,  Scanning Electron Microscopy, and Mass Spectrometry.


Visit Anne’s website for more information: gothma1.wixsite.com/annemgothmann

Amy Kolan

Kolan teaches introductory mechanics, statistical mechanics, astronomy, and a course on physics and computation. Her research — and much of her teaching — straddles the boundary between mathematics and physics. In her most recent sabbatical, Kolan worked on two projects with late 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. In her free time, Kolan enjoys biking, cross-country skiing, and spending time with her husband and two daughters.

News and research