J. David Nichols, C.Phil., Physics

Adjunct Professor of Physics and Engineering

Professor Nichols received his B.S. in physics from Harvey Mudd College and did his graduate work in physics in the Center for Astrophysics and Space Science at UCSD. His studies included analyzing satellite data to understand spacecraft charging, studying currents in the magnetosphere and the physics of auroral arc formation. Additionally, he participated in the design of an instrument designed to track coronal mass ejections and other transient solar wind phenomena.

He also did graduate work in theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. David joined the PLNU faculty in 1989 and continued until 1993. He taught a variety of courses on both the physics and engineering sides of the catalog. Following this stint at PLNU he spent thirty years in industry, mostly doing software engineering. David’s strengths include numerical analysis, data reduction, and image processing. It is fortunate that he worked in small groups, allowing him to examine the problems of interest starting with the basic physics, moving on to data analysis and software development, all the way to direct customer support. He spent a number of years working on software to analyze neural activity by blending MRI and EEG/MEG data to track events within the brain. He also had the opportunity to work on the software for a laser-based infrared microscope. It allows the user to acquire a spectrum at each pixel location, exposing information regarding the chemistry of the sample being imaged.

Professor Nichols’ interests extend beyond the academics of science and engineering to history, theology, and other topics. In addition to studying and teaching, he enjoys hiking in the mountains with his family, eating and talking with friends, and staying active in his local church.


  • C.Phil., Physics, UCSD
  • M.S., Physics, UCSD
  • B.S., Physics, Harvey Mudd College

Courses Taught

  • Objects and Elementary Data Structures and Lab - CSC1054/L
  • Introduction to Engineering and Lab - EGR 1012/L
  • Analog Electronics and Lab - EGR 3053/L
  • Electricity, Magnetism and Waves I and Lab - EGR/PHY 3063/L
  • Electricity, Magnetism and Waves II and Lab - EGR/PHY 3083/L
  • Digital Electronics and Lab - EGR 3093/L
  • Senior Project I - EGR/PHY 4072
  • Senior Project II - EGR/PHY 4082
  • General Physics I and Lab - PHY 1044/L
  • General Physics II and Lab - PHY 1054/L
  • University Physics I and Lab - PHY 2044/L
  • University Physics II and Lab - PHY 2054/L
  • Quantum Mechanics - PHY 4053
  • The Cosmos - PSC 1004
  • Physical Science for Teachers - PSC 1014
  • Earth and Space Science for Teachers - PSC 1023

Dissertations, Presentations, and Publications


  • Nichols, J.D., J.R. Hill and E.C. Whipple, Use of the Generalized First Invarient to Obtain the Structure of the Magnetosphere, Bulletin of the American Physical Society, 28, #8, October 1983.
  • Nichols, J.D., J.R. Hill and E.C. Whipple, Use of the Generalized First Invarient to Obtain the Structure of the Magnetosphere, EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union, 64, #45, November 1983.
  • Nichols, J.D., I.S. Krinsky, E.C. Whipple, J.R. Hill and K.W.Gross, "A Magnetospheric Interactive Model Incorporating Current Sheets (MIMICS)", EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union, 65, #45, November, 1984.
  • Whipple, Elden C., Jay R. Hill and J. David Nichols, Magnetopause Structure and the Question of Particle Accessibility, J. Geophysical Res., 89, #A3, 1984.
  • Nichols, D., Data Simulations for a Rotating Heliospheric Imager, UCSD-SP-87-23, 1987/
  • Jackson, B.V., H.S. Hudson, J.D. Nichols and R.E. Gold, Design Considerations for a Solar Mass Ejection Imager on a Rotating Spacecraft in Solar System Plasma Physics, J.B. Waite et al., editors, American Geophysical Union, Washington DC, 1988.
  • Greenblatt, Richard & Nichols, J.. T-Sutra: a surface tiling algorithm for volumetric image data. Neuroimage. 13. 134-134, 2001. 
  • Rowlette, Jeremy, Fotheringham, Edeline, Nichols, David, et al.. Recent advances in high-throughput QCL-based infrared microspectral imaging (BIOS Conference Presentation), 2017.
  • Jeremy Rowlette, Edeline Fotheringham, David Nichols et al. Modulating spectroscopic imaging system using substantially coherent illumination Patent number: 10437033, 2019