Duncan did both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Oxford in England, obtaining his D.Phil. in experimental atomic physics in 1987. Since then, he has held research positions at the University of Cambridge, the University of Virginia, and at the University of Illinois at Chicago, before coming to Colby College in 1992.

Duncan’s research interests include high resolution laser spectroscopy; ionization dynamics of Rydberg states of atoms; the interaction of super-high intensity laser pulses with atoms, molecules and solids; and atom cooling and trapping. His laboratory at Colby College contains apparatus for two different types of experiments. One apparatus is designed to perform spectroscopy experiments on atoms and molecules using diode lasers (the kind in your DVD player). Several students have been involved in this project, both as part of their senior thesis projects and as summer research assistants. In addition he has built constructed a neutral-atom trap in which gases can be cooled to just a fraction of a degree above absolute zero. Recently he received a grant from the National Science Foundation to support his research on dense clouds of ultracold gases.


  • M.A., University of Oxford, 1999
  • D.Phil., Experimental Physics, University of Oxford, 1987
  • B.A., Physics, Balliol College, University of Oxford, 1983

Academic Positions

  • Chair, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Colby College, 2006 – 2009 and 2013 – 2016
  • Professor of Physics, Colby College, 2006 – present
  • Associate Professor of Physics, Colby College, 1999 – 2006
  • Chercheur Associé, Laboratoire Aimé Cotton, Orsay, France, 2002
  • Chair, Division of Natural Sciences, Colby College, 1999 – 2002
  • Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics, University of Virginia, 1996 – 1997
  • Assistant Professor of Physics, Colby College, 1992 – 1999
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1990 – 1992
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Virginia, 1987 – 1990
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Cambridge, 1987

Research Interests

  • Experimental Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics – atom cooling and trapping, laser spectroscopy, Rydberg atoms, ultracold plasmas, external cavity diode lasers, ultrafast lasers.
  • Publication List
  • More about Duncan’s research

Courses Taught at Colby

  • PH 113 The Elements
  • PH 141 Foundations of Mechanics
  • PH 145 Foundations of Electricity and Magnetism
  • PH 241 Modern Physics I
  • PH 242 Modern Physics II
  • PH 250 Experiments in Modern Physics
  • PH 254 Essential Electronics
  • PH 311 Classical Mechanics
  • PH 321 Electricity and Magnetism
  • PH 334 Experimental Atomic Physics

Curriculum Vitae