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Bremen Physics Program

May 21 to June 25, 2007

Bremen, Germany

Program Overview

The Bremen Physics Program is a five-week introductory physics course that will allowstudents to discover the fundamental concepts of plasma physics. Students will learn to determine plasma density, plasma temperature, and plasma potential from Langmuir probe data. They will also calculate Debye shielding length, mean free paths, and Larmor orbits. They will have opportunities to model single particle trajectories in complex configurations of electric and magnetic fields.

Students will study a variety of space plasmas, ranging from intergalactic plasmas to the effect of the solar wind plasma on aurora, global communication systems, and power grids. They will investigate the large spectrum of laboratory plasmas, study numerous plasma applications- from Plasma TV’s, plasma processing to plasma propulsion- and encounter the present day difficulties fusion researchers face in harnessing this energy source for humankind. Students will learn about the ongoing efforts in Europe, the U.S., and around the world to take plasma fusion beyond break-even and build plasma fusion reactors that will solve our energy problems for the next few millennia.


The Setting

A beautiful old Hanseatic city and one of Germany’s most important commercial harbors, Bremen is a city of about half a million people. It is filled with many fine examples of medieval and renaissance architecture, but also features a large, modern business section. It is the home of large corporations (Beck’s Beer, Mercedes Benz, and the Airbus industry), numerous art and folklore museums, classical and experimental theatres, and one of the most innovative television studios in Germany.


Prerequisites: The program is open to students who have satisfactorily completed at least two introductory physics courses (e.g. PHYS-131 and PHYS-132 at Dickinson), or their equivalent. This course is also open to physics majors from the University of Bremen. Since the plasma physics course is outside of the curricular offerings of the Bremen Physics Department, neither Dickinson College nor University of Bremen students will likely have had much prior exposure to plasma physics. Also, although the program is taught in English, it is recommended that students satisfactorily complete GERMN–101 and GERMN–104 since they will be housed with German families.

PHYS-204: The Fourth State of Matter–An Introduction to Plasma Physics

Students who successfully complete the program will earn one course credit (the equivalent of four semester hours). For physics majors at Dickinson, this program will count as credit towards the major. Students will receive a letter grade for the course.

The program will be taught in an interactive seminar. Students will be guided in Internet inquiries and instructed in the hands-on construction of their own spreadsheet simulations. Students will also learn to model some plasma phenomena using the graphical programming language LabView. The exploration of plasma particle trajectories will be taught in analogy to Dickinson’s Workshop Physics method.

Program Activities

Field trips are planned together with the students of the German Summer Immersion program. In the past, excursions have been to Celle, Bergen-Belsen, Hamburg, Worpswede, Bremerhaven, Cologne and the Rhine River.


Students will live in German homes for the duration of the program, taking morning and evening meals with the German hosts except when special arrangements are made ahead of time. These homes are scattered throughout the city and suburbs of Bremen. Interaction with your German host family is a good way to get to know more about German home life and to expand your working vocabulary. Individual student initiative will usually determine the kind and amount of interpersonal contact derived from the living situation. Participants will receive a pass for Bremen’s public transportation system, providing will provide easy travel between home and classes and around the city.


On-Site Administration

Students will be escorted to Bremen by the program director, Hans Pfister, associate professor of physics, who will provide support during the five-week program in Bremen. Professor Pfister has directed the Bremen Physics Program in the summers of 2000, 2002, and 2004.


Program Cost

The comprehensive program fee will be approximately $4,900, which covers tuition, room & board, group excursions, and a Bremen public transportation pass. Not included in the program fee are primary medical and accident insurance, travel costs to Bremen, and all other incidental expenses.

For more information, contact

Associate Professor Hans Pfister

Department of Physics & Astronomy, Dickinson College

Tel.: 717-245-1307


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