Laboratory work is emphasized at all levels of the curriculum and the natural science departments have excellent teaching and research facilities that provide students with the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research using modern equipment. Laboratories and classrooms are equipped with extensive computer resources for data analysis and instruction, including state-of-the-art video-projection systems and computer workstations.
Teaching and research in biology, chemistry, computer science, geology, mathematics, and physics is carried out in the Marion Edwards Park Science Center, which also houses the Lois and Reginald Collier Science Library. Teaching and research in psychology is conducted in Bettws-y-Coed.
See below for more detailed descriptions of the labs in each department, as well as a description of the instrument shop, where custom-designed equipment for special research projects can be fabricated by two expert instrument makers.
The Department of Biology houses a wide variety of instrumentation appropriate for the investigation of living systems at the levels of cells, organisms and populations. This equipment is used in both our teaching and research laboratories, providing our students with the opportunity to utilize modern research methodologies for their explorations. There is an extensive collection of microscopes that can be used for dissection, histology, microinjection and subcellular structural analyses. The collection includes dissection microscopes, light microscopes equipped with fluorescent and Nomarski optics, a transmission electron microscope (TEM) and a confocal microscope. To conduct molecular analyses of DNA and proteins, we have thermal cyclers, centrifuges, electrophoresis equipment and a DNA sequencer. The department houses sterile tissue culture facilities that are used for cell culture experiments. There is a wide assortment of physiology equipment that is used to measure intracellular and extracellular muscle and nerve activity, including voltage clamp amplifiers. An on-campus pond serves as a research field site for the analysis of micro- and macro-organism diversity and water quality parameters.
The Department of Chemistry houses many spacious well equipped laboratories for teaching and research. These include a 300 MHz high-resolution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer, gas and liquid chromatograph-mass spectrometers (GC-MS/LC-MS), Fourier transform-infrared (FT-IR) spectrophotometers, a fluorescence spectrophotometer, ultraviolet-visible (UV-vis) spectrophotometers, high and low-pressure liquid chromatographs (HPLC), liquid scintillation counter and equipment for radioactive isotope work, cold rooms and centrifuges for the preparation of biomolecules, thermal cyclers and electrophoresis equipment for molecular biology, potentiostats and biopotentiostat, four computational servers with Gaussian 03 for molecular modeling and computational chemistry, and departmental laptop computers for chemistry majors.
The Department of Computer Science is home to an extensive collection of advanced robots, high-end computers for rendering 3D graphics, three computer laboratories, and other computational devices including a Microsoft Surface touch-based table. There are many personal robots that are used in the introductory courses, and a variety of sophisticated robots used in upper-level courses and research. The personal robot collection includes many Khepera, Hemmisson, ePuck, and SRV-1 robots; dozens of Scribbler robots adorned with Bluetooth and cameras; three Aibo robotic dogs; and a collection of small humanoid robots, including the Robonova and Mini-Hubo. The larger robots include two human-sized robots (the B21R and a PeopleBot), three Pioneer robots (two of them all-wheel terrain vehicles), Tevbot (a student-built, robotic spider), Eleanor (a pneumatic-driven, larger-than-human pair of robotic arms), and a three-foot radius dodecahedron robotic blimp.
The Department of Geology holds extensive paleontology, mineral, and rock collections for research and teaching. A fully-equipped rock preparation facility, with rock saws, grinding, polishing, crushing, thin section and mineral separation equipment, allows students and faculty to prepare their own samples for petrographic and geochemical analysis. For rock and mineral analysis the department has petrographic microscopes, a Rigaku Ultima IV x-ray diffractometer, an ELTRA Carbon and Sulfur Determinator with TIC module, an inorganic/organic Carbon analyzer, an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer, a sedimentology laboratory, a fluid inclusion laboratory, a cathode luminescence facility, and morphometric, Carpenter Microsytems Microsampler and image analysis systems for paleontology. The department also houses a fully equipped paleomagnetic and rock magnetic lab that includes an Agico JR-6A spinner magnetometer, an ASC thermal demagnetizer, a DTECH 2000 alternating field demagnetizer, a 10.0 Tesla pulse magnetometer, an Agico KLY2 automated susceptibility bridge, and a dynamic low-magnetic field cage. Field equipment includes a collection of Brunton compasses, a high-precision surveying total station (theodolite and electronic distance meter), high precision GPS (both handheld and antenna based), high precision magnetic gradiometer, rock drills and ground-penetrating radar.
