Location: Bowdoin / Karen Topp


Karen A. Topp

Senior Lecturer in Physics

Contact Information

Physics And Astronomy

Searles Science Building - 302

Teaching this semester

PHYS 1140. Introductory Physics II

Karen Topp
An introduction to the interactions of matter and radiation. Topics include the classical and quantum physics of electromagnetic radiation and its interaction with matter, quantum properties of atoms, and atomic and nuclear spectra. Laboratory work (three hours per week) includes an introduction to the use of electronic instrumentation.

Karen Topp


  • Post-doctoral Research Associate, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2000-2001
    Design and implementation of 2DLC data acquisition hardware and software
  • Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1997-2000
    Interaction of ultrasound with biological tissue
  • Ph.D., Physics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 1996
    Thesis title: “Effect of Random Strains on Tunneling States in Crystals”
  • B.Sc. (Honors), Physics, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, 1989
    Awarded Queen’s University Medal in Physics

My focus is teaching entry-level courses in the sciences that are as accessible, engaging, and un-intimidating as possible, while still providing solid grounding in physics concepts, mathematical reasoning, and problem solving. I am interested in developing and supporting programs which make the natural sciences more accessible for under-represented groups; as such, I am the co-director of the Bowdoin Science Experience, a pre-orientation program designed to help incoming 1st year students from under-represented groups who are interested in the sciences.

Physics 050 Physics of Musical Sound
MusicThis course explores “how music works” from a physics point of view – what generates sound, how it propagates, and how it is measured and characterized. Although we focus primarily on the physical “laws” describing sound, the study of musical sound (or musical acoustics) is actually an interdisciplinary subject that includes the physiology of the ear, the psychology of how the brain interprets the ear’s signals, and some elements of music theory. The course starts with basic elements of acoustics, and then continues by studying the particular sounds of various types of musical instruments and the human voice.

Physics 223 Electric Fields and Circuits

Physics 103 Introductory Physics I

Physics 063 Physics of the Twentieth Century

Refereed Journals

K.A. Topp and R.O. Pohl, “Tunneling states in strained alkali halide crystals containing CN − ions,” Phys. Rev. B, 66, 064204, (2002).

K.A. Topp, J.F. Zachary, and W.D. O’Brien, Jr., “Quantifying B-mode Images of in vivo Rat Mammary Tumor with Frequency Dependence of Backscatter,” J. Ultrasound Med. 20, 605-612 (2001).

K.A. Topp and W.D. O’Brien, Jr., “Anisotropy of ultrasonic propagation and scattering properties in fresh rat skeletal muscle in vitro,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 107, 1027-1033 (2000).

E.L. Madsen et al. (incl. K.A. Topp), “Interlaboratory comparison of ultrasonic backscatter, attenuation, and speed measurements,” J. Ultrasound Med. 18, 615-631 (1999).

K.A. Topp, E. Thompson, and R.O. Pohl, “Glasslike excitations in chemically disordered crystals: Alkali-earth lanthanum fluoride mixed crystals,” Phys. Rev. B 60, 898-908 (1999).

K.A. Topp and D.G. Cahill, “Elastic properties of several amorphous solids and disordered crystals below 100 K,” Z. Phys. B 101, 235-245 (1996).

J.R. Olson, K.A. Topp, and R.O. Pohl, “Specific heat and thermal conductivity of solid fullerenes,” Science 259, 1145-1148 (1993).

Conference Proceedings

W.D. O’Brien, Jr., J.F. Zachary, D.A. Payne, P. Han, C. Liu, K.A. Topp, and B.-S. Sun, “In vivo microprobe for tumor diagnosis,” (invited poster). Biomedical Imaging Symposium: Visualizing the Future of Biology and Medicine. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD June 25-26, 1999.

K.A. Topp and W.D. O’Brien, Jr., “Anisotropy of ultrasonic parameters in fresh rat skeletal muscle in vitro,” 1998 IEEE International Ultrason. Symp. Proc. (Sendai, Japan), 1369-1372 (1998).

S. Abens, K.A. Topp, S. Sahling, and R.O. Pohl, “Low temperature properties of calcia-stabilized zirconia single crystal,” 21 st International Conference on Low Temperature Physics, Czech. J. Physics 46, 2259-2260 (1996).

K. A. Topp, B. E. White Jr., J. E. Freund, and R. O. Pohl, “Low temperature internal friction of bulk and thin film fullerenes,” Bul l. Am. Phys. Soc. 39, 274 (1994)

B.E. White Jr., J.E. Freund, K.A. Topp, and R.O. Pohl, “Low temperature internal friction of thin film fullerenes,” Science and Technology of Fullerene Materials. Symp. Proc. Mater. Res. Soc. (Pittsburgh, PA), 411-416 (1995).