Physics and astronomy students at Trinity have access to state-of-the-art facilities and learn hands-on through our labs, computers, and other equipment that make the University a top-notch physics destination.
Introductory Physics Labs form a two-semester sequence where students explore the physical world by direct observation, data collection and analysis. Labs connect directly to topics in both tracks of our introductory physics lecture courses.
Both lab courses emphasize a rigorous methodology for data analysis, error propagation and critical thinking. The lab room is equipped with 14 lab benches, each with modern experimental apparatuses. Students work in groups of two or three to acquire and analyze data, making comparisons to physical models.
In our Introductory Physics Lab, students conduct experiments related to the physics of translational motion, rotational motion, energy, collisions, conservation principles, and oscillations. In our Intermediate Physics Lab, students conduct experiments related to radioactive decay, DC circuits, AC circuits, geometric optics, and diffraction and interference of light.
Upper division labs starting at the sophomore level have been recently revised to better support our lecture courses and Trinity’s Pathway curriculum. All labs combine state of the art equipment with soft skills such as data analysis and technical writing.
In our Modern Physics Lab, students replicate famous experiments or research topics from twentieth-century physics, such as Marie and Pierre Curie’s study of radioactivity, Einstein’s photoelectric effect, and the Franck-Hertz experiment. Students are introduced to proper data handling and scientific writing. This course is the first course in our technical writing sequence, and fulfills Pathway’s written Core Capacity.
The Electronics Lab involves rigorous training in RLC circuits, diodes, transistors, oscilloscopes, operational amplifiers, and digital logic. Combining circuit building with the Arduino microprocessor allows students to apply programming and algorithmic design to real-world devices.
In our Advanced Photonics Lab, students rotate through labs covering topics not typically addressed fully in coursework. For example, students turn music into an optical signal that can travel through fiber optic cables and be played in the next room using the AC Faraday effect, and explore nanotechnology by fabricating and analyzing metal nanoparticles. This course is the second in our technical writing sequence, and fulfills Pathway’s written Core Capacity.
The Marrs McLean Observatory provides students with intensive hands-on experiences in astronomy. We have eight computer-controlled Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, including six with 8" apertures, one with 12" apertures on our observation deck, and one with 16" apertures permanently mounted in its own dome. Students can view the moon in amazing detail as well as image planets and nebulae. Trinity’s inquiry-based introductory lab uses observations from the rooftop facilities as well as data sets from satellites and telescopes around the world such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Kepler mission.
Our research labs are well equipped with state of the art instrumentation housed in Marrs Mclean Hall and the Center for the Sciences and Innovation. Research labs are funded through both internal and external sources such as the National Science Foundation, the W. M. Keck Foundation, and Research Corporation. Students work directly with faculty mentors on research projects.
We have several advanced in-house linux based servers with multiple CPU and GPU machines in our physics department computational lab in Marrs Mclean Hall. These machines are useful for designing and constructing biologically relevant complexes, e.g., protein/lipid, protein/RNA, protein/drug, that mimic the nanodomain structures of cell membranes, gene-editing spliceosome and multi-purpose anti-Alzheimer drugs’ targets. In addition, our servers are connected to the high performance computer (HPC) locally at Trinity and to other HPC’s via the LEARN networks, ready for external collaboration.
Pulsed, variable wavelength laser confocal microscope
Housed in the Center for the Sciences and Innovation, the confocal microscope allows us to acquire 4D (3D spatial and time) images of model membranes and live cell images with sensitivities reaching single-molecule resolution.
Housed in Marrs Mclean Hall, the TIRF (Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence) microscope is used by faculty and student researchers to study biophysical processes that occur within a 100 nanometers to 1 micron of a surface. The microscope achieves high resolution by exciting fluorescent objects with a light wave that decays exponentially with distance from the surface. Examples of processes measured with the microscope include the complex motion of microorganisms and thermally induced undulations in the membranes of cells.
JEOL Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)
Housed in the Center for the Sciences and Innovation, our tungsten filament SEM is equipped with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and cathodoluminescence imaging. This instrument is used both for upper division lab courses and undergraduate research. Research topics include the characterization of nanofabricated structures, observation and identification of microfossils in the Nanpanjiang Basin, imaging collagen based tissue scaffolds, and the structure of aerosol particles.
Nanosurf Atomic Force Microscopes (AFM)
Housed in Marrs Mclean Hall, our AFMs are used in student research projects and our upper division lab courses. The AFMs can image with nanometer resolution and are used to map the topology of various samples.