Graduate returns to teach at his alma mater

Melissa Rollins, Staff Writer

Associate Professor of Physics Dr. Philip Fulmer did not plan to return to his alma mater after graduation, but a call from a former professor brought him back.

On the staff at Francis Marion University since 2002, Fulmer now teaches at the school he graduated from 22 years ago.

Fulmer said that when he began looking at what college he wanted to attend, he discovered that FMU was a good fit for him.

“I had opportunities to go to a variety of different colleges,” Fulmer said. “Francis Marion was the only one that offered Health Physics as a major at the time.”

Fulmer said that he did not know exactly what he wanted to do when he entered college. Health Physics incorporated many things that he enjoyed, including math, chemistry, physics and biology. This major allowed him to learn more about many subjects rather than to have to choose just one.

Following his graduation from FMU, Fulmer moved on to graduate school at Texas A&M where he ultimately earned both his master’s degree and Ph.D.

After Texas A&M, Fulmer worked as a consultant in the commercial world for a number of years.

He did work for the Department of Energy and the nuclear weapons program. The Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada was one program that he worked on.

Much of his work focused on modeling and evaluating the probability that projects, such as Yucca Mountain, would have a negative effect on the environment and those who lived nearby.

Fulmer returned to South Carolina in the early 2000s and continued to consult part-time. Physics Department Chair Dr. David Peterson sought out Fulmer to teach at the university.

“I moved back to this area in 2001,” Fulmer said. “Dr. Peterson found out I was in the area and solicited me to teach part-time and that developed into a full-time relationship.”


Both Peterson and Joe Mehaffey, the supervisor of Physical Science Programs, were professors at FMU when Fulmer attended. They are now Fulmer’s colleagues in the Physics and Astronomy Department.

“It was very understandably unique for the first year or two,” Fulmer said. “It had always been a student-teacher relationship, but it has worked out really well.”

One thing that Fulmer said he enjoys about teaching is the challenge of having students that have a dislike of science classes.

“I love taking the student who seems almost antagonistic to learning science and showing them how much fun it is,” Fulmer said. “The passion you bring to the classroom makes all the difference in the world.”

Ashley Weeks, a junior education major, is currently taking Physical Science I with Fulmer. She said that he makes his class interesting and easy to understand.

“Fulmer is a really good teacher,” Weeks said. “He’s down-to-earth. He relates stuff to daily life to make sure you understand it.”

Fulmer uses his experience to prepare his students for entering the workplace where problems are not cut-and-dry like they are in a textbook. Although he gives them guidance, he wants them to be able to think for themselves and think on their feet.

“I love throwing things at them that are going to challenge them but are still connected to the workplace,” Fulmer said. “In my upper-level classes, the problems I design for them are based on my own experience.”

Fulmer said that he enjoys all of the classes he teaches from Physical Science to Nuclear Radiation Physics.

“I have fun doing what I do,” Fulmer said.