The Department of Physics has several laboratories for education and research. The two instructional “modern physics” laboratories house oscilloscopes, digital multimeters, power supplies, low-temperature facilities, and a great deal of ancillary equipment commonly found in research laboratories. In addition, the instructional optics laboratory has six dark rooms with interferometers, lasers, and miscellaneous equipment for optics experiments. The instructional nuclear physics laboratory houses a low-temperature gamma detector and computer-based multichannel analyzers for nuclear spectroscopy, alpha particle detection, and positron-electron annihilation detection. The instructional electronics laboratory has fourteen stations equipped with electronic breadboards, function generators, power supplies, oscilloscopes, multimeters, and computers. The Atomic and Optical Physics research laboratory is equipped with three optical tables, two ultrahigh vacuum systems used for cooling and trapping of atomic rubidium, a host of commercial and home built diode laser systems, several YAG pumped dye laser systems, a high vacuum atomic beam system, an electron multiplying ccd camera, and a variety of other supporting equipment. The Solid State Dynamic Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) research laboratory is equipped with two variable-temperature nitrogen flow systems, three fixed-frequency CPS-1 Spin Lock Pulsed NMR Spectrometers, a Varian 1.2 Tesla water-cooled electromagnet, a Spectro Magnetic 0.4 Tesla air-cooled electromagnet, two data acquisition systems, and ancillary electronics and computers. The Photo-Physics Laboratory houses three optical tables, two Nd:YAG pump lasers, three commercial, tunable dye lasers, two auto-tracking harmonic crystal systems, a differentially pumped vacuum chamber with a supersonic pulsed valve to produce molecular beams, and a time-of-flight mass spectrometer for ion detection. In addition, there are various pieces of equipment for data acquisition and laser energy calibration.
The Department of Psychology provides students with laboratory experience encompassing the wide range of subject matters within the discipline of psychology. At the basic level of brain and behavior, the department has a wide range of state of the art equipment including several stereotaxic apparatuses as well as instrumentation for recording and analyzing the activity of single neurons in relation to behavior. This equipment includes oscilloscopes high gain amplifiers, miniature head stages, and stimulators, The equipment interfaces with computers with advanced software for evaluating electrophysiological data. There is also equipment for the microinjection of pharmacological agents for the evaluation of the role of neurotransmitters in important aspects of behavior. For research in cognition, students have access to a variety of computerized programming equipment. This equipment includes digital video cameras, video editing programs, behavioral coding programs, and statistical analysis programs that are used to analyze the behavior, cognition and emotions of human participants ranging in age from early childhood to older adulthood. The laboratory in Introductory Psychology has equipment for studying sensation and perception, decision-making, language processing, and the psychophysiological correlates of human cognition and emotion.
The Park Natural Sciences Departments share an atomic force microscope and a 60-node Beowulf computer cluster for intensive parallel computational experiments.
Park Sciences Building houses a fully-equipped Instrument Shop staffed by 2 full-time instrument makers that design, build and maintain the scientific equipment for instructional and research laboratories in all 6 natural science departments. Capabilities include AutoCad drafting/design of instrumentation, 2- and 3-axis CNC milling machines, a precision instrument lathe, surface grinding, full welding complement, sandblasting, sheet metal machinery, as well as a large lathe and milling machine for oversized work. The instrument designers work with undergraduates engaged in research and help them with their projects where appropriate. From time-to-time, classes are available in the use of shop equipment.