Offices, laboratories, and classrooms for physics and engineering are located in Howe Hall, in the Science Center complex. In addition to general laboratories for introductory courses, there are teaching laboratories dedicated to circuits, fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, and optics (see descriptions below). The Department has many spaces dedicated to faculty research, a seminar room, and office space for senior majors and students participating in department research.

Computer network access is available on campus through wired and wireless connections, facilitating cooperative work between faculty and students. Instructional technology is available in every classroom, and within the Science Center there are computing labs open to all students, as well as additional computers for the use of students majoring in each STEM department.

In addition, a classroom with over 20 high-performance computers allows specialized instruction in Computer-Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) and other high-end applications.

The HHMI Integrative and Qualitative Lab, known as the IQ Center, is used campus-wide for all disciplines and is also open to the community as a space of collaboration, research, and data collection and analysis.

Optics Lab

A dedicated lab space exists for the optics course. Our equipment includes vibration-damping optical tables and breadboards for building experiments. Students use ion, semiconductor, and helium-neon lasers at various wavelengths, as well as a variety of optical components including prisms, mirrors, lenses, and fiber optics. Instrumentation is on hand to study these devices and their effects in the time and frequency domains such as high-speed photodetectors, digital storage oscilloscopes, microwave spectrum analyzers, and Fabry-Perot interferometers.

Fluid Mechanics

The fluid mechanics laboratory employs equipment for measuring pressure, flow rate, and viscosity in several practical applications. These include pipe friction, jet impact, venturi effects, and laminar-to-turbulent transition in internal flow. The lab also houses a wind tunnel for studying air flow over a cylinder and wing section to determine the drag on these objects. 

Solid Mechanics and Materials Science

The solid mechanics teaching laboratory is capable of testing various forms of the mechanical behavior of materials.  The Instron 5569 universal testing machine (UTM) with a maximum capacity of 50 kN (11,240 lb) is equipped to test materials under uniaxial tension, uniaxial compression, and bending.  Additional student experiments are carried out using a portable load frame capable of supporting experimental setups for demonstrating and measuring the mechanical behavior of solids under various loading conditions.  Equipment in the Concrete Research Laboratory is also used for Solid Mechanics instruction.

Materials science teaching utilizes equipment found in the Solid Mechanics Laboratory, the Concrete Research Laboratory, and the IQ Center. Such equipment includes the Instron 5569 UTM, concrete and mortar mixers, a 300,000-lb capacity compression machine, a sieve shaker, microscopes, and cameras for photogrammetry.


The department has two Celestron eight-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes and two six-inch Newtonian reflectors on Dobsonian mounts. One of the Celestron telescopes features a global positioning system for relatively quick alignment for field work as well as go-to capability, making it the main instrument used in classes. For solar observing, the department has a dedicated 80mm hydrogen-alpha refractor able to reveal visual detail on the solar disk. In addition, we have 7 x 50 Nikon binoculars and two Celestron Sky Scout personal planetariums. For imaging and astrophotography, we have monochrome and color cameras from ZWO Optical. A CCD camera and Johnson filters are available for photometric data acquisition of variable stars along with MIRA advanced image processing software for data analysis.

Howe Annex Workshop

Physics and Engineering has a dedicated workshop which houses equipment to facilitate design, building and wood work.  The shop is evaluated annually and configured according to upcoming courses, projects and research.

Students who wish to use the Howe Annex facilities should consult the Howe Annex Shop Safety Policy.