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Group Members - Donald B. Mountcastle

Donald Mountcastle, PhD
Associate Professor of Physics Emeritus
203 Bennett Hall
Orono, ME 04469
Phone: (207) 581-1039
Email: thermostatprof<at>

Don received his B.S. in physics from Vanderbilt University in 1964. His graduate work in physics took place at the University of Virginia. He received his M.S. degree in 1967 and his Ph.D. in 1971. Since 1984, Don has been an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Maine.  He retired in 2015.

He taught Physical Thermodynamics (PHY 462) and Statistical Mechanics (PHY 463) for many years.

Don’s research interests primarily focused around students’ understanding of thermal physics at advanced undergraduate levels in physics, and the interface between physics and mathematics.

Webpage at the Department of Physics and Astronomy


T.I. Smith, D.B. Mountcastle, and J.R. Thompson, “Student understanding of the Boltzmann factor,” Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 11, 020123 (2015).

T.I. Smith, W.M. Christensen, D.B. Mountcastle, and J.R. Thompson, “Identifying student difficulties with heat engines, entropy, and the Carnot cycle,” Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 11, 020116 (2015).

T.I. Smith, J.R. Thompson and D.B. Mountcastle,Student Understanding of Taylor Series Expansions in Statistical Mechanics,” Physical Review Special Topics – Physics Education Research 9, 020110 (2013).

J. R. Thompson, C. A. Manogue, D. J. Roundy, and D. B. Mountcastle, “Representations of partial derivatives in thermodynamics,” in 2011 Physics Education Research Conference, C. Singh, N.S. Rebello, P. Engelhardt, eds., AIP Conference Proceedings 1413, 85-88 (2012).

T.I. Smith, J.R. Thompson, and D.B. Mountcastle, “Addressing Student Difficulties with Statistical Mechanics: The Boltzmann Factor,” in 2010 Physics Education Research Conference, M. Sabella, C. Singh, N.S. Rebello, eds., AIP Conference Proceedings 1289, 305-308 (2010).

  • Finalist, 2010 PERC Proceedings Paper Award
  • Cited in Discipline-Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering, Susan R. Singer, Natalie R. Nielsen, and Heidi A. Schweingruber, Editors; Committee on the Status, Contributions, and Future Directions of Discipline-Based Education Research; Board on Science Education; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Research Council (2012);

J.R. Thompson, W.M. Christensen, E.B. Pollock, B.R. Bucy, and D.B. Mountcastle, “Student understanding of thermal physics concepts and the underlying mathematics in the upper division,” in proceedings of Frontiers in Science Education Research, A. Bilsel and M.U. Garip, eds., 22-24 March 2009, Famagusta, North Cyprus, 177-186 (2009).

E.B. Pollock, J.R. Thompson, and D.B. Mountcastle, “Student Understanding of the Physics and Mathematics of Process Variables In P-V Diagrams.” In AIP Conf. Proc. 951, 168-171 (2007)

List of all publications


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Physics Education Research Laboratory
Department of Physics and Astronomy, 5709 Bennett Hall
Phone: 207.581.1033; 207.581.1030; 207.581.1237
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469