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, digital data acquisition, fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, and optics. 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.
Other teaching and research facilities falls into several broad categories:
Optics (aka Lasers Lab)
Optics and lasers are used in research by several faculty, and there is a dedicated lab space 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 components including fiber optics. Instrumentation is on hand to study these devices and their effects in the time and frequency domains and includes high-speed photodetectors, digital storage oscilloscopes, microwave spectrum analyzers, and Fabry-Perot interferometers.
The fluid mechanics laboratory course employs equipment for measuring pressure, flow rate, and viscosity in several practical applications. These include pipe friction, jet impact, orifice flow, venturi effects, and laminar-to-turbulent transition. The lab also houses a wind tunnel for studying air flow over a cylinder and wing section to determine the drag on the objects. Research in fluid mechanics focuses on obtaining temperature and velocity measurements through non-intrusive laser diagnostic techniques. High power solid-state and gas lasers, along with optics equipment, are used to investigate supersonic jet flow and free convection in a water observation tank.
Solid Mechanics and Materials Science
The solid mechanics teaching laboratory features a load frame capable of supporting experimental setups for demonstrating and measuring the mechanical behavior of solids under various loading conditions, including uniaxial tension and compression, torsion, and bending. A universal testing machine is used in teaching and research and is capable of measuring the properties of a diverse set of materials under varying load conditions: tension, compression, flex. Analytical instruments used in the teaching and researching of polymers include high and low force dynamic mechanical analyzers, a differential scanning calorimeter, an x-ray diffractometer, a scanning electron microscope, a polymer processing laboratory capable of producing sheet, film, and rods and measuring viscous properties by capillary extrusion and torque rheometry, a hot press capable of molding samples under digitally controlled processing conditions, and a positron annihilation spectrometer. A fully equipped machine shop is available for faculty and student use.
The department has two Celestron eight-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes and a 3.5-inch Questar telescope. One of the Celestron telescopes utilizes a global positioning system for relatively quick alignment for field work. In addition, we have 7 x 50 Nikon binoculars and two Celestron Sky Scout personal planetariums. 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.
Physics and Engineering has a dedicated work shop which houses equipment to facilitate design, building and wood work. The shop is evaluated, along with all other lab and research spaces, annually and configured according to upcoming courses, projects and research.
For a more in-depth understanding of the various labs which take place within these facilities, please check out our Student/Faculty Research page which includes information about our Neural Engineering Lab, Thin Films Lab and the HHMI Integrative and Qualitative (IQ Center) Lab. 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.