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Department of Physics & Astronomy College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics

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The Physics and Astronomy department boasts several labs where students can test and apply theories learned in lecture classes.


The Sac State Planetarium will serve as a lecture hall for introductory astronomy courses for Sac State students, a destination for K-12 school group field trips, and a site to host public events and shows on evenings and weekends. More information, including tickets and scheduling, can be found by clicking here to visit the planetarium website.

For more information, you can also contact the Planetarium Coordinator, Dr. Kyle Watters, at

Sac State Planetarium

Electronics and Instrumentation Laboratory

Our Electronics and Instrumentation Laboratory is equipped with modern computers (with LabVIEW, LabWindows, and DAQ cards, and GPIB), classroom sets of analog and digital oscilloscopes, arbitrary waveform generators, 6.5 digit multimeters, and prototyping systems at each of its nine stations. We also have two 400+ MHz digital oscilloscope that are used by students in the advanced electronics and instrumentation course. We also possess two Tektronix 6 GHz oscilloscopes with active probes. These scopes are extremely powerful and are used for projects in electronics and electro-optics.

Professor discussing oscilloscopes with two students


homemade parallel computing clusterThe Department has extensive computing facilities. With one homemade parallel computing cluster (a 30+ core machine built by Prof. Moss for ATLAS analysis but available for other in the department to use), several high performance workstations (Profs. Buerki, Block and Pettitt), and scores of other Windows, Mac, and Linux machines, our students have plenty of opportunities to develop their computing skills. We maintain licenses for Mathematica, LabVIEW, LabWindows, and other modern software.

Anechoic Chamber

Student and Professor inside anechoic chamberThe Sacramento State anechoic chamber and associated acoustics capability is a major, unique facility of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. This two-story, walk-in chamber is used to conduct accurate sound measurements. Acoustic isolation of over 70 dB minimizes influence of outside noise. The chamber is floating on an independent foundation, further decoupling it from building vibrations. The non-reflective properties of the walls extend over the frequency 100 to 15,000 Hz. The chamber has been used to certify characteristics of loudspeakers and California Highway Patrol sirens. It is electromagnetically shielded, providing an additional and extremely large Faraday cage for precision electronic measurements. Our Physics 130 class (Acoustics) uses this room extensively, but it is also used for independent projects and Physics 186 (Physics of Music).

Electro-optics Lab

Our current optics laboratory is very well supplied for an undergraduate-only institution. Optical equipment includes five optical tables - two with anti-vibration legs - a 30 W single frequency argon ion laser, a 35 mW helium neon laser, a helium cadmium laser, and a broad assortment of low power helium neon and diode lasers. We also have two confocal microscopes and we an optical tweezers system. We have a full complement of mirrors, beamsplitters, polarizers, photodetectors, optical fibers, lenses, and filters.

In addition to such standard optical equipment, we have essentially all the equipment necessary to study electro-, magneto- and opto-optic effects, including a polarizing microscope equipped with conoscopy and imaging attachments, as well as a controllable hot stage (0.001 K control up to 200 oC). Our automated liquid crystal display (LCD) characterization system, Electrooptical Measurement Set-up (EOM), is used to test properties of liquid crystal cells. Its capabilities include programmable pulse/function generator, static (transmission vs voltage) measurement module, time response measurement module, viewing angle measurement module, pretilt measurement module, null ellipsometry measurement module, and spectrometer. The setup is controlled by the proprietary EOM software. Our electrooptic cell production facilities include a class-1000 research cleanroom. This room is used for preparation and assembly of the cells and contains a Specialty Coating spincoater and a vacuum evaporation system that is used to create inorganic alignment layers with different pretilt angle and anchoring strengths.

Student looking at liquid crystals through microscope with professor


The Sacramento State Observatory consists of a 14-inch Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector housed in a dome on the roof of Amador Hall, and a 7.5 foot Small Radio Telescope (SRT) mounted on the roof of Sequoia Hall. Each telescope is computer controlled. The 14-inch telescope is equipped with a CCD camera and a set of broad band visible light filters. The SRT is equipped with a 21-cm radio receiver . We also have four 10-inch Celestron reflectors and a 4-inch solar refractor used for astronomy lab courses and public observing nights, and a set of neutral density and H-alpha filters for solar observing.

14" Telescope in Sac State's Observatory

Soft Materials Lab

The Department’s Biophysics and Soft Condensed Matter Lab is equipped for the mechanical testing and characterization of soft condensed matter samples such as biological tissues and cells, rubbers, soils, and gels on both macroscopic and microscopic scales. The lab houses a TA Instruments HR-1 bulk rheometer for the bulk characterization of soft matter. We also have a custom-built optical tweezers system powered by a 976 nm, 900 mW diode laser. The optical tweezers has both brightfield and fluorescence imaging capabilities for simultaneous trapping, manipulation, and imaging of micron-sized objects. Finally, the lab houses a custom-built high-precision force-extension instrument, consisting of a linear length controller and force transducer from Aurora Scientific, which enables force-extension measurements with micro-Newton precision. Read more about the lab’s capabilities and equipment here.

Optical tweezers

Machine Shop

Student working in Machine ShopThe Equipment Support Center (a modern scientific machine shop) is likely the best-equipped shop of its kind in the CSU system. It is stocked with modern CNC machines, in addition to a compliment of more traditional mills, lathes, presses, and welding equipment. The shop employs three fulltime machinists that not only serve the maintenance and new equipment needs of the college, but also teach the PHSC 075 course in machine shop practices.