Dr. R. Sethfield Smith

Photo of Seth Smith

Dr. R. Sethfield Smith

Pee Dee Electric Cooperative Professor of Physics

Office: LSF 103D
Phone: 843-661-1453


  • Ph.D. in Physics, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1987.
  • M.S. in Physics, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1985.
  • B.A. in Mathematics (major), Physics (minor), Francis Marion University, Florence, South Carolina, 1983.

Research Interests – Experimental Laser Physics

I am interested in many aspects of laser spectroscopy and laser design. My past work has included the following:

  • Design and construction of numerous laser systems, including an open-cavity helium neon laser, a nitrogen laser, a diode laser, and a grazing-incidence dye laser
  • Construction of a Cesium heat pipe, heat pipe temperature controller, ionization detection circuit, and computer-interface module
  • Resonance ionization spectroscopy and multiphoton ionization spectroscopy on Cesium using a Nd:YAG-pumped dye laser system
  • Diode laser fluorescence spectroscopy and saturated absorption spectroscopy on Rubidium
  • Grazing-incidence dye laser performance as a function of grazing angle, pump laser intensity, dye concentration, and dye solvent.
  • Experiments on polarization characteristics, transverse electromagnetic modes, and resonator stability in an open-cavity helium-neon laser.
  • Design and construction of an optical detection system, photomultiplier tube housing, and scanning system for a monochromator.

Teaching Interests

I have been a physics professor at FMU since 1989 and am actively involved in teaching many of the courses in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. During my tenure as a physics professor, I have taught all of the following courses:

PSCI101-Physical Science I, PSCI101L-Physical Science I Laboratory, PSCI102-Physical Science II, PSCI102L-Physical Science II Laboratory, Phys200-Technical Physics I, PHYS200L-Technical Physics I Laboratory, Phys201-Technical Physics II, Phys201L-Technical Physics II Laboratory, Phys202-Technical Physics III, Phys202L-Technical Physics III Laboratory, Phys215-General Physics I, Phys215L-General Physics I Laboratory, Phys216-General Physics II, Phys216L-General Physics II Laboratory, Phys301-Classical Mechanics, Phys302-Electricity and Magnetism, Phys310-Electronics, Phys310L-Electronics Laboratory, Phys312-Lasers and Optics, Phys312L-Lasers and Optics Laboratory, Phys314-Modern Physics, Phys314L-Modern Physics Laboratory, Phys401-Quantum Mechanics, PHYS419-Senior Seminar in Physics, Phys420-Senior Research in Physics, and Phys497-Special Studies in Physics.

Recent Publications/Abstracts/Presentations

R. Seth Smith, “The Importance of Angular Momentum Selection Rules in Atomic Spectroscopy”, Bulletin of the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society, Volume 50, 26, 2005.

R. Seth Smith and Michelle Ghere, “Saturated Absorption Spectroscopy”, Bulletin of the South Carolina Academy of Science, Volume LXVII, 78, 2005.

R. Seth Smith, “A Study of Moments of Inertia for Disks, Rings, and Point Masses”, Bulletin of the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society, Volume 49, No. 7, 59, 2004.

R. Seth Smith and Debra R. Gibson, “Reflection Holography Using the Denisyuk Technique”, Bulletin of the South Carolina Academy of Science, Volume LXIV, 94, 2004.

R. Seth Smith, “Computer-Based Diffraction and Interference Experiments for Introductory Physics”, Bulletin of the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society, Volume 48, No. 9, 40, 2003.

R. Seth Smith, “A Study of Photochromism and the Properties of Photochromic Glass”, Bulletin of the South Carolina Academy of Science, Volume LXV, 95, 2003

R. Seth Smith, “Measuring the Half-Life of Neutron-Activated Indium-116”, Bulletin of the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society, Volume 47, No. 6, 27, 2002.

R. Seth Smith, “Measurements of Sound Waves and Interference”, Bulletin of the South Carolina Academy of Science, Volume LXIV, 95, 2002.

R. Seth Smith and David M. Peterson, “Physics in the Classroom”, 3rd Annual Conference on Using Technology in the Teaching of Mathematics and Science, Francis Marion University, 2001.

R. Seth Smith, “Flux Trapping in a NbTi Superconductor with Cylindrical Symmetry”, Bulletin of the South Carolina Academy of Science, Volume LXII, 84, 2000.

R. Seth Smith, Timothy J. Havens, et al., “Unified Passive Shimming for Magnetic Resonance Superconducting Magnets”, patent application #15-MG-5206, 1999.

R. Seth Smith and Timothy J. Havens, “The Effects of Temperature on the Use of 1006 Carbon Steel in the Design of Superconducting Magnets”, Proceedings of the Sixteenth International Conference on Magnet Technology, 1999.

Professional Memberships and Honors

Pee Dee Electric Cooperative Endowed Chair in Physics, 2003
Distinguished Professor of the Year 1999-2000
Member, Phi Kappa Phi National Scholastic Honor Society
Member, Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society
Member, Sigma Pi Sigma National Physics Honor Society
Member, American Physical Society
Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society
Member, South Carolina Academy of Science
Co-Advisor, Society of Physics and Engineering Students, Francis Marion University


FMU has the lowest cost of attendance of any college in South Carolina, based on rankings from CollegeFactual.com.

Meaningful Academics

The liberal arts remain the foundation of a great education for all FMU students, but we’ve developed an array of professional programs to meet the 21st century needs of both our students and our community.

The Right Size

The University keeps class sizes small because that’s the environment that best facilitates learning. A 15:1 student-professor ratio, and a student enrollment of 4,000 provides the perfect balance to enhance learning and still promote a diverse selection of programs.


Students can walk our lovely, tree-lined campus in about 30-45 minutes, but most take longer because in a place this beautiful, you want to stop and enjoy nature’s beauty.


Francis Marion University has been recognized for six straight years as a “Great College to Work For” Honor Roll university. Read more here.

Francis Marion University is ranked among Washington Monthly’s “Best Masters Universities” in the magazine’s latest ranking.

  • FMU is consistently ranked among the Best Regional Universities by U.S. News and World Report.
  • Francis Marion University is listed as the Best Ethnically Diverse University in the South by U.S. News and World Report.


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Mailing Address:
PO Box 100547, Florence, SC 29502
Street Address:
4822 E. Palmetto St, Florence, SC 29506

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