Western Kentucky University

WKU Department of Physics and Astronomy

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WKU Physics and Astronomy 
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Mailing Address:

Physics and Astronomy
Western Kentucky University
1906 College Heights Blvd #11077
Bowling Green, KY 42101-1077
Phone: 270-745-4357
Fax: 270-745-2014


How to Get to TCCW - A map with directions to the WKU Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The WKU Department of Physics and Astronomy

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is located on "top of the hill" on WKU's campus in the Kelly Thompson Complex for Science, Center Wing. There are approximately 50-60 enrolled students progressing toward a B.S. in Physics, and 5-10 graduate students. In addition to courses provided for majors, the department offers a wide array of service courses ranging from algebra-based college physics to biophysics and astronomy.

  • Our staff currently consists of 15 full-time permanent faculty, 4 visiting full-time faculty, and a number of research associates and support staff.
  • Over the last seven years, department faculty have brought in more than $7 million dollars of external research support. Undergraduate and graduate students are directly involved in most of these research projects.

On campus research and teaching laboratories

The laboratories listed below are all located in Thomson Complex, Central Wing (TCCW).

Biophysics Laboratories -- These general purpose laboratories serve students who take the introductory algebra-based biophysics courses. This laboratory also allows for temperature controlled, steady-state fluorimetry measurements for polarization studies of biological samples. (Wieb van der Meer)

Nuclear Physics Laboratory -- This laboratory is used for the modern physics laboratory course, the senior level nuclear physics course, and for the senior level radiation biophysics course. (Phil Womble).

Electronics Laboratory -- This laboratory is used for the physical measurements and electronics laboratory courses. (Phil Womble).

Interactive Engagement Classrooms -- These classrooms are designed for teaching physics using interactive methods. The table has four large round tables which seat up to nine students each. Students work in groups of three with each group having access to a networked laptop computer. (Scott Bonham, Doug Harper)

Optics Laboratory -- This laboratory is used for the senior-level optics course. It contains an air-ballanced optical bench, an industrial grade pulsed CO2 laser, and a pulsed Nd:YAG laser with a frequency doubling crystal (Lou Strolger).

Solid State Physics/Surface Physics Laboratory -- This laboratory is used for the senior level solid state physics course. It contains a vintage General Electric X-Ray Diffraction unit, a helium cryostat with optical grade windows and other miscellaneous apparatus used in the solid state lab. An ultra-high vacuum system with an electron gun, sample manipulator and optical spectrometer is also available (Doug Harper).

University Physics Laboratories -- In the fall of 1998 faculty in the department received a National Science Foundation Instrumentation and Laboratory Improvement grant to create a "Transferable-Skills-Based Laboratory for University Physics". In this new laboratory students gain experience in computerized data acquisition (using LabVIEW) and data analysis (using Microsoft Excel and Igor Pro from WaveMetrics) as they study the principles of physics. (Doug Harper).

Research facilities located beyond TCCW

Applied Physics Institute -- The API is a multidisciplinary research center. API researchers use fundamental physics principles to address research issues of technological importance at the frontiers of science and engineering. Research areas include nuclear physics, nanoscale physics, material science, and cyber physical systems (Vladimir Dobrokhotov).

Bell Astrophysical Observatory -- located 12 miles southwest of Bowling Green. The observatory consists of a 0.6m telescope with a newly modernized control system , allowing manual, remote (from campus) and robotic operating modes. The telescope is equipped with a CCD camera, and BVRI filters. Research with this facility includes studies of the time variability of AGN, searches for transits of extra solar planets and multi-color imaging of extended regions in this and other galaxies (Mike Carini).

The Robotically Controlled Telescope Facility -- WKU is a partner in the RCT Consortium, group of universities and research institutions who operate the 1.3-m (50-inch) telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona. The fully autonomous telescope is equipped with an optical CCD camera, and a large suite of broadband and narrowband filters. Research with this facility includes studies of extra-solar planets, active galactic nuclei, gamma-ray bursts, supernovae, solar system objects, galactic and extragalactic emission line nebulae, starburst galaxies, eclipsing binary stars, and white dwarf stars (Richard Gelderman, Lou Strolger)

Cyber Defense Laboratory -- The Cyber Defense Laboratory conducts research to solve cyber security and counter cyber terrorism problems for both civilian and military customers. The CDL also works on the protection and encryption of digital data, identities, finances and transactions, and intrusion detection and prevention methodologies. The Cyber Defense Laboratory works to enhance the nation’s security from external threat via computer intrusion, and contributes to the region’s economic development by creating a highly-educated cyber defense workforce. As part of this effort, the CDL strives to provide educational experiences in cyber security for students. (Keith Andrew).

Hardin Planetarium -- With a 40-foot dome housing a Spitz A3P star projector, various special-effect projectors, and a seating capacity of approximately 150, the planetarium supports astronomy laboratories and demonstrations for departmental astronomy classes, as well as providing educational presentations for off-campus school groups and the general public. (Roger Scott).

NOVA Center -- The nondestructive analysis center. The Large Chamber Scanning Electron Microscope (LC-SEM) has positioned WKU as the only university in North America with an instrument of this type. The NOVA Center provides unrivalled Nanometrology, characterization, and analytical services by using the LC-SEM.  (Edward Kintzel).

 Last Modified 7/23/13