Physics Department Facilities

In addition to elementary physics laboratories, the Physics Department is equipped with modern facilities for teaching and research. In the following, a brief description of these facilities is given.

[Classical/Modern Physics Laboratory | Computing FacilitiesElectronics Laboratory | Laser/Optics Laboratory | Nuclear Physics Laboratory | Planetarium | Other Facilities ]

Classical and Modern Physics Laboratory: This lab houses equipment that allows students to explore concepts in classical and modern physics and to develop experimental expertise. Experiments performed in this lab cover a diverse array of the major topics of physics, including many topics that resulted in Nobel Prizes. Students learn how to correctly manipulate experimental data and how to interface computers with experiments. Available equipment includes a digital storage oscilloscope, computerized data acquisition, and the specific equipment needed for over 20 different experiments. This lab space can also be used for special research experiments. Students wishing to pursue a specific topic in more detail, or a topic not usually covered in the laboratory courses, should contact Dr. Sohl at

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Computer Facilities: There are a variety of computers available for Physics majors, ranging from WSU's mainframe Compaq Server Cluster to personal PCs and Macs for both theoretical work and data acquisition and analysis in lower- and upper-division laboratories . The Department offers courses in "Scientific Programming in C++ and Fortran" (PHSX 2300) and "Computational Physics" (PHSX 3300) that introduce students to the computer languages and numerical techniques used in the modeling of real physical systems. Computer applications are also an integral part of many physics courses and labs. Both students and faculty make frequent use of numerical methods in their research, such as in particle physics (elementary particles, electron-positron collisions) and astrophysics (pulsating stars, space physics).

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 Electronics_s.gif (21354 bytes)Electronics Laboratory:  PHSX 3410 and 3420, Electronics I and Electronics II, are accompanied by a laboratory with extensive electronic instrumentation.

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Optics_s.gif (35863 bytes) Laser/Optics Laboratory: Weber State has one of the finest undergraduate-only laser laboratories in the Intermountain West. This lab is thoroughly outfitted for experiments in introductory and advanced modern optics and laser physics. The primary use of this lab is for the Applied Optics class (PHSX 3190). Students obtain detailed practical experience in modern optics through a set of 10 experiments ranging from simple lenses to holography. Additional prepared experiments exploring advanced topics are also available.

Special research projects (PHSX 4800) can be done in nonlinear optics, laser design, advanced holography, laser spectroscopy, atomic physics, and photonics (the combination of optics and electronics), just to name a few. Any student interested in such research should contact Dr. Sohl at for more information.

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Nuclear_s.gif (17257 bytes) Nuclear Physics Lab: One of the advanced laboratory facilities in the Physics Department is the Nuclear Physics Laboratory. This facility has instrumentation for detection of all types of radiation emitted by radioactive materials--alpha, beta, gamma, and neutrons. General-purpose counting is done with Geiger counters and NaI(Tl) scintillation counters. The heart of the laboratory is a high-resolution gamma spectrometer, using a high-purity germanium (HPGe) detector. Charged-particle detection is provided with silicon surface-barrier detectors (SSBDs). These are used to detect alpha and beta particles. Neutrons are detected with a neutron-sensitive survey-type meter, and with helium-3 neutron tubes. Short-lived radioisotopes for half-life studies are produced with a 2-Curie Pu(Be) neutron source owned by the department.

The Advanced Physics Lab course, PHSX 3640, introduces students to most of these different types of radiation, detectors, and electronics through a series of experiments. Other activities using the nuclear lab facilities are available as student projects for PHSX 4800 or 4990. Students interested in more information about the nuclear physics laboratory should contact Dr.Jefferey at

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Planetarium_s.gif (18287 bytes)Planetarium: The Ott Planetarium at Weber State University is used primarily as an instructional resource for the astronomy course (PHSX PS1030). Additionally, this facility provides educational opportunities for the general public. Physics majors have the opportunity to run programs for both the local school systems and for Wednesday evening public shows. The planetarium outreach program directly reaches more than 10,000 people each year. If you are interested in more information about the planetarium, contact the planetarium director, Dr. Sohl at or visit the Ott Planetarium home page.

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Other Facilities:

The Department also has numerous other facilities available for courses and student and faculty research.

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Majors and minors enjoy the opportunity to meet together in an area reserved for studying physics.  The room is just down the hall from the faculty offices, providing convenient access to course instructors.

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A newly remodeled multimedia lecture room (complete with a state-of-the-art computer projection system) provides an excellent environment for upper-division courses. Here Dr. Ostlie is discussing quantum-mechanical tunneling through a Coulomb barrier as it applies to nuclear fusion reactions in the Sun and other stars.

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Lower-division lecture courses are held in the Lind Lecture Hall, including PHSX PS1010, PHSX PS2010/2020, PHSX PS2210/2220.  The 105-seat physics lecture room is very well-equipped with an outstanding array of lecture demonstrations, along with a state-of-the-art computer and multimedia projection system.   Here, Dr. Galli is demonstrating his "mechanical cat," capable of executing a torque-free twist.  The Ott Planetarium (also in the Lind Lecture Hall) is home to the many sections of our introductory astronomy course (PHSX PS1030).

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The lower-division laboratories are highly integrated with computers and data-acquisition equipment.  This provides introductory students with the opportunity to investigate fundamental physical ideas using the latest technology.

An Instructional Scanning Tunneling Microscope is available for upper-division student research.  The Department also has an Atomic Force Microscope that is available for student research with faculty.

Neilson_s.gif (24723 bytes)Lenord Neilson, Laboratory Manager

The Department also has a machine shop which is used for developing laboratory and research equipment.

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