Marshall Thomsen

 Photo 6.jpg

Strong Hall 302B

(734) 487-8794
(734) 487-0989 (FAX)

Department of Physics and Astronomy
Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, MI  48197

(preferred method of communication)



Advisor for:

Undergraduate Major and Minor in Physics

Master of Science in Physics


Course information is available for:


PHY 406 Ethical Issues in Physics

 PHY 332 Mechanics Laboratory


PHY 533/534/535 Computational and Advanced Physics




Research Interests:


 Statistical MechanicsI am continuing to explore the statistical mechanics of simple magnetic systems.  While the models are often simply described, the analysis can be quite challenging.  There are numerous unsolved problems that fall into this category: they present attractive targets for exploring basic principles.


Ethical Issues in Physics--I maintain an interest in ethical issues confronted by professional physicists.  These issues involve both interactions within the physics community (such as issues associated laboratory procedures) and interactions between physicists and society at large (such as giving technical advice). 


Thermodynamics (Education)--I am evolving an approach to teaching thermodynamics that builds on students' existing knowledge of classical mechanics to develop an intuitive appreciation for the laws of thermodynamics.  This approach at times takes the microscopic perspective normally found in statistical mechanics courses, but it does not require the use of the partition function.  Special attention is given to fluids that do not behave like ideal gases. A complete copy of the text is available here.


Thermodynamics (Practical Applications)—I have supervised student projects in microclimates and in how energy becomes thermalized.


Sample Publications:

Beth Kubitskey and Marshall Thomsen. “Human Subjects Research and the Physics Classroom”. Physics Teacher 50:363-364 (2012).

Marshall Thomsen. “The Ground State of XY Chains With Nearest and Next Nearest Neighbour Interactions”. Philosophical Magazine 92 160-167 (2012).

Gregory Bee, Katherine Ballentine, and Marshall Thomsen.  “Practical Problems Involving Thermal Conductivity”. American Journal of Physics 76  970-974 (2008).

Thomsen, Marshall. “A course treating ethical issues in physics.”  Science and Engineering Ethics 13 117-127 (2007).

Thomsen, Marshall.  "Conflicts of Interest in University Research",  "Research Misconduct", and "Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship" Research ethics modules developed 2002-2004 and posted at

Thomsen, Marshall.  "Learning lessons about ethics."  Invited editorial for the Forum section of Physics World 12 no. 3 pp. 15-16 (March 1999).

Bonnie Wylo and M. Thomsen. "Should Physics Students Take a Course in Ethics?--Physicists Respond".  Science and Engineering Ethics 4 473-486 (1998).

Joseph Lowry, M. Thomsen, E. R. Behringer, and Z. L. Wu. "Layer Thickness Fluctuations in Optical Coatings With Non-Quarterwave Design". Applied Optics 38 p. 2083 (1999)

M. Thomsen and Z. L. Wu. "Polarizing and Reflective Coatings Based on Halfwave Layer-Pairs".  Applied Optics 36 307 (1997).

Z. L. Wu, M. Thomsen, P. K. Kuo, Y. S. Lu, Christopher Stolz, and Mark Kozlowski.  "Overview of Photothermal Characterization of Optical Thin Coatings".  Proceedings of the 27th Annual Symposium on Optical Materials for High Power Lasers, October 30 - November 1, 1995, Boulder Colorado and also published in Optical Engineering 36 252 (1997).

M. Thomsen and Z. L. Wu.  "Multilayer Optical Coatings Based on Halfwave Layer Pairs".  Proceedings of the 27th Annual Symposium on Optical Materials for High Power Lasers, October 30 - November 1, 1995, Boulder Colorado.

M. Thomsen and D. Resnik"The Effectiveness of the Erratum in Avoiding Error Propagation in Physics".  Science and Engineering Ethics 1 231 (1995).

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