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, including dissection microscopes, an inverted microscope, and light microscopes equipped with fluorescent and DIC optics as well as advanced digital capture and image analysis software. To conduct molecular analyses of DNA and proteins, we have both end-point and real-time thermal cyclers, centrifuges, electrophoresis equipment, a plate reader for ELISA assays, traditional and Nanodrop spectrophotometers 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. A greenhouse is available for plant biology and ecology research, and 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 with specialized instrumentation and equipment for teaching and research. These include a 400 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 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 for electrochemical and spectroelectrochemical analysis; a biopotentiostat; facilities for molecular modeling and computational chemistry; and departmental laptop computers for chemistry majors. In addition, two inert atmosphere dry boxes and multiple Schlenk vacuum manifolds allow anaerobic operations for chemical handling and synthesis. Finally, the Chemistry Department shares an atomic force microscope with the other science departments in the Park Science Center.
The Department of Computer Science is home to an extensive collection of advanced robots, high-end computers for rendering 3D graphics, four computer laboratories, and other computational devices. The laboratories are well-equipped with high-performance computing equipment, including Windows, Mac and LINUX workstations. Teaching and research laboratories and classrooms have additional extensive computer resources for instruction, data analysis and visualization, including state-of-the-art video-projection systems and large-screen display monitors.
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, and a remote sensing laboratory for digital processing and analysis of imagery by orbiting satellites. 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, a dynamic low-magnetic field cage, and a PMS MicroMagTM 3900 Vibrating Sample Magnetometer that is shared with the Physics Department.
The Department hosts a state-of-the-art Geochemistry Suite that houses a modern sedimentology laboratory for analysis of sediments, a large geochemistry lab facility for advanced geochemical research, a ventilation-isolated balance room containing a Mettler Toledo XP56 microbalance, and a Class 10,000 clean lab facility for sensitive isotopic analysis of low-level trace metals in natural materials. Equipment housed in the Geochemistry Suite include an ELTRA Carbon and Sulfur Determinator with TIC module, an inorganic/organic Carbon analyzer, an Agilent inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS), a cathodo-luminescence microscope, a Carpenter Microsytems Microsampler, a conodont extraction setup, and heavy liquid mineral separation setup. Sample preparation and processing equipment in the sedimentology lab includes a Virtis XL-55 12-port benchtop freeze-dryer, Labconco water deionizer, IEC Centra-GP8 ventilated benchtop centrifuge, Thermolyne 48000 furnace, VWR 1370 forced-air drying oven, stand-up refrigerator and separate stand-up freezer, two VWR 370 hotplate-stirrers, Branson 5210 ultrasonic bath, 8 sets 3” diameter stainless steel sieves (44 micron - 500 micron mesh) and 2 sets of 8” diameter stainless steel sieves (44 micron - 8 mm mesh). Analytical equipment in the sedimentology lab includes binocular optical microscopes and a UIC Inc. CM5014 coulometric carbon analyzer with furnace and acidification modules, and a Turner Designs 10-AU portable fluorometer for in-vivo/in-situ or extractive chlorophyll analysis.
In addition to a departmental van for transportation to field sites, the geology department has a wide array of field equipment for use by students. Basic mapping equipment includes twelve (12) Brunton 5010 GEO Transit compasses, a high-precision Leica TPS 1100 total surveying station (theodolite and electronic distance meter), four high-precision Trimble differential GPS units including two handheld GeoXT’s, and backpack or pole mountable ProXRS and ProXH antennas with field-rugged handheld PCs for data acquisition, and five Xplore Inc. field-rugged Tablet PCs equipped with ESRI ArcGIS mapping software and built-in GPS antennas. Detailed geophysical surveys are supported by an ASD field-portable visible- to near-infrared spectrometer a Bartington Grad601 dual magnetic gradiometer system, and a PulseEKKO 100 ground-penetrating radar system with 50, 100 and 200 MHz antennas. For environmental monitoring students use Onset Hobo data loggers and sensors, a YSI dissolved oxygen sensor, and an In-Situ Troll 9500 multi-parameter water quality meter; other water monitoring equipment includes Van Dorn water sampling bottle, Secchi disk, and a General Oceanics mechanical flowmeter For rock and sediment sample collection the department has rock hammers, two gas-powered rock drills, several Eijkelkamp augers and coring devices, and a Ponar sediment grab sampler.
The Department of Physics has many laboratories for education and research. The instructional advanced experimental 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 seventeen 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 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 Nanomaterials and Spintronics Laboratory has an AJA ATC Orion Sputtering Deposition system, a millipore water purification system, three chemical hoods, a TMC vibration isolated optical table, and a 100-square-foot class-1000 soft curtain cleanroom with the ceiling lighting suitable for photolithography. It also has a Princeton Applied Research potentiostat (VersaSTAT-200) for electrochemical deposition and an ETS humidity control chamber for self-assembly. It also has a PMS MicroMagTM 3900 Vibrating Sample Magnetometer shared with the Geology Department. Along with the other science departments in the Park Science Center, the Physics Department has shared access to an Atomic Force Microscope and a new on-campus computing cluster that has 72 computing cores, 512 GB RAM, and 110 TB of accessible storage.
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 Department of Science Services in the Park Sciences Building houses a fully-equipped Instrument Shop staffed by 2 full-time instrument makers and 1 analytical instrumentation specialist that design, build, troubleshoot and maintain the scientific equipment for instructional and research laboratories in all 6 natural science departments. Capabilities include 3D SolidWorks design modeling 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 makers/designers work with undergraduates engaged in research, class projects and senior thesis projects with some hands-on machining and assembly from their designs. Help with material selection, design and production alternatives is also offered